Its an interesting question to consider, where is the line where supportive becomes pushy? Is there a definitive line or is it more grey than we think? Heres an impactful article by Ronan McGann from Metrafit penned in 2014 that is relevant still today
As everyone knows, parents will always want the best for their children, and this is true for all walks of life – professional, social, educational, sporting etc. Yet when it comes to excelling in sport at a young age, it has been well documented that some parents may step a little too far over the mark when it comes to wanting their child to succeed – These are known as pushy parents. What exactly do these pushy parents do and what type of effect can their actions (both positive and negative) have on the sporting lives of their children?
Playing a sport as a child is a fun experience to meet new friends, develop social skills and learn more about a sport that interests you. Parents love to be a part of their child’s life, but some parents take their child’s sport too far and get involved too much. Initially, reports suggest that parents sometimes try to have too much of an influence on how their children progress – this is true looking at youth sport. Some of the negative impacts of this influence include: stress (which can sometimes lead to illness), avoidance of certain activities, broken spirit, misbehaviour, and in some cases, an altered parental relationship. There are a number of reasons parents do this – they want their children to have what they may not have had, some parents also try to relive their own childhood through their children. Some are competitive and want to keep up or outdo relatives, neighbours or friends.
A study conducted in 2009 by Holt N et al. (Youth sport parenting styles and practices) showed that there are supportive parents and parents who are overly involved in their child’s sport and have very high expectations (Holt, 2009). The theory that N. Holt and his colleagues came up with was that children reported increased levels of athlete success and motivation when they received positive feedback from their parents (2009). The researchers describe in the article that there are mainly two types of parenting, Responsiveness and Demandingness (2009). Responsiveness is parents who are supportive and respond to their child’s needs. Demandingness refers to parents who are controlling, supervise their children carefully and expect orders to be obeyed without having to explain them (Holt, 2009). Unfortunately, demandingness seems to be the parenting style which results in pushy behaviour.
There are other considerations to involved such as pushing children too hard, too early, or failure to realise that not every child is an athlete, and whether to push their child further in one sport or more. However, the harsh reality is that pushy parents actually have the potential to turn their children off sport for life. This can lead to mass dropout in youth sports, which in turn can have negative effects on the mental and physical health of the child as he / she grows older.
Anecdotal reports in the media and from individuals involved in youth sports suggest a growing number of incidents involving adults behaving inappropriately at their children’s sport events. This illustrates that pushy parents are not only at fault dealing with their sporting children directly, but also at fault for becoming involved negatively in the wider sporting context, i.e. arguing with coaches, referees, opposition players, opposition fans etc. There is a social crossing of boundaries here, which can permanently deter the children in question from remaining in the sport of their choice.
We can see that parents have an important role to play in the sporting lives of their children. However, there is a line which is frequently crossed by the over-enthusiastic parents, and once this line is crossed, it can have serious repercussions for those children involved. Pushy parenting in relation to youth sport should be reduced for the benefit of the children.