What To Do When Your Kid Isn’t First

Remember the days when there was “That Dad” or “That Mom” at your kid’s softball, football, or baseball game who just wouldn’t stop hollering, and got thrown out of the game? Fortunately, there was usually only one and you could mostly avoid them just by sitting at the opposite end of the bleachers and rolling your eyes a lot. You would have a few nights of practice a week for your child’s sport or related art activity where you would spend an hour or so and then go home and have dinner and do homework as a family. Those days are GONE.

The New Reality Of Competition

Today’s world of hyper-competitive children’s events has created an environment where unless your child is getting private lessons (the term “privates” has a whole new meaning now!) and practicing until 8 or 9 several nights a week, they are probably falling behind — and that is often something that parents are not willing to accept. What are we doing to our children’s self-worth if we say that unless they are practically killing themselves practicing whatever their activity is every spare moment that their worth is somehow less? And what of the children whose parents cannot afford to buy fancy dance outfits, or go on week-long trips around the country to watch their children compete at traveling baseball or cheerleading Nationals? Those children are feeling left out and left behind by their peers.

Letting Kids Be Kids

It may be time to take a step back from the weekend-long baseball tournaments, dance competitions, or beauty pageants. Stop spending tens of thousands of dollars on these activities that are quite likely to leave your child burned out and frustrated and broke. It may be difficult if not impossible to completely step away from activities, but consider cutting back or at least leaving a few nights every week as sacred family time where everyone sits down together, shares a meal and conversation — preferably with no electronics around the table! Let your kids take some time on the weekend to play with friends and just be themselves. We are raising a generation of unqualified overachievers who believe that unless you are standing at the top of the podium, you have no self-worth — and that those who are winning in these contrived competitions often get the feeling that they are better than their peers.

Instead, let’s teach children the spirit of cooperation. Competition has its place and is important for encouraging young individuals to do their best and strive to improve. However, the unreasonable pressure that we can put on them as parents is likely to backfire in the long run as children rebel against the strict requirements of their parents for excellence and perfection in all things that they do.