parents sidelines kids soccer

Editor’s Note: Mel Robbins is a CNN commentator, legal analyst, best-selling author and keynote speaker. In 2014, she was named outstanding news talk-radio host by the Gracie Awards. Follow her @melrobbins. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

Story highlights

Mel Robbins: Going to 100% of their games keeps your child from becoming self-reliant

Placing focus on other bonding activities, such as family meals, is just as important, she says

CNN  — 

Over the weekend, I posted a piece to my Facebook page, and the comments that poured in – with both passion and vitriol – stunned me.

The piece isn’t about abortion, gun control, sex, the Confederate flag or the death penalty.

It’s about kids and sports, specifically, “Why you should always skip your kids’ baseball games.”

In it, best-selling author Daniel Pink argues that America has a problem with youth sports, and that parents are the problem. And not just the psycho ones – all of us.

Mel Robbins

While he argues his case to the extreme, his point is worth considering: Standing on the sidelines might make you feel like the world’s best parent, but is it really best for your kid?

Like many of you, my husband and I have spent the last 15 years cheering, consoling and coaching our three kids through youth sports. Like many of you, I feel like a lousy parent when I can’t make it to a game. I’ve also complained about the overly-competitive sports parents who show up at every practice and make team sports a nightmare for kids, coaches, refs and other parents.

You know the type: the delusional moms who think their kid is a prodigy and do nothing but complain about their child’s playing time. Or the fathers who can’t let go of their own glory days, so they scream relentlessly from the sidelines at 10 year olds and threaten volunteer refs.

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Kids & Sport Safety
02:41 - Source: CNN

Yes, those losers are a problem, but Pink takes it a step further, saying all parents need to “step off the sideline and climb down from the bleachers and make youth sports a parent-free zone.”

It’s a compelling read. Many of you probably don’t agree on a ban on games, and neither do I. I do think, however, that practices should be a parent-free zone. We do not belong there.

Pink is right when he says sports are “bizarrely parent-centric,” and that by comparison we don’t “gather in back of algebra class and watch students solve quadratic equations.” He’s also right about the fact that if you are always on the sidelines, your son or daughter is often looking to you for “approval or consolation or even orange slices … distracted from what really counts, the mastery of something difficult, the obligation to teammates, the game itself.”

But some of the folks who commented on my Facebook page are also right. You don’t need a psychology degree to know that when parents don’t show up at all, that has a terrible effect on a kid. And then there’s the fact that time passes so quickly – why would you want to miss a single game?

What I took away from Pink’s article is simple: What’s good for you might not always be good for your kids. Good parenting is a mix of standing on the sidelines to show support, and letting them stand alone so they learn to support themselves. After all, the goal is to raise adults, not overgrown children.

And if you’re worried your kid might get less playing time or get cut if you’re not there, consider this: Rejection might be good for your son or daughter. Youth sports teams rejected six of the current U.S. World Cup championship team players. But that rejection may well fuel perseverance, which in turn fuels success in life.

It’s far from easy to let them stand alone. My husband and I just dropped off our 10 year old for a week at sleepaway camp. As it came time to “extract” ourselves, our son panicked and started crying. He was a mess, and I was an even bigger one.

I’m surprised he didn’t chase our car down the road as we pulled away and waved goodbye. I looked in the rearview mirror and saw him outside his cabin, sobbing.

But he wasn’t alone. He had his “team” surrounding him – new cabin mates and four counselors. Yes, I wanted to turn around and rush to his side to console him. It would have been good for me to have one more hug.

But what was good for him was to keep driving. He’ll end up loving camp, or he’ll hate it. Either way, he’ll learn something very important: He can rely on himself.

That self-growth can’t happen if you are there 100% of the time. And research shows there are more important places to be than the sidelines – the most important is the dinner table.

Dinner is not only the most likely place your kids will talk to you, but research also shows that you’ll be boosting their academic performance, strengthening the family bond and lowering high-risk teenage behaviors.

It’s time to relax the “bizarrely parent-centric” world of sports. Skip the practices and stop beating yourself up if you can’t make a few games. If you miss them on the field, you’ll more than make up for it by having dinner ready when they get home.

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