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Encourage and challenge your children, but don't push too hard

Posted by Fatherhood Admin

This is a post by Mike Yudt, NFI's Director of National Programming. Mike is a married father of two young sons. Mike shares his thoughts on encouraging your kids to participate in outdoor sports as part of NFI's campaign to help Dads "Get Out: Hit the Great Outdoors with Your Kids This Summer."

As a father of two boys (ages one and three), I am often dreaming of who they will become as they grow older. Like most dads, I would love to see my sons take an interest in sports. Growing up, I played soccer and ran track (with a little bit of basketball mixed in). If I’m honest with myself, I would love to see my sons show similar interest in the great game of soccer and in running. But I often will catch myself as I want to make sure that I am not living vicariously through them and imposing something on them that they are not interested in. I firmly believe that as fathers we should expose our children to a variety of activities (not just sports) to determine where their interests and abilities lie.

My wife and I recently enrolled our three-year-old son, Caleb, in a four week program that introduced him to the basics of three sports: soccer, basketball, and t-ball. It was a great opportunity for him to enjoy these games, learn from people other than mom and dad, and play with other kids. At the end of the day, Caleb seemed to enjoy t-ball over soccer and basketball. In fact, one of my proudest moments came when he picked up a ball that was hit and threw it all the way from shortstop to third base to get the lead runner. I’m sure he wasn’t thinking about “getting the lead runner,” but his throw was spot on and I could not have been prouder.

Caleb is also currently enrolled in a swim class. In fact, he has his second to last class tonight. I am proud of him for getting in the pool with someone other than mom and dad. At this age, that’s a huge step for him and I know someday he will be swimming laps around me. And I’m sure his little brother Joshua will be as well given how hard it is to keep him out of the pool during Caleb’s swim class.

The journey of teaching our children to love sports can be a difficult one. I’ve had to check myself along the way to make sure that I am not placing unrealistic expectations on my children. The last message I want to send to my children is one of me being frustrated with them because they don’t take an interest (or show an ability) in what I enjoy. So the conclusion I have come to is this: as fathers, we should challenge our children to excel at all they do. But we should never push them too much so they cease to enjoy their childhood and don’t have free time to just be kids.

Over-programming our children’s lives is a phenomenon that is frankly not healthy for our children. Yes, kids need structure and programs certainly serve a purpose. If I didn’t believe that, I would not have registered Caleb for the sports and swim classes that he has enjoyed this summer. But my wife and I also make a point to allow him and his brother to have ample time to use their imagination and to make up their own games. And we’re constantly amazed at what they come up with.

Let’s allow our children the flexibility to be children, rather than scheduling every minute of their lives. Let’s be patient and encourage our children to try new things that can challenge them to grow. But let’s not give them an unnecessary burden to carry at such a young age. Just one dad’s thoughts…

Topics: sports, father-son relationship, Get Out, nfi staff

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