Parenting vs. Coaching


Dear Dr. Bill,

My daughter is 8 years old and very athletic.  She does very well in gymnastics.  Yet, she lacks discipline and struggles in soccer, where her dad is the coach.

The soccer season is starting up again, and I’m dreading the inevitable fights and meltdowns between them.  My daughter doesn’t want to disappoint Dad — but she’s getting nothing out of soccer.  What do you recommend we do?



Dear Lisa,

I believe the best solution is for your daughter to move to a different soccer team, one that is NOT coached by her dad.  Some sports leagues don’t allow parents to coach their own kids, and for good reason.

They’ve made this rule for one of two reasons: either the parent engages in favoritism, giving their own child special breaks that the other kids don’t get, or the parent is extra hard on their child, pushing them to the limit and criticizing them more harshly than the other kids on the team.

It sounds like your husband falls into the “no special breaks for my kid” camp, and your daughter is miserable because of it.

If your husband is a super-competitive type, he may make the mistake of basing worth on achievement, and affirming your daughter only when she succeeds. That can have a negative impact on her self-esteem for the rest of her life.  It will also put a strain on their relationship, and major explosions will occur when she reaches the teen years.

While we should encourage our kids to develop self-discipline and pursue excellence, it’s critical that our relationship with them is based on unconditional love and acceptance.

We need to be their biggest cheerleaders, affirming them when they succeed and encouraging them when they fail.

By the way, a great book that would be helpful for you to read with your husband is “Grace Based Parenting,” by Dr. Tim Kimmel.

Thanks for writing, Lisa.  If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “Questions” tab on the Family Expert page.

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