I remember as a child the days spent on the sporting fields, then as a teenager and also as an adult. Most sports I played were team sports. I enjoyed the camaraderie with my fellow team mates, the injection of energy from the coach, the desire to win and the disappointment if I was injured and unable to play. I also remember the feeling of winning and celebrating with my team, but importantly the feeling of losing and how that can also draw team mates together – in many ways, it was important to learn how to lose gracefully and how that can be used to motivate you to look within yourself and understand how you could do it differently next time around. I recall the variety in coaching styles and some of the debrief sessions at the end of training or a game – the ability of a coach to either demotivate you if their approach focussed solely on the bad elements of your game OR motivate you by focussing on your strengths and nurturing some of the weaker parts of your game.

The other important element I remember was the influence of one’s parents and the wider circle of parents who came to support their children. I recall my parents supporting my siblings and myself consistently, by making sure we always attended training and being there on our game days. What I reflect on is their presence and support and importantly their quiet desire for us to play well, as opposed to disturbing the peace and yelling from the sidelines – the constant pushing to do better as seems to be very apparent in this competitive environment we now find ourselves in. I thought it was normal for parents as spectators to be respectful and encouraging while watching a competitive game unfold and quite possibly not all parents behaved that way, but it is certainly the way I remember my experience.

The line becomes blurred as the respectful and encouraging morphs into “living vicariously through your children.” As parents, we all want our children to do the best they can and to be happy doing it. Are we however, as a society, placing too much pressure on our children and living out our own dreams through our children. The big question therefore is – “Are you living vicariously through your child or your children?” We all have regrets about the things we wanted to do but never did or never could, or about the chances that we let slip away. But one of the critical mistakes any parent can make is to try to live out their dreams vicariously through their children. As parents, it is up to us to guide our children and be the best role model possible, but at the same time allowing them to become their own person.

The temptation as parents can be to project our own past hopes and aspirations onto our children. We can convince ourselves we are only doing it for their own good, however this is sometimes not the genuine motivation. Children are smart and intuitive and even if we tell ourselves we are not passing our own dreams on to them, they are perfectly able to read our intentions and adjust their behaviour and choices accordingly. When children are subtly pressured into following the paths their parents choose for them, it will most likely play havoc on their natural process of maturing with their own dreams. This can lead to a difficult situation where it is hard for them to develop their own distinct and unique identities – instead of becoming self-sufficient and independent, they become dependent and unable to decide for themselves what is best and what they would really like to do.

Living vicariously through our children could also potentially damage their self-esteem while doing very little ultimately to help ours. Whilst we as parents should not be ashamed of pushing our children in certain directions and living vicariously through them can be a very normal feeling, in my opinion the line is crossed when we as parents obsess over our fantasies for our children to the point where they have no room to grow on their own and develop into fully independent people themselves.

Perhaps the answer is for parents to continue having their own dreams whilst carefully guiding their children, but allowing them to become their own unique self.

I for one will learn from my parents behaviour – I will strive to be the parent on the sideline at sporting events by being respectful and encouraging and communicating at the right time, rather than living vicariously through them by micro managing every step they take or communicating what they should have done, thereby taking the risk of them feeling they are never good enough and potentially stunting their growth.

What do you think you will do, on and off the sporting field??? Be conscious of the passion!!!


Author: Mark Cadman, Partner

Mark works primarily from Link Property Services’ Silverwater office.