No one likes to lose. And it’s even more painful to watch your child lose. So how is it possible that something so excruciatingly heart-wrenching for us is actually healthy for them?
Well, it is.
In her new book,The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed, author Jessica Lahey dedicates an entire chapter to youth sports and why losing is an essential childhood experience. The teacher, speaker and mother gives parents like me a desperately needed warning to ease up on the perfect parenting shtick. If we don’t, she writes, “We are undermining the competence, independence and academic potential of an entire generation.”
It’s not exactly a new concept. Even if you’re not a sports fan, you’ve likely heard the famous quote from the late Green Bay Packers coaching legend Vince Lombardi. “It’s not whether you get knocked down; it’s whether you get up.”
So why then is our generation of parents working overtime to keep our children from ever even getting knocked down? Lahey suggests, “It might be because the more successful our kids are as students, athletes and musicians, the more successful we judge ourselves as parents.” Well, isn’t that the truth! “As a result,” writes Lahey, “our Facebook posts and soccer tournament sideline chat is jam-packed with passive-aggressive tales of academic honors and athletic glory.”
Even though I’ve never met the author I would have sworn her book was based on me and my group of friends. Is there any parent with young children who doesn’t relate to this sentence from Lahey’s book?
“We are expected to feel good about ourselves and our parenting as we raise children naturally and intuitively, while pouring over more parenting books and magazines than ever about how to raise smart and creative and empathetic children who practice piano on their own, sleep nine hours a night, and play varsity soccer as freshman.”
Lahey leans on a number of experts, including coaches and athletes throughout The Gift of Failure to help enlighten us and sometimes even scold us. Turns out chest-bumping a teenage referee over a poor call wasn’t just me being crazy; my behavior might have been caused by the Pressured Parents Phenomenon! Here’s hoping I still have time to correct the damage I’ve caused from PPP. I’m not joking!
Lahey’s guide to successful sideline parenting should be required reading for all parents of young athletes. You’ve maybe heard or read some of her five pointers before, but if we all followed them, the youth sports world would be a much happier place for our kids.
(Click on the image or link below to buy Jessica’s book)