Focus on Character Over Accomplishment

Focus on Character Over Accomplishment April 22, 2019

The following is an excerpt from my interview with Mike Smart on my podcast, You’ve Got This.

Mike Smart, a certified Leadership Parenting Coach through the John Rosemond Leadership Parenting Institute, runs Parenting Outsmarted. He also has more than 30 years’ experience as a classroom teacher and basketball coach. Mike speaks on all things parenting, and teaches with a down-to-earth, yet informative, light-hearted approach. A father to four grown children and grandfather to five, Mike still teaches part time at local junior high and high schools in the Columbus/Springfield, Ohio, area.

I wanted to talk you about sports, and how crazy things have gotten. I played sports as a child and played softball and basketball in high school, and I don’t remember my parents coming to many home games, especially in high school. But nowadays, parents are at every game and every practice. What changed?
Mike: I think we conflate being a good parent with attending every function. And in the last decade, we parents have maybe wanted to run the show more than it used to be done. That can be good, but we’ve got to be careful as an parent that we don’t emphasize my athletic child’s achievement and events over maybe some other things we could do as parents in relation to their sporting events. The crazy parent is out there, and I’ve seen them at events as a basketball coach and referee, and a parent of a professional basketball child. I’ve seen parents get overly upset at games and that can show we may have some value issues.

I think it’s important as parents to help our kids keep that balance of being a kid first and an athlete or academic second.
Mike: For our faith-based listeners, if there was ever a human nature sin that’s tough for us to handle, it’s the self-centeredness, esteeming others better than ourselves, looking not on our things but on the things of others. We’ve heard, ‘love your neighbor as yourself,’ but do we ever really do that? Our whole lives focused on our accomplishments and what we do and what we have going on that day, so it can be hard to get your athletic child get the focus off himself or herself. As parents, we tend to love the achievement over character.

I also think we’ve lost sight of allowing our kids to play or perform because they like it. Not everybody will play professional sports.
Mike: I do some basketball training where I help kids improve their skills. The kids want to have fun, but the parents are always discussing with me why their child won’t work harder or put the effort into it. I hate to see them give up because of the pressure of parents. I see parents who exhibit self-control except when it comes to sports and their child. I think parents also need training, such as learning to bite their tongue when their child doesn’t have a good game, when a referee doesn’t make a good call, when their child doesn’t get to play much. When you don’t, you show your priorities to your child that you value sports over everything else.

When the parent focuses solely on the kids’ grades, musical performance, etc., we can take our interest in having our kids develop a talent to the extreme. Most of kids are already putting way too much pressure on themselves, whether it’s our student athletes, our academics, our music or theater performers—they already have so much internal pressure, that we don’t need to add to it by pointing out the obvious to them. And letting them fail. We’ve all failed and sometimes in a very public or spectacular ways. What are some tips you have learned that has helped parents to help their kids to get a big head?
Mike: One of the keys, our society has emphasized that getting into the top college, becoming the best player on the team, have all become much more important, and the kid and the anxiousness of the teenager and the mental health of the teenager has gotten worse over the past decade or so. And I believe one of the reasons is that we as parents have gone alone with society on this emphasis. That’s why you see online and on TV this idea of swag and swagger and all about “my” accomplishments and the achievement is everything. At one time when teen mental health was better, parents raised them with character, with what sacrificial love is for a teammate, that kind of ability to where we don’t honor achievement. .When we honor achievement alone, the kid becomes more and more about what he’s done than who he is on the inside. I do believe that has a relationship to the downward spiral of teen mental health.

For more on how to help your student athlete, musician, theatrical performer or academic, listen to “Preventing Swagger” on “You’ve Got This” podcast.


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