Help! My Child Dislikes a Sport that I Know is Perfect!

You were the star gymnast in high school. Maybe your husband was the college football team's celebrated quarterback? It is only natural that your daughter will follow in your footsteps, while your son will start throwing the pigskin as soon as he is old enough to walk, right? Wrong! Plenty of moms find themselves at the crossroads when their children loathe the sports that were handpicked for them. In fact, some children may show absolutely no aptitude at all for the chosen sport -- or any sport. What do you do? Do you grit your teeth and drop off a whiny child at the soccer field? Do you cut your losses and cancel the classes?

Self-assess: Are you living vicariously through your kids?

Be honest! Is a portion of your sense of self-worth or self-esteem intertwined with your child's athletic prowess? Do you feel like a good parent when your son scores a soccer goal? In contrast, do you feel that your parenting skills are found wanting if your daughter fails to perform well at the gymnastics competition? When too much of your personal self-esteem is tied to your child's athletics, you may just be pushing your child to hate the sport -- or any sport.

Ask, don't tell.

Your child hates playing football. He knows all the stats, follows the teams, and knows virtually all of the odds of winning. Even so, he really does not enjoy playing the sport. Find out why the youngster prefers football to be a spectator sport. Is he afraid of the physical contact? Does the coach have a reputation for being tough on the players? Are the other teammates older, bigger, more aggressive or ruthless in their pursuits of a win? Hear what your child has to say.

Ask yourself: Why do I want my child to play this sport?

Why did you pick soccer over basketball, ballet over gymnastics, football over swimming, or volleyball over golf? Has your child shown a natural gift for the activity? Has she expressed a keen interest in the sport? More often than not, moms are looking for ways to allow children to socialize while being active. Dads may hope to raise an athletic youngster who may qualify for a college scholarship in the late teens. Before settling for "the one" sport, allow your child to dabble and experiment. A few lessons here, a short stint on a team there, and before long your child will naturally gravitate toward the sport that feels right. Case in point is my youngster who tried swimming, golf, tennis and ballet before settling on gymnastics.

Practice integrity.

Teach your child that finishing things you start is a part of developing personal integrity. In this sense, have your son finish out the season or let your daughter finish the class. That said, withdraw the child from the sport once the commitment has ended. There is little to be gained by forcibly making a child participate in a sport he hates. In fact, doing so may lead to sharply decreased self-esteem. This is a good time to also teach your child to be true to herself. While you may stipulate that she must participate in some type of athletic activity, give her some choices. Maybe she would like to try something a bit off the beaten path? Fencing, anyone?

Content by Sylvia Cochran.

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