Should We Push Children Into Sports?

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Soccer moms sometimes get maligned for constantly shuffling their kids from one activity to the next, often buying fast food in between. If this goes on almost every afternoon and evening at your house, you’ll find some truth in the negative reactions you might get. Having a kid who participates in sports and activities is a good thing. If you overdo it, however, those positive aspects can backfire.


Benefits

Sports and after-school activities are generally good for children. They provide exercise, a social outlet, and keep children out of trouble. Sports can lead to a lifelong habit of staying in shape. If a child excels early at a certain sport, she may play for her high school team and get a scholarship to college. Sports build self-esteem, self-discipline and encourage responsibility. But if you push too much and put stress on your child, your child might burn out before she gets to high school and want to quit altogether, or your child could become a victim of overuse injuries.

Overuse Injuries

Overuse injuries used to be confined to adults. Now, kids are getting them, too. The more intensely and the more often that kids practice their sport, the more likely they are to get overuse injuries, such as fractures and ligament tears. Playing the sport sometimes causes injuries, which is just the nature of the game, but many injuries are from overuse or from inappropriate training for the child’s age. Over-repetition in a growing child can lead to bad results. Sometimes, pushy parents or coaches are to blame; other times, the child pushes himself. Overuse injuries can lead to arthritis or knee replacement surgery when your child is in his 40s, too young for those sorts of ailments.

Your Child’s Decision

Before you enroll your child in dance or Little League, ask yourself who you are doing this for — you or your child. Many parents live vicariously through their child or have a desire to be involved in an activity more so than the child does. Ask your child whether she wants to dance, for example, or if she prefers doing something else. Make sure your child knows that by signing up for the activity, she sacrifices some of her free time.

Pushing Versus Encouraging

Pushing your child into sports and encouraging your child to play are different. Pushy parents can put too much pressure on a child. If you find yourself yelling from the sidelines, nagging your child about practicing every day and arguing with your child’s coach or teacher, then you are probably pushy. By encouraging your child to play sports, letting him know that, while winning is great fun, the sport is not only about winning, your child will probably have a better experience and might not burn out on the sport.

Too Much Pressure

If you child feels a little nervous before game day or before a performance or competition, tell her that’s normal. You can help her by making sure she gets plenty of sleep the night before and eats well the day of the game. Teach her to relax by stretching or by taking some slow breaths. If you child simply feels too much pressure, feels sad and doesn’t want to play the sport anymore, you might want to give her a break from it.

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