Shayna Ng, sportsperson, world champion bowler, 2014 Sportswomen of the year and one of the founders of SportSanitySG shares her views on how parents should – and can – encourage their children in their passions.
From a young age, I’ve always loved playing sports. My first experience in the competitive arena was being on my primary school Netball team. This was before I added bowling into my repertoire; a field in which I’ve managed to achieve considerable success. Throughout the entire journey, I always reminded myself of how blessed I am. Not only because of the success I’ve achieved on the lanes, but also because of the never-ending support my parents had given me, which I believe is one of the greatest reasons for my success. My parents have been there for me every step of the way, cheering me on from the sidelines.
And despite the huge time and financial investment my parents had spent on me, they always reminded me that my personal happiness mattered more than all the medals I won, and I should only pursue it if I truly loved what I was doing. Through the years, while occasionally being graced with the presence of crazy stage parents, I’ve interacted and forged friendships with many athletes who eventually suffered burnouts and emotional damage, dropping the sport completely. This issue is very personal to me hence I felt I wanted to share my take on why I believe parents should let their children live their own dreams.
1. You might hinder their progress
Everyone wants the best for their child, but no one method is a sure answer for success. What I feel many parents fail to understand is that the amount of pressure they put on their child, does not correlate to the level of their performance. In fact, it might even be negatively correlated.. During my secondary school days, I’ve had friends who I believed were more talented than me perform much worse than what they normally would have during important competitions. And I believe very strongly that this was partially due to their parents’ high expectations of them.
2. You might kill their passion
I picked up Netball & Bowling in primary school because I loved them both. In those days, even though the DSA program had not yet been implemented, I played among kids who’s parents were always screaming on the sidelines or sending them for additional coaching. From personal experience, most are completely disconnected from the sport. Sometimes too much of one thing kills one’s passion for it.
3. You might cause them to burnout
Aside from killing a child’s passion, a child has his physical limits, and over-training or having too many activities squeezed into his schedule might take a toll on their bodies. Being a kid used to be about being carefree and having nothing to worry about. But with the increasing competitiveness even in the field of sports, kids are sometimes having even more hectic schedules than adults! Working adults have a 9-5 job; but with school, enrichment programs, tuitions and training to attend, the student’s timetable is stretched to its limit. I know many student athletes who survive on 4 to 6 hours of sleep a day, resulting in haggard looks on some days. I’m sure you don’t want your kid to look like she’s 30 before she even turns 20!
4. They might start holding a grudge against you
In some situations, the constant pressure leaves an irreversible emotional scar on the kid. I’ve got friends who, till this day, have not gotten over being put through the pressure cooker by their parents. However, this is not discounting the people who do eventually understand the reasons behind their parents’ actions. We know every parents wants the best for their child but sometimes parents need to understand that they may not necessarily know best.
5. You might be robbing them of their childhood
You had your time to enjoy your childhood, so why not let them enjoy theirs? It’s probably a little unfair of me to judge, but a parent I had once met at a school event told me that he couldn’t understand why some parents were putting so much pressure on their children. They have their whole lives to be pressurized by work. Some might argue that their kids are still too young to make informed decisions, but as parents, do you consider how your child might feel about these decisions you made for them 10 years down the road? Remember, every action has an equal reaction.
Having said all these, I would like to clarify that there have also been many friends of mine who have shared with me on how supportive their parents have been, and kudos to all of these parents for that.
Ultimately, the question is whether we can be certain that a child’s drive to become a better athlete stems from his will to pursue his dreams, or the perception that he has to fulfill his parents’ dream for him.
SFK wholly endorses Shanya’s opinions, difficult as they may be for a parent in today’s world to embrace, given peer pressure, choices and expectations. www.singaporeforkids.com is all about children and childhood and provides extensive information on what Singapore offers beyond the classroom.
This article has been reproduced with permission from SportsSanity SG Ptd Ltd. Photographs courtesy the Singapore Tourism Board and SportsSanitySG.