Pushy parents

There’s a fine line between encouraging your child to be more active and being the sort of pushy parent who sends sports coaches running for the hills, and puts children off sport forever.

According to Greyling Viljoen, a private psychotherapy and sports psychologist, a parent's role is to offer unconditional support, yet know when to step back.

‘If you see your child making a mistake, you want to help, but it's necessary to bite your tongue and let it happen, so they can learn from it. The emphasis should be on improving the process and not the outcome, which is why, at the end of a game, parents should ask “Did you enjoy it?” rather than “Why didn't you do this and that?”,’ he said.

He added that the best way for parents to prevent themselves crossing the line from being supportive to being pushy, is to ensure they do not try to live vicariously through their children.

‘This usually results in the child dropping out as soon as they can. In the teenage years, many people think children drop out of sport because they're burned out or not interested, but it's usually more as result of pressure from their parents,’ said Viljoen. ‘If you come between the child and their coach, you are entering a dangerous area.’

How to be supportive without pushing:
  • Be enthusiastic about how they played and celebrate achievements.
  • Treat mistakes as part of the process and not as a sign of failure.
  • Listen to their problems and difficulties, and understand that these are real.
  • Be interested, but not overbearing – ask open-ended questions rather than specific ones.
  • Don't be too quick to jump in and sort out a mistake. Give them time to realise it for themselves and deal with it.

Boost their confidence by offering a range of solutions rather than telling them what's right and wrong.
For more about parents’ role in kids’ sports, visit Health24.

How involved are you in your children’s sporting activities? Have you ever encountered pushy parents?

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