by Debbie Ruston, Featured Contributor
For many years I have observed parents taking their children to hockey, soccer, piano lessons, etc. I wondered many times why so many parents insisted on putting their children into “travel” sports, and witnessed how many of them were stressed out due to all the travel commitments involved. Our son played both hockey and soccer locally. We took our lawnchairs in the summer, sat on the sidelines with a cup of coffee and cheered on the team. In the winter, we took a coffee to the arena and did the same thing on a Saturday morning. These games were never stressful. We enjoyed watching him, and he enjoyed playing the games. On the other hand, I have watched other parents for years, fundraising, complaining, driving through snowstorms, missing family events because they had a game out of town or a tournament at Christmas. The stress of it all is displayed in front of their children. Two questions constantly came up observing this. Why are they doing it and what are they teaching their kids?
In my observations, it seemed very clear that it wasn’t the kids that wanted to play at this level….it was the parents pushing them to be part of this “elite” group of players so that one day they may be able to make a career out of it. Young Johnny could be drafted to the nhl… To me, it seemed more about money and status of playing at this level than what the child actually wanted. As parents we always want to help our kids avoid the pitfalls we have encountered and very often parents end up living out their inadequacies through their kids. In observing our own son, he played locally, loved the games and then outgrew it and went on to other things that interested him.
I believe a big missing link to realize in this is that kids know what they like. They have passions, interests and skills. However, society conditions us to push them in certain directions because this is how they will find success. We must allow them to follow their ideas, interests, and passions and build their skills in what actually interests them.
It is not our job as parents to figure out and mold our kids in something we want. It is our job to help them discover that for themselves.
When they are going through the decision making process of choosing what they want to do with their future, allowing them the space and time to figure this out, without the pressure of conforming to what other’s believe they should do, is the greatest gift we can give our kids. This is where they discover for themselves the direction they want to take their lives and emerge as confident, responsible leaders in their own lives.