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Are you giving your kid a disadvantage to learning?

It’s the worst way to learn something. It doesn’t allow for time or space to think and make decisions. It doesn’t answer a fundamental “why”. It doesn’t allow thinking to measure effect of actions. It doesn’t allow for the brain to even engage or hear itself. It causes panic and a distrust of one’s own decisions. It tunes out the person we have said is in charge. It causes chaos and confusion.

It’s micromanaging on steroids. It’s like having a boss overly run your every move, it makes work miserable. Try having every step and breath dictated at a yelling level for the world to hear and then a full recap the entire way home to top it off. Now put yourself in a child’s body and state of mind, still trying to navigate a tiny growing body that’s still uncoordinated and almost every situation being brand new, and try to handle it. Are you having fun yet?

It used to be that one parent that couldn’t help them self that the others parents shook their head at. But now it’s a sideline full of play by play coach parents who rarely stop to take a breath. It’s a literal play by play instruction from start to finish with almost every parent verbally joysticking their own kid from their sports chair.

We know this isn’t allowing them to learn, right? So why do we do it? Can we really just not help ourselves? Are we afraid of awkward silences? Have we convinced ourselves that we are actually being helpful?

If you didn’t tell them to scoop it faster and then dictate who they throw too while yelling run faster, will you somehow explode? Will they never become the athlete you need them to be? Why do we do it? Can they not be allowed to figure it out on their own? To make a mistake and realize it didn’t work and then be allowed to try it another way next time? Are the Olympic trials occurring here?

I can’t think of another instance in our lives where we, as adults, would allow someone to dictate each step and move, especially in such a public setting at such a loud and public tone of voice, without a break from start to finish. Why is it ok to subject kids to it? Nor would we ever consider that as an effective or humane way to train someone in a new position.

I want to throw out a challenge to parents around the world. Cheer only. Catch yourself giving directions and stick a snack in your mouth instead. If you can’t stop, then only allow yourself to clap. After the game let them talk. Nod, high five, hug, and say what you enjoyed watching the most. Let their brains make connections and think, and grow, and not depend on your voice to direct them from play to play. Get out of their heads, it’s not your turn to play anymore, it’s theirs.

It’s so short. I’m watching my last kid play as a high schooler and I’m hanging onto every second. Even as a collegiate coach I rarely if ever shout a correction onto the field if I’m there as a parent. Thumbs up, claps and encouragement are all I want to give as a spectator. I don’t want to miss a second of her playing worried about how she is playing or by coaching her.

Sit back, relax and marvel at what a growing kid can accomplish when they get to compete at a game they love. Let go, and let them have THEIR moment.

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