• Fri, Jan 17 - 8:00 am ET

‘Friday Night Tykes’ Makes Me Wonder If I Should Be Pushing My Kids Harder

shutterstock_171263981I don’t push my kids to do anything they don’t want.  It doesn’t mean I shelter them.  I introduce them to new people, places and activities, but at the same time I don’t push them.  I don’t force them to hug anyone, I don’t make them eat things they don’t like, I don’t make them do new things they don’t want to do.

At the same time I do NOT treat my children like special snowflakes.  I have a decent grip on their strengths and weaknesses.  I think it’s important to teach them manners and how to function in the world — the great wide world of which they are not the center.

So I was under the impression I had a pretty good balance going.  I expose them to the world but let them explore at their own pace.  But watching this clip of “Friday Night Tykes,” I’m starting to think I am coddling them beyond belief.

The new the new documentary style TV series follows the rookie division of the Texas Youth Football Association through their 2013 season.  One of the stars, Jaden, started playing flag football with the NE Colts when he was 5, and he has become accustomed to the pressure he gets from coach Marecus Goodloe.

“When I see them not giving me 100 percent and I know their potential, it pisses me off,” he tells the cameras.

I’m not sure I even know where my kids have unrealized potential.  I keep thinking they are so young and they have time (which is true) but then I also think about Tiger Woods on The Mike Douglas slamming a hole in one at the age of three.  If they had some extraordinary talent I might know it by now.  But if they did and I know it, would I have it in me to let them be pushed like Jaden?  Or do it myself?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating becoming one of those intense parents that push their kids to their limits while depriving them of their childhood.  But there has to be a huge spectrum between just sort of letting them find their way and overextending them.  I pretty much let them off the hook as long as they’ve “tried” something.  What if I made them try again?  What if I made them show even more of an effort?

I was raised by parents who are a lot like the one I’m shaping up to be.  They supported whatever I was mildly interested in (meaning they didn’t say no I couldn’t do it) but they also let me quit when I thought it was time.  Most of the time I appreciated them for letting me find my own way, but now I’m wondering if I could have been more or done more if they had pushed me beyond the edge of my comfort zone.  I don’t want to be overbearing and I’m definitely not looking for them to fulfill some dream I have hidden away in my subconscious.  But if I don’t know what they are capable of, will they ever?

At the end of the day, I want my children to be resilient, cultivate perseverance and discover the areas in which they excel. To get there they may need more than just exposure — they need guidance and someone to push them safely beyond their comfort zones, even at these young ages.

(photo: Paolo Bona / Shutterstock.com)

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  • Anna

    I want to say this as an adult who has a mother that has actually said this frequently recently after comparing my adult “success” relative to peers (especially family) who had parents that pushed them very hard.

    I am a very happy adult and do not define my happiness by “success” and I relate this directly to the fact my mother encouraged me and pushed me beyond my comfort zones when appropriate. She also taught me to appreciate what I have and what is important. It is a delicate balance.

  • Kay_Sue

    “I’m not sure I even know where my kids have unrealized potential.”

    I am pretty sure my kids keep theirs in their noses. They are always digging up there for something.

    • Jessieface

      HAHA! That made me cackle out loud, at my desk, in an empty office. Good Form.

    • Kay_Sue

      I try. :)

    • Carinn Jade

      Laughing out loud!

  • Paul White

    Don’t let them inform your parenting choices. Yikes. Even the NFL has issued statements against the story.

  • Supinthehouse

    As an adult whose parents let her follow what she wanted to do – I have to say that they are pretty darn happy that I went to university, bought a house, got married, started a family and have a really good job – all before I was 30. When I look at all the kids in my peer group that were driven by their parents to achieve excellence, they didn’t know what to do with their lives as soon as their parents let go of the reins, and most are either living at home or working dead end jobs. Kids need to develop self-motivation.

  • Nikki

    Is this a serious post? Please tell me it’s satire. If you are taking your parenting cues from this reality television show, you need to turn your television off.

  • C.J.

    I always feel bad for the kids who’s parents push them like that. I say this as the mother of 2 competitive dancers. They choose to dance. I help them if they ask but I don’t if they don’t want me too.I encourage them and tell them I’m proud of them. If they don’t reach their full potential at 8 and 11 I don’t think it is the end of the world. Part of the problem is, at least in dance, people think they are producing future stars. I don’t care if my kids become professional dancers, that’s not why I let them dance. The only thing I hope they get out of dance is enjoyment and whatever they want to get out of it. Berating a child for not being good enough would be a good way of making a kid hate an activity.

  • ted3553

    As a long time coach of all ages of kids, I think as a parent you have to pay attention to your kids and use them as your feedback. If your child has absolutely no interest in whatever it is that you’ve got them in, then pushing isn’t going to get you far. If you see interest, and enthusiasm from your child, start pushing and look for feeback (verbal and non-verbal) from them. If they rise to the level you’re pushing them too and other things aren’t failing like schoolwork, continue to push. I’ve said it a million times, but only a very small percentage of people succeed to the highest levels in athletics and the rest of us are mediocre or terrible but there are tons of kids who have huge resentment for parents living out a fantasy through their kids

  • Rachel Sea

    I’m all for getting kids involved in some activity that encourages sticktoitiveness and discipline, but not at the expense of their emotional well-being. If an activity does not bring a child pride, or excitement, or joy, independent of their coach or parents’ influence and expectations, then maybe the child should find something else to do.

  • SusannahJoy

    I wish my parents had pushed me harder. I’m lazy. Always have been. So I never wanted to do things like go to gymnastics or practice the piano or sign up for soccer. But once there, I always had fun doing it, and loved the feeling of accomplishment. UNfortunately, my parents believed the whole “I just don’t like, please don’t make me go!” speech that I gave all the time (and I don’t blame them for that!!), so I ended up quitting a lot of things halfway through. So with my kids I’m planning on at least making them complete the season before quitting.

  • K

    Just remember that some people don’t find their talent or passions until later. And that is completely fine. Not everyone needs to find what they’re potentially good at age 3.

  • A-nony-mous

    I think most people have mild fantasies that if they’d only been pushed harder in life they’d have become that Doctor, Lawyer or sports star. But the reality is — and I’m not at all trying to be rude — 99.99999% of us wouldn’t have. Our parents could’ve pushed us as hard as they want and we wouldn’t have become the next Tiger Woods or Donovan Bailey. That level of talent is *exceedingly* rare.

    If you want a good dose of reality, I also recommend you watch a documentary called “Head Games”. It’s available on Netflix. It may also be on Youtube. It’s about how even young, amature gradeschool students involved in sports are having repeat concussions and the damage that does 20 and 30 years down the line. It might be as ‘mild’ as not really remembering the days of the week or months of the year in order but it can become extreme. Many athletes kill themselves, or others, because part of their brain is damaged from years and years of repeat concussions. Football and Rugby are, naturally, at the top of the list of offenders.

  • Justme

    First of all, I wouldn’t take my parenting cues from this show – it’s basically the Toddlers and Tiaras of the athletic world.

    But I understand how the show makes you think about your kids and how you parent them.

    There are some students and athletes that I have taught who are intrinsically motivated to go and do and achieve. It’s nothing that their parents have taught or forced them to do – it’s just the way their brain is wired. Most of these parents just sit back and watch their kid go after their dreams.

    Then you have kids who are the middle of the road in just about everything, but their parents are determined to that their child be bigger, better, stronger and faster than everyone else. This is dangerous because no matter what those kids do – they will NEVER be good enough for their parents. (And then there is the combo of a totally motivated kid combined with an ambitious parent and you get Tiger Woods – but he and those like him are rare beasts.)

    And lastly I’ve encountered the kids that have no internal drive to do anything whatsoever and their parents are on one end of the spectrum – totally okay with that or frustrated beyond belief.

    I guess what I’m getting at is that I think it is a parent’s job to push their child out of the comfort zone a little bit – when it is appropriate and not damaging to their child. Right now, my almost three-year-old daughter is in the “I can’t” phase – she “can’t” get herself dressed, she “can’t” put together her puzzle and she “can’t” put her toys away….when she’s been doing it all just fine on her own for months. My husband and I have agreed that we’re not giving in to her “I can’ts.” She is capable and she will. She might cry and fight, but I’m not putting her pants on for her when she is perfectly able to do it for herself.

    So choose your battles to push them – are they getting an 88 or an 89 in a class? Encourage them to work a little harder to pull it up to an A – that is an easily attainable goal. Set a goal to try one new restaurant with new food just once a month, or every other month. I think we have to teach our children to take safe risks while they are young so that we can be there to help them pick themselves up when they fail. If they never take risks and they never face the potential for failure, or even experience failure…I don’t think we’re setting them up to be successful in life.

  • FCSoccerCoachD

    I am a nationally certified coach of youth sports. I cannot begin to break down the flaws – dangerous flaws of what the FNT coaches are doing to those kids. BUT, I agree with the idea that sometimes kids need to be “parentally encouraged” to actually learn how to do some things that are difficult. My problem with the “quite when I don’t like it” mentality is that there are some things that are good for a kid that a parent should make the decision about. I have talked to hundreds of people who all complain – as adults that they wish they knew how to play a musical instruments, however their parents “let them quit when they were kids”. I am one of those and I have not made the same mistake with my kids. There are times when y boys don’t want to practice piano, violin or sax because they would rather be playing video games or watching TV. My policy is that LAZY will not kill the potential for good. So they play – sometimes bregudgingly – and we fit it in a healthy balanced life. Now that is a far cry from what i am seeing on FNT! Push away – intelligently!