Really, I do get it. You want your children to have opportunities that you did not have. You want your children to accomplish things you did not or could not. I appreciate that. I understand that may not be living vicariously (something that very involved parents get accused of all the time).

Let me backup a minute. The last two columns have preached a harsh sermon to parents that yell at their children’s games. Yell at the referees. Yell at the coaches. Yell at their kids. Lots and lots of yelling.

In 34-plus years of writing this column, I don’t think I’ve ever had more positive response to a column. Tons of emails, getting stopped by friends and strangers, text messages — you name it, I’ve heard about it. And they’ve all been positive.

Well except for the examples shared from all across the country about youth leagues being abandoned because they couldn’t get referees or coaches. That part is sad. And devastating to the physical and emotional development of our children.

As so often happens, instead of focusing on all those negative comments, I started looking for the positive comments. And they were everywhere. Positive far outweighed negative. Oh sure, there has still been the occasional parent yelling about a missed call and I really did hear this week when a parent yelled “BLOCK SOMEBODY” after their own child was tackled for a loss.

But I really liked most of what I was hearing. I watched a kicker run off the field being mobbed by his teammates after making a kick after he had missed one earlier. I heard people in the stands whooping it up after a big play. I heard parents and others clapping for a goal or a good play, regardless of which team they were on.

And I realized a few things. I realized that good parents want things to be better for their own children than maybe it was for them. That is what being a good parent is. Good parents want their children to have positive experiences in sports, again, that maybe they didn’t get to have.

Wanting those positive experiences for your child isn’t necessarily living vicariously through them. There’s a basic difference. If you are doing it for you, then it is living vicariously. If you are doing it for your child, it is not. If their success somehow validates your unrealized potential, then it is living vicariously.

I learned some things through being a parent. I learned that I could not make success happen. I learned that nothing I did came with a guarantee. I learned that coaching from the sidelines never helped anything. I learned that yelling at the referees didn’t change a thing. I learned that being critical or second-guessing teachers or coaches never accomplished anything.

I certainly wanted my children to be successful in everything they did. Everything. I wanted to enable them to achieve their dreams. But here’s the difference — I wanted them to achieve THEIR dreams, not mine.

At the end of the day I found that it is most important to teach your children how to be happy, to enjoy life, and to be satisfied with what they have instead of always wanting more.

It’s OK to enable your kids to have experiences that help them achieve all that. It’s OK to insist that they be treated fairly and have opportunities. But if it is not kept in perspective, if it isn’t fun, if winning becomes more important than playing, then we have a problem.

Joe Black, PT, DPT, SCS, ATC is a physical therapist and athletic trainer at Total Rehabilitation and is Manager of Outpatient Rehabilitation for Blount Memorial Hospital. Email joeblackdpt@gmail.com to write to him.

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