If only we parents were as successful as we demand our children be, a dad recently remarked to us. At first glance, that sentiment seems reasonable, even admirable. Why wouldn't we want our sons and daughters to excel, even surpass, our accomplishments?
Some parents step out of bounds
It's not so much the sentiment as it is the motivation behind it. That same dad remarked about the embarrassing scene that some parents make at their youngster's soccer matches. Their children are involved in healthy activity and robust competition. The parents, on the other hand, are engaged in coaching and cajoling from the bleachers — screaming at the officials, berating their own sons or daughters for letting the opponent steal the ball. The poor sportsmanship that some parents display is childish and shameful. What's even worse is that some red-faced, loose-lipped parents are totally unaware of their behavior because they are so obsessed with winning. If only they could trade places with their kid. Wait that's exactly what they're doing!
We read recently of a baseball game involving 7-year-olds in Lakewood, Colorado, that got out of hand. The 13-year-old umpire said violence broke out after he issued a warning about a man's profane language. He said, "It was kind of weird. I shouldn't have to tell a grown man how to act around little kids."
Winning is all the rage
It's how you play the game. We've all heard that expression. Often it's an expression that is mocked and ridiculed by those who believe that winning is everything. Maybe that's more true when it comes to the expectations and huge salaries of professional athletics. But to beat that attitude into the heads of youngsters at an age when competitive play should be fun — to scream obscenities because of a youngster's miscue or an official's missed call — turns a joyful community activity into something quite different.
When Tom's daughter showed real promise of testing her vocal talent on the stage in New York, he got all excited. He encouraged her — no, he urged her — to go for it. He reminded her how good she was and how much potential others said she had. When she explored the possibilities and decided against it — even passing up a scholarship to a performing arts school — Tom felt let down. Dad's ego was bruised because when he had the opportunity years back to "follow his dream" to the Big Apple, he didn't pursue it. When he faced the truth, he realized that through his daughter's opportunity he might, albeit indirectly, fulfill his own unrealized dream. Broadway! What an ego trip that could have been!
Sure, moms and dads should encourage their kids. But we should recognize when and why that encouragement starts to turn sour — when and why the yelling turns to anger, when rooting turns to rage.
When parents try to fill the voids in their own lives by jamming unrealistic expectations down the throats of their kids, it's not pretty. And it can leave scars.
Tom Tozer and Bill Black are authors of "Dads2Dads: Tools for Raising Teenagers." Like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter at Dads2Dadsllc. Contact them at tomandbill@Dads2Dadsllc.com.