Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Should We Push Kids to Run?

I got a thought provoking question from a reader yesterday. I think it really hit home because it combines two things I am extremely passionate about – running and kids.

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Emma – age 8

The question speaks to the bigger issue of how much we should push our kids to do things, and how much we should let them evolve naturally into their own little people. Before I get too much into that, here’s the story:

Stacy* has a daughter, Mia. Mia HATES to RUN. Mia is in 6th grade and doing cross country and track. She will whine and make excuses not to run. She has major anxiety before meets. She is worried she will let everyone down. She will complain for hours before bed about how her parents are the worst parents for making her run.

The parents respond, “Every one is given a gift from God to be good at something…you many not be the best at math or reading but you were given legs to run.” The parents say, “We can’t pick what we are given, we just need to make the most of it.”

Stacy’s ultimate question was – “Should I take her to get some anxiety happy pills? Know of anyone like this? We don’t want her to quit.”

I’m hoping/thinking she was kidding about the happy pills.

In my opinion, this wasn’t the right question to ask. The “right” questions to ask would be:

  • Why do we care so much if she runs or not? Is this more about us?
  • At what point is okay to let your child quit something they have committed to if they really hate it?
  • On that note - when is it “right” to insist a child do something. When is “right” to let it go and to allow them the choice?

Parenting is a touchy thing because everyone has an opinion. Parents are protective of their kids. Parents want the best for the kids. The tough thing is – parenting is very subjective. What works for one kid or family might not work for another. There is no handbook, no perfect way of parenting. There is trial and error, finding what works for each individual.

That said, there are times to push and insist a child do something, and there are times when we don’t have to pick that battle. I learned this lesson very early on with my kids.

There are some issues that, as a parent, you must put your foot down about because you ARE the parent and you DO know better (school, being honest, being safe, etc.). Yet, there are some times when we need to give our child the autonomy to know what is best for themselves. Even at an early age we can do this by giving them choices that make sense (do you want oatmeal or Cheerios?). This is how we teach them that we trust them and have confidence in them. This is how we prepare them for the big, bad world out there.

This was my response to Stacy, probably not the one she wanted:

“If she hates to run and has this extreme anxiety about it, why make her do it? There are so many options of sports and activities, help her find something she likes to do and is excited to do. This is the age when they experiment. She may come back to running eventually, but if she is pushed, she will just learned to hate it. Usually the things we are good at are the things we also love, but not always. So even if she has a gift for running, it doesn't mean she has to do that. She can do many sports where running is a part of the sport and probably be very successful.”

“If she LOVED to run, but had anxiety about races, that would be a different story and would require a different approach.”

“That said, I'm also a believer that if kids have committed to a team, they need to stick it out until the season is over.  Then they don't have to ever do it again.”

I think one of the toughest parts of being a parent is realizing this is your kid’s journey, not YOUR journey. Of course you are there to guide and protect them. Parents get so invested in their kids being successful and excelling because they think it reflects poorly on them if their kid fails or quits. Some parents even live vicariously through their kids and depend on them to do all the things they never did growing up. I am not saying this is what is going on in this case, I am just saying it happens.

My kids run. They do not run because I want them to run. They run because they made this choice and they enjoy it.

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Bolder Boulder 10K - 2010

My son has run cross country for the past three years of middle school. He has made it clear he doesn’t want to do it in high school. “I just don’t like it that much,” he tells me. Would I like to see him continue? Of course. But, there are many activities to choose from and I want him to choose the ones that light his fire. I don’t want it to feel like a chore. If I thought he was quitting because he thought he couldn’t do it, that would be a different story and a different conversation.

I do think it is essential that kids are active. They need to do something. There are lots of “somethings” to choose from. As we all know, being part of a team promotes camaraderie and accountability. Being active fights obesity and helps to maintain good health. Doing something keeps kids out of trouble (sometimes).

{There is a great article on this subject found at Livestrong}

I’d love your thoughts. I don’t care if you are a parent or not. Just tell me your gut reaction.

How would you respond to Stacy? What I said above. And for God’s sake…NO PILLS.

As a kid, did your parents ever insist you stayed in a sport/activity you wanted to quit? My parents were not into sports and didn’t have much input about that. They were strict about making sure I did well in school, was respectful and honest, etc. This was non-negotiable. The other stuff, like friends and activities, they let me make my own choices.

SUAR

*Names have been changed

87 comments:

  1. I actually think you are absolutely right. Parenting IS subjective, but it is always wise to hear your child's "whys." My Cole loves bowling, baseball, and biking, but hates football and track... At the end of the day, we support the things he cares about. And I'm pleased that he could choose those things for himself; it will help him be that much more successful at them later on if he wishes to be.

    I truly believe you should do what you're PASSIONATE about- even as a child. It's our job as parents to guide our kiddos to choose healthy activities as much as it is their job to select which ones make them happy... I believe that that carries over into adulthood. I love knowing that our Cole will most likely choose a position and career that he's passionate about- and not settle for a job just because he has to or because someone made him. ;)

    Have a great day!

    Sarah
    www.thinfluenced.com

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  2. When I was in HS my mom always told me that if I chose to quit a sport I had to find another sport to replace it for that season.. My mom was very firm about NOT being active.. and I understood why! didn't always like it but it taught me responsibility and to never give up! I think this parent needs to take a step back and reassess their reasonings as to why they won't let her quit.. poor girl! :-/

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    1. My mom was very firm about NOT being active.. we had to be active... we couldn't just go to school and come home and sit on the couch and eat..

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  3. What you said was right on. I am a music teacher and I can't tell you how miserable it is on *my* end when the kid does NOT want to be there, but the parent insists this kid has the abilities of Mozart. No, the kid does not, because they want nothing to do with this.

    I agree with sticking to your commitments to a team until your commitment is met. That teaches a valuable lesson in not letting others down.

    But turning to anti-anxiety meds because your kid is miserable doing something you insist she do? Good God.

    I'd say what you said. And who knows, the girl may come back to running on her own--goodness knows it's entirely possible that she actually loves running but hates making it a competition. I myself am much happier just going for a run instead of worrying about times and how I stack up against other runners. That takes the joy out of it.

    As for your son, maybe he'll find he misses cross country and go back to it, or maybe he'll find he has a talent for track. Or maybe he won't do an organized team at all and will just continue running for the joy and health benefits and the family time. Either way, you've given him a fantastic gift.

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  4. My parents never pushed us into sports. And they always allowed my brother & I decided what to do. In primary & middle school my sports ranged from gymnastics, soccer, volleyball, track & cheerleading. Once I hit high school I stopped playing sports in school but did do a lot of horseback riding. I now love to run & am training for my first half. My son is only 3 but already loves to run and be active. I want him to try everything he wants but would never force him to do something he truly hated. Everyone has a passion & only they know what it is and how to find it, whether or not its what the parent prefers they would do.

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  5. I would give the same kind of advice. My parents made me finish out the season, but they let me come and go with sports as I wished. Granted, I sucked and pretty much every sport I tried, and that's how I ended up a band geek. ;)

    My daughter does running club runs with me, but refuses to do any races with me. She can run circles around me too. My son refuses to run. But, my son will do crossfit with me that my daughter not only refuses to do, she also calls it "stupidfit." Apparently she's not a fan of working out until you throw up. lol

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  6. I am definitely a parent who doesn't believe in "making" my kids do too much. They have to go to school and they have to make healthy eating choices and safe choices about crossing the street, etc. BUT when it comes to activities I only make them finish out a season because we talk about that when they choose something. For example, 7yo is playing baseball and whether he likes it or not he'll finish, his team needs him. But he doesn't ever have to play again if he doesn't want.

    I think natural talent is a really bad idea to push a kid into something. Talent is only a small piece of the puzzle, passion and desire count for a lot more in my opinion, and you may ruin a child's enjoyment not only of that sport, but all sports, if you are too pushy because you think they are good. Isn't it possible the anxiety is because of that pressure from the parent after all?

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    1. Great point about "natural talent only being one piece of the puzzle."

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  7. I have 12 kids. Some are athletic. Some are artistic. Some are musical. Some would read all day. Some could argue the stripes off of a zebra. Some are competitive, Some love being in the spotlight. They all have different talents, likes, dislikes, personalities, etc. I grew up with a parent who PUSHED PUSHED PUSHED me into doing what she wanted me to do (music). I did/do have musical talent, but she pushed so hard that I have no desire to play the violin (and haven't since I was 14). I have other talents too, and wish I would have had the freedom to discover some of them while I was still young.
    We make our kids follow through if they commit to something (for the "season" or whatever the time period is) but other than that, my dream for them is to find something that makes them feel like running makes me feel. :) I would never push a kid to run that "hates" it. There are too many other things they could do instead.

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    1. If this were Facebook, I would "LIKE" this. :)

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  8. I absolutely despised running when I was in high school. It was a small school and if you were in athletics (I played softball) then it was mandatory to participate in cross country and track. You had to at least do the practices. Running in school is so much less enjoyable than running for myself now. My former coach is a friend of mine on facebook and is completely dumbfounded that marathons are my adulthood hobby. Maybe over the summer they should try to put the fun back into running with some themed 5k's or mud runs. Then see what she decides when track sign ups come around next year.

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  9. I would have given the same advice! Step away from the "happy pills" only to make your kids like what you want them to. I agree that finishing out the season is responsible as well. She may find that once the pressure is off, she may like it. However, it is her choice. My husband and I were very active all through our schooling and are still active today. My daughter "runs" with me all the time. I want her to be active all her life but I don't want to force her into doing something for me. She can choose her passion. I was the one pushing myself growing up. My parents supported my decisions. I was in soccer and softball very heavily and loved it. If there was a time that it gave me the reaction that the girl has been having, then they would have supported that as well as long as I finished up the season.

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  10. Growing up I was a competitive figure skater, it is what I wanted to be but I didn't understand how to work hard. I WISH my parents had pushed me more. It was hard as a kid to understand that somedays will not be fun, not every aspect of the sport will be 100% awesome, and sometimes training just plain sucks. I needed more help understanding that. I'm bummed when I look back and see what I could have been if I would have learned those lessons earlier.

    That said, I wanted to be a skater, not my parents. When I made commitments to competitions, I had to do them (except if I was injured, of course) but after a competition I could hang up the skates at any time.

    Also, just because you are good at something doesn't mean you have to do it.

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    1. I do have to admit my dad pushed me pretty hard in softball and it's the only reason I was so good. But we also did summer leagues that were less serious and more fun and kept me loving my sport.

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  11. As a kid, my parents let me quit everything...I was a jack-of-all trades drop-out, and I do mean everything from the church softball league to swim lessons to viola lessons. As a result,I was a bit lost and never really found my niche until much later in life, when I realized that not everything great comes easily and that you really can end up loving something you thought you hated, or at least thought you could never do well. That said, we DO make our girls stick a season out...Right now my younger daughter isn't loving soccer, so she has the option to discontinue it *after* the season ends, but at that time she has to pick something else out to try. I think that team/group activities teach important values, and my husband and I will always require that our girls are part of something, but I definitely won't let them quit before they've really given it a chance.

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    1. My parents also let me drop out of lots of things (ahem, including kindergarten...). While that seemed great at the time, it also somehow lead me to being an adult who only does things she's good at and giving up on a lot of others. Which is a shame.

      I like the idea of sticking it out at least for a season, I think that's also really important for kids to realize that in a lot of these activities they're part of a team and they should consider how their departure impacts others. Obviously not if it's something extremely detrimental to their health, but it's good to realize we don't ALWAYS get to do only what we want!

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  12. I loved reading this post. I am a PE teacher, a mom, an athlete, does it make me smile ear to ear knowing that my kids want to try the sports that I love, of course! However I fear that they pick those sports because that is what mommy (or daddy) does. I want them to pick it for them! I could care less what they do, as long as they do something. I also think that we sometimes tend to push kids at too early an age which ends up making them hate it in the end...

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  13. I agree with your answer - there is no reason to push a kid to continue doing something they HATE and have that much anxiety about.

    I didn't participate in too many sports as a kid, but I did dance until high school and then I was very busy showing and traveling with my horses. That was my thing, and when I was old enough I got a job to keep me busy when I wasn't at the barn riding. My parents occasionally had to encourage me to go to the barn when it was freezing cold outside, but they had very expensive horsie bills to pay so I understand their pushiness now.

    I wish I had had the courage to try more sports as a kid, but maybe it just wasn't for me. Maybe my path was the best one I could have taken.

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  14. Your response to Stacy is perfect. Wouldn't change a word of it.

    I was not into a lot of organized sports outside of school b/c my parents did not have that kind of money (ie. poor). However, whenver there was a sports (or any other) activity at school I wanted to participate, they encouraged me whenever they could.

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  15. I agree with you completely! Especially about not quitting once you've made the commitment!

    For me growing up, and we plan to do the same with our kids, once we're old enough if we're not active in some kinds of activities, then it's off to work. I played 2 sports, was in the bank, 4-h, church activities and more and that was fine. But my brother choose not to participate, he worked instead.

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  16. I'm a firm believer in letting the child decide what they like. Let them try anything and everything with the caveat that if they commit to a team they are there for the duration of the season and that they will give it their all while they are there. If at the end of the season they don't want to do it anymore, then let's try something else! They will find what they love and then want to do it.

    If you even have to suggest pills to make a child like something, it's the wrong thing. Maybe she will come back to running, but let her pick something new to try and give it her all. We had that with our son. He was in an activity and didn't like it. We let him quit at the end of the season and he eventually decided after a break that he did like it and missed it and then went back to it.

    I think the key is encouraging them to open their horizons and try new things. They'll find the thing they love and they won't want to quit! Activity needs to have a good mix of fun and hard work. If it's not fun, the work seems to hard. If it is fun, the hard work doesn't seem like such a chore.

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  17. Just about everyone in my and my husband's families are athletic and active in some way. My son, only 1 year old right now, has many loving family members with high athletic hopes for him. But I will never force him to participate in an activity that he doesn't like. He will have no choice but to do something, since there will be no coming home and watching TV or playing video games all night allowed in our house. He'll have to find a way to fill his time and I hope that he will see the love for sports that his father and I share and want to find a sport that he loves. But if he chooses to play a sport, he will have to finish the season. I think it teaches responsibility and following through on your commitments, especially in a group setting.

    You also don't have to play sports to be active. There are lots of things you can do that aren't necessarily athletic. I want my son to be healthy, fit and happy, but if that doesn't include sports, then it's okay with me.

    It makes me so angry that this mother wants to put her child on medications in order to force her to compete in a sport that the child has no interest in and makes her miserable and anxiety-ridden. I'm sorry, but that is not a good parenting move.

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  18. I agree with your response. I grew up on the other side of the spectrum. My parents didn't push me but I sometimes I wish they would have. They supported anything and everything I wanted to do but physical activity didn't become a part of my life until after college. There were a lot of sedentary, weigh gaining years in there and I'm still fighting my way to a fit lifestyle to reverse the damage done.

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  19. I think your response was bang on to what I would have said. My daughter, who is almost 9, is going to run her first 5K, because she wants to (she wants to run a marathon one day she says). She's run a few 1K's and one 3K. I entered her because she wants to do it. I think staying active is what's important, no matter which sport or event that is in.

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  20. It is hard to fight reason in this situation. *Stacy sounds like many people we all know. She must need something impressive to be proud of in her child. I never would have picked MMA or wrestling for my daughter but she loves it. And because she found something active to love...I am proud. And a little scared (of her ).

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  21. I'm not a parent so I feel like I am probably treading on difficult territory here, but I have to admit that my eyes bugged out at the suggestion that the girl be put on anti-anxiety medication so she would be okay with competing. That such an idea even crossed the mother's mind leads me to believe that part of the girl's anxiety is due to the fact that her parents are putting a lot of pressure on her. I don't know. My parents wanted me to play sports when I was a kid, too, but I am having a hard time envisioning a circumstance under which they would have put me on drugs to make me do so.

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  22. I am a youth track and cross country coach and I see this a lot. When I coach kids who obviously have anxiety about running, I let them sit out every now and then or help me with timing, much to the chagrin of their parents. Sometimes they come around. Sometimes not. Also, I ask the kids which races they want to run (sprints, long distance) so that they have some say in it, giving them control.
    I would tell that mom to let the kid sit out for a season. What's the big deal? She's so young still. The thing about gifted runners is that they don't always like to run, while an average runner might love to run and get just as fast as the gifted one over time.
    My kids all run but that is because they see my husband and me doing it so they think it's normal (poor things).

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    1. I think this is GREAT advice. Thanks for the input from someone who is on the front lines!

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    2. My husband and I started running regularly two years ago so that our daughters (now 2 and 4) would grow up thinking it's normal and that it is just something you do. Fingers crossed it actually works! :)

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  23. Dad and I were JUST talking about this. One of his runner friends is no longer running, but had her 10 year old run a half marathon a couple weeks ago. I was really bothered that a child that young was doing that distance on a very challenging course - lots of steep up and downs. I thought it was great she was so excited about it, but I worry about her getting injured so young from lack of training and easing into the distance.

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  24. My advice is similar to yours. I think if you commit to a team you have to finish the season to support your teammates. That said, I was an excellent athlete (especially running) when I was younger and up and quit after setting a bunch of records. No explanation, no reason I just didn't want to do it anymore. My parents never pushed me and as an adult I sometimes wonder if they had if I would have responded. Heck as an adult I don't always like running. Let the kid be a kid. You can't force her to do something.

    With my boys I never push them to run...but I have them BEGGING me to run races. When they turn 5 I let them run 5k's and my 7 year old is dying to do a 10k but I told him he has to wait until he's 8.

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  25. I think your answer to Stacy was right on and common sense. It's the approach my parents took with me, and the one I hope to take with my own kids. They're only five, but I let them try anything they want (they're even talking about wanting to learn to fish, even the idea of which bores the pants off me, but hey, if there's a fishing thing, I'll take them to it). They've tried mountain biking, gymnastics, art, music and little kids races at some of the big races I've done. We haven't done any teams yet. At their age, I think the big key has been no TV, video games or movies (except one movie a month with us) and lots of outside/park time.

    I do think my own parents' laissez-faire approach meant I didn't stick with some things that, as an adult, I find I do love (running being the biggest of those things). But I did find plenty of things I love as a kid/teenager and eventually I *did* turn to athletic pursuits. Finding these on my own (not being pushed) has been just fine. I was never going to be an Olympian anyway and frankly neither are most kids, including my own little "geniuses." Better late than never, and far better not to try to divine your child's future. That's their job, and their adventure.

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  26. I agree with your response.

    I never did anything in school. I tried basketball once but was really so bad I didn't make the team (this was back before everyone made the team). I have zero athletic ability but I always wanted to be an athlete. I just never had anyone tell me there were "choices". We were pretty poor, so it wasn't like I had a lot of options either. I did take piano for years...because I absolutely LOVED it (and my beloved Grandma footed the bills).

    My kids, like their mama, have very little natural athletic "talent" but I don't tell THEM that. If they want to try, they get to try. My Oldest Boy (now 9) ran cross country last year. He got faster for the first 2 or 3 meets and then he came down with bronchitis, had to miss 2 meets and got slower. However, he has no idea that it's a "competition". The first time I tried to explain this concept to him he was all "Huh? I'm running AGAINST other people? Why?" LOL! For him, it was all about hanging with his buddies and running. Zero natural talent but TONS of dedication. I love my kids. Whether they have "natural talent" or not.

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  27. I too think your advice was spot on. I also think it is very difficult to parents! Ultimately, we all really want them to "find their passion." This can be very difficult, especially when you have multiple children. My 26 year old son found his passion at about 20 (not sports-related). My 20 year old step daughter found her passion in dance but has been discouraged from that as a life choice/career by her mother as not practical, so she doesn't do it at all now. My 8 year old discovered his passion last year. Soccer, he lives it and breathes it and is constantly kicking a ball around and practicing in the back yard. My 5year old, HATES soccer (because his brother loves it I think) which is a shame because he is pretty good. I made him play this spring for my convenience. The last two games he has barely moved on the field. I so want him to find something he loves and is good at, but then I realize, not every one finds it at 7. In fact most people don't. So maybe Stacy is really reacting to her child not finding her "thing" yet and wanting to encourage her.

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  28. I never played any sports in school and I really wish I had! My parents let me decide not to try at all and while I do respect them for allowing me to make my own choices, as a child I do not feel I was fully equipped to make that choice. I plan to encourage my children to move and play, but they can choose what they play. And as they get older, if team sports are not their favorite, they can find an art, music or other activity to participate in as long as they are getting some exercise each day. It's hard being a parent!

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  29. My sister and I played almost every sport under the sun with the understanding that if you signed up you were committed to the season. And truthfully those middle school years were my favorites as far as team sports go. I did end up being quite good at swimming (even winning a state championship), but after that season I walked away from it to stick with basketball During HS (which I was good at, but not exemplary). Sometimes I wonder what-if, etc, but I'm glad my parents didn't push me and let me do what I loved.

    I love for my kids to be active and right now they are really into running because my husband and I are, but they are young and we hope to encourage activity and not push them. Easier said than done, I imagine.

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  30. I like what you told Stacy.

    I wasn't pushed in anything as a kid...they just didn't really care to pay enough attention. As long as I stayed out of trouble, things were good. Interaction and attention were minimal.

    I have 4 kids and 6 stepkids. Being active is very important to me. There have been moments of "Oh, shit...he didn't start soccer/swimming/baseball/whatever when he was three! He's screwed!" But that usually doesn't last very long. All the kids need to do a sport. I really don't care what it is or how good they are at it. And if they decide after trying it that they really don't like it, they can pick something else to try...but they need to stick it out with the first sport until they pick something different or the season ends or whatever logical break point comes next.

    There does seem to be some natural athletic ability in my kids, but only one seems at all interested in working with it and has the confidence to excel. What goes on in these little people's heads is so uniquely "them".

    The only things we push our kids in is treating themselves and others with respect. And cleaning their rooms.

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  31. I struggle with this one and my 7 yr old who is on the youth track team. He loves competing in meets, and is quite competitive in his events. Naturally, we want him to work hard at practice - for one, I believe if you are doing something, you need to give it your best effort. And we also want to see him reach his best potential. Well, mostly the hubs who was a competitive runner, wants that. I mostly want him to have fun. But he is such a slacker at practices! It drives us both nuts, partly because we are also coaches for the team.

    I don't want to push him so much he hates it, but I also want him to work as hard as the other kids. He's sort of lucky that he is talented and places in the meets given his slacker training, it's amazing to think how much better he could be.

    That being said - he's active. He's also doing baseball and soccer. Would I like to see him work a little harder at track? Yes, but I also want him to develop a love for the sport and that won't happen if we are constantly pushing him harder at practices.

    I'm all for "if we paid for the season, we're seeing it through" but I would never force him to do any activity he didn't want to. And if he was having major anxiety, I would let him quit, especially track which isn't necessarily a team sport that is relying on you to show up.

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  32. I'm hoping *Stacy's question about "anxiety happy pills" was tongue-in-cheek and she was really looking for a magic something to say/do to convince her daughter of the benefits of running and sticking with it.

    My parents didn't let me quit anything - I had to finish out the season. This included piano lessons which went on for several years despite me hating it -- but now I can play (very) basic piano, read sheet music, etc. All of that makes me a more well-rounded human. So I don't think it was a bad thing, though I have no desire to take it up again.

    As kids we don't want to do LOTS of things: eat our vegetables, do the running at volleyball practice, walk to school, mow the lawn, wash the dishes, clean our room, go to church, practice piano, do homework ... and there is absolutely value in insisting on the child doing all of those things.

    I'm not a parent, and I'm not sure how running figures into this equation. I mean, does *Mia really hate it? Obviously if she does then after this season she should be allowed to take a break and choose another activity.

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  33. Our approach with our son was that he had to participate in a sport/activity---he got to pick which ones. Once he picked, he had to ride out the season, even if he didn't like it. The next year, he could pick a different activity or team. Seemed to work.

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    1. I'll say it worked based on where he is now!!

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  34. When I was a kid, I was not forced to sign-up for anything but if I started something I had to finish it.

    My step-son played Pop Warner football for five years. Each year was his choice to sign-up. Without fail, during the first two weeks (all conditioning, no hitting) he would beg to quit, every year! We made him keep his commitment and he ended the year loving it.

    We are an active sports loving family and it has naturally crossed over into our kids. I have a son playing baseball in the Spring and football in the Fall and a daughter who plays softball both Spring and Fall...both have been by their choice.

    As for running, my son and daughter (10,8) ran their first 5k a couple of months ago and loved it. They signed up for a five 5k series this Summer by their choice. My only struggle is with pressuring them vs. encouraging them to train. I carve out time to take them to run (usually at the track so I can get in a short run too) it's up to them to train or not. I hope they naturally figure out how beneficial training is as opposed to just showing up and racing. I am all about Natural Consequences.

    I think your advice is right on. My only other thought is, How do the parents know that this is her gift from God? I thought our given gifts is a personal journey of discovery. Let's say it is, by pushing her they are risking her never ever using it because it was forced and not discovered on her own. I say let her finish her commitment and sit a season out if she wants. If she truly loves it, she will discover how much she misses it when she is not part of it OR she may discover another talent and/or passion unexplored because she is being forced into this one.

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    1. I had the same thoughts. Just because you have legs doesn't mean it's your gift from God. Or, I should say, we all have that same gift then. We don't have to run on those legs - we can walk, bike, whatever.

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  35. I think it's ridiculous to make a kid continue with an activity that causes so much anxiety and stress. That approach ultimately seems really unhealthy. I participated in everything under the sun growing up, and I had my fair share of stress, anxiety, and complaining, but I never wanted to quit something.

    And I think it's important to remember that with many kids, despite their family's best efforts, even the "non-negotiables" (school, being honest, etc) become major problems and create contention, stress, and anxiety. Just sayin' - count your blessings.

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  36. You are right on with your reply. There are so many things kids can be involved with, and the key is keeping them busy and engaged in what they enjoy. That being said, our main message to our boys is: If you decide you want to do something (like a team sport etc), and you commit to it.. then that's exactly what you do. In other words, you see things through etc.. great post!

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  37. I never did any sports or any extra curricular activities as a child, and I think my parents made a mistake not trying to get me to do something. With my own children I insist that they do something......play baseball, football, play chess...whatever. They must be involved in something. But NEVER would I force my child to continue to participate in something that gives them anxiety or something they absolutely hated. I think that's awful. There are so many activities for children, why not find one they enjoy. Forcing them to participate in something they hate and one which gives them anxiety will not only make the child despise that activity, but also resent the parents.

    And with regard to the "gift" her child has.......my oldest son is built like a football player and has an amazing ability in the sport. He doesn't like it. He doesn't want to play at all. It's a little disappointing to his dad who grew up playing football. But we would never force him to play football, despite his ability, just because we think he should. He has choices, he chose baseball which he loves. He isn't as good at baseball as football, but he loves it and that's what matters. I say let your children make some choices for themselves.

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  38. Your response to Stacy's question was squarely on the mark. I have insisted that my three children be involved in activities that keep them moving. Those "activities" did not necessarily mean sports and the choice was theirs (pending final parental approval of course). The girls chose dance and the boy martial arts (surprises all around).

    The most important thing with regard to any of this is that the parent needs to lead the way by setting the example. All three of my children now run. Just recently my six year old completed her first 5K (blogged about it). Each of them approached me on their own and asked to run with me. They wanted to do it because they see Dad hitting the gym and lacing up the shoes every day.

    As they continue to run I will be there with them as far as they choose to go with it. Should they one day decide that running is no longer for them and they would like to pursue another interest, I won't stress over their choice; because you are right about it being their journey. Instead, I will be right there with them on whatever path they take.

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  39. I'm sure most of the posts say the same thing. I want to say, as a parent, a therapist & a runner/exerciser - we get to choose what is best for us. We receive guidance from the safe adults in our life, but if we hate something, that is also a nod from God that though we may be ABLE to do something, that doesn't mean it's what we HAVE to do.
    In High School I was a very good Cheerleader - I still love those memories - however at 43 years old - no one needs to see that. I do, believe I can continue to cheer people on in life.
    In High School I hated running - but by-golly, now it's one of the ways I connect with friends & cheer them on as they lose weight, battle depression and a whole bunch of other things.
    What we are good at, what we hate, and what our God given talents are can still be combined in a great cocktail of love.

    My daughter is an amazing swimmer - but after many tearful weeks, shaking on the blocks, and having an upset stomach before a meet - we let her choose how she would proceed at the end of that season. She was certain that now isn't the time (too nervous) but believes she'll be able to do it in High School with a peer group. I believe if we empower them - they find their power.

    now...I see that grass skirt & still can't believe I couldn't find you two years ago!!!

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  40. I am not a parent - but I had THE MOST relaxed parents ever. I played T-ball and hated it, so they let me quit. Then I did nothing and that didn't phase them either. Then I played soccer for a few years. I was never pressured into anything it was always "Whatever makes you happy." I naturally found my likes/dislikes with being active now in my mid-twenties I still do what I want. I really liked being able to self-discover, it made me realize I never had to impress anyone - my parents were proud f me regardless.

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  41. I tried one 5k with daughter when she was about 9 years old-she stopped running at mile one, said "I hate this" with tears in her eyes, and we walked the other two. She was never pushed into anything. I told her to tell me (after exposing her to softball, gymnastics, swimming, dance, art, piano etc). to just choose one thing she might like to do. She chose dance, is still passionate about it and is now teaching young kids in our parks/rec. system. She surprises me by running every so often. DON'T pressure your kids into sports. They will hate the sport later on (I have talked to many swimmers who were forced to be on swim team as kids and they hate swimming!)

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  42. I think there is definitely a line between it. I don't know if I ever got to pick my sports, but I never really complained about hating any of them. It was just what I did. I was happy to be doing something, and I know it was hard financially on my parents for me to do anything.

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  43. I ran into this several years ago, my son played football in middle school and was very good at it but he got into the wrong (lazy, partying) crowd over the summer and decided he was not going to play HS football. I threatened, I pleaded but no he was not going to play. I went to talk with one of the FB coaches and told him my son was not going to play and would he come out to the house and have a talk with him and of course he did. My son went on to play FB all 4 years of HS, was a leader, played every game and finished his senior year All-Conference. The things he learned in FB will carry him through all his years, the friends he made, the achievements he earned will be something he can share with his kids. I am glad I intervened and I think he is too.

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    1. Difference is, sounds like he actually WANTED too play but needed someone to get his butt into gear.

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  44. I love your response! I totally agree; stick it out until the end (follow through with your commitments), but you don't have to do it again. Just do something to stay active and healthy. Perfect. Sports are a reflection of life, so treat it as such. Make choices, live with the consequences even if you don't like it. Stick it out until the end (that sounded kinda dirty).

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  45. My mom never forced me to do anything. She also let me quit anything I wanted to. I was on the tennis team in high school and decided I wanted to quit -- she let me, no questions asked. I kind of wish she would have pushed me to stick with it because everything in high school went downhill after that. However, if she did push me, I would have probably ended up hating tennis. I think it is important to find SOMETHING your kids enjoy and get them involved, but I think parents should let their kids choose and should give them the option to continue or to try something new.

    Your response was great!

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  46. Absolutely loved this post. I have two children. One that is 22 now that I've encouraged to do stuff like karate and basketball. He tried but never really stuck to either. He plays basketball recreationally with friends but didn't want to be a part of a league and I kick myself sometimes for maybe not being more pushy about it. After all, he's like 6'4 now.
    I have a daughter that twirls baton. That was completely on her. She showed me she could do something one day and I looked for a club to put her in where she could learn more about it. She has done it for several years now but is losing her passion. Into this last season she wanted to quit. I encouraged her to do less and not quit to see how it goes in case she changes her mind. Spoke to her about how she affects her team, etc. Yeah...she is definitely not as passionate about it as she was so i might let her quit next year. She tried.
    With my running, i was encouraging my daughter to run with me. That, was for me. She is more of a sprinter. But, she did run a 5k with me once to say she did it and hasn't been interested in it since. As she says, she can't see why anyone would want to run so far for fun. lol I left her alone although i'd love her to run with me again. But like I said, that's more for me to have company. At the same time, now she is complaining about wanting to lose weight, etc (she is 16). So, i've taken another stab at encouraging her to run with me. lol Surprisingly, she is now saying she might try another 5k with me. Hope she does. But, my point is, I left it to her because i want her to be happy and not miserable doing something i want her to do. Be passionate. With the twirling, i'll let her quit..her decision, we compromised on doing less first. On the running, I let her quit but am encouraging her to take a stab at it again while explaining the benefits to her which also benefit me in a way. lol Who knows, maybe she'll come to like it. No happy pills needs.
    Your post is dead on. Awesome advice. It's never easy being a parent...but we certainly shouldn't want to be Toddlers and Tiara moms. You know what I mean?

    Mrs White
    http://bringingfurmanhome.blogspot.com

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  47. I think what you said pretty much nailed it. When I ran track and CC, it was because I chose to. So when I feared nerves were going to get the best of me, or complained I didn't want to go to practice because I knew it'd be a "hard" day, my parents always reminded me of what I had signed up for. And they were right. But this girl seems to truly hate the activity and as much as I'm sure we all want to see our kids be healthy and active, you're right, there are other ways! Why beat a dead horse over running and risk their daughter hating ALL sports?? Because it's possible the daughter might completely rebel against physical activity, period, which I'm sure is NOT the result her parents are looking for!

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  48. I have stuggled with this myself. to push or not? I decided I shouldn't push my kids to run, but they NEED to do some type of activity (swimming lessons are the ONLY non-negotiable - it's a life saving skill) even if it's just walking on the treadmill.

    I have signed up the kids for 5K races in the past with mostly disasterous results.

    Last fall my daughter (13) took a liking to volleyball, tried out for the team and got selected. It was the only time in her life she WANTED to play sports. She even wanted to go to the gym on Wednesday nights (people of all ages play for 2 hrs). She has just taken up a bit of running in the last month or so - with no push from me or her mother. It was at the suggestion of her friend. Funny how things make so much more sense coming out of a fellow 13-year old than it does your own father...

    My son (9) loves baseball and is actually pretty good (not sure where that comes from...) so we sign him up for that every summer. He has also recently expressed an interest in running. While out for walks we would run to the next telephone pole every so often. His school started a running club which I thought he'd be interested in trying, but no. Even his best bud was joining but that didn't change his mind. I had to resort to bribery. I offered to sign up for Netflix if he joined the running club. I also stated that I would cancel it if he quit. He has stuck with it. Once he realized he didn't have to run full out the entire time, he was OK.

    They even had a 4.2K fun run which I ran with him. We took a few walking breaks but he did a really good job. Crossing the finish line with him was one of the Top 10 moments of my life.

    I think there are times you need to push, but also times you have to step back and let your kids find something that they enjoy doing. And then, when they stop having fun, you need to help them find something else to do.

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  49. Wow, your answer was spot-on. Reading Stacy's queries to you on the subject took me back to a 5K last year, one I'll never forget. The course was hilly, miserably cold (15F), icy and definitely a "class-2 fun" kind of run, even for a seasoned runner. Along the way, I came up on a mom literally dragging her eight-or-nine year old daughter by the arm, up the hill, yelling at her the whole way. The kid was sobbing, begging to quit, to stop and walk, anything.

    I don't usually get involved in anyone else's business. Ever. This time, I did. I slowed to a walk and started a conversation with the little girl. Ignored the mom, momentarily. Confided in the child that the hill was killing my legs, too. That sometimes walking the hills is perfectly okay. I finished the "race" with the two of them, run-walking at the CHILD'S pace.

    I never spoke a word to the mom. I have a daughter- we rock climb together, we run together, we play soccer (on different teams, obviously), practice martial arts four nights a week and bike together. There have been many times when my daughter needed to set a different pace, opt out, walk away and flat out quit. I've allowed her room to do just that. Leading by example is probably the best thing I've ever done for her motivation- instead of making her do things or making her finish things, I show her with my actions how to endure, persevere, carry on and fulfill a commitment long after it stops being fun.

    She's not a mini-me. She's not someone through whom I live vicariously. If I felt that I needed to manipulate her organic chemistry to combat her anxiety about participating in a sport, I'd volunteer to have my own head checked out. Fear is not a problem to be overcome, it is a healthy warning sign that all is not well/action is required (fight/flight).

    Thanks for opening this conversation and giving each of us the opportunity to chime in. Afraid you got more than $0.02 from me... more like the whole jar of change.

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  50. yikes,that's all I have to say.I have 2 kids,and all I ask of them is that they are active-they can try different things.They can't drop out of something if they have made a commitment,though.My daughter is playing little league for the second year-she is the only girl in her division,and she's having a tough time this season.All I have said is that she needs to finish this season and show up to every game and practice with a positive attitude.And she is-very proud of her.
    I would never make either of them keep doing something that they hated,though,even if I felt like they had some kind of "natural ability"-that seems to be setting up a kid to really hate something.But sometimes,a kid needs a "push"(or a kick in the butt) to help them realize their potential,but I don't think that's really what Stacy is talking about.

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  51. I am with you 100%!!! Plus, we have to look at the issue that in today's schools, running the track is VERY often used as a PUNISHMENT!! (Which is a whole issue that I could b*tch about) Children these days have so many different options (and hey, even softball has running in it, right?) there should be no reason why we need to push our children to run. Emphasis on ACTIVE is what we need to be focusing on.

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  52. We are currently having a relatable conversation in my household and with neighbors. My 6 year old child is *probably* naturally good at running. She likes a good sprint. But, I really don't know if at this age she could handle the effort required to really be a runner. I think it is rare that a young elementary child LOVES to run the way adults do. Their attention spans really aren't geared to long distance and that much discipline. That all being said, I'm sure there are many kids who do enjoy it, but since the child in this case clearly does not, making them continue is basically, torture, in the mind of the child. It reminds me of my excruciating 6 years of forced violin lessons *shudder*. I hated every moment of it, it didn't make me a better person, I never became a math genius because of it, and I still have no regrets of not being a concert violinist today. Bottom line, we as parents need to encourage our kids to try many things, especially in their elementary years. The odds of making most high school sports teams now are so much slimmer than in our era - the competition is ridiculously over the top now. Most kids need alternate options and frankly, they need to actually enjoy it. I can't even believe these parents would consider drugs?!?!? I live in a suburb that is apparently filled with future Olympians (sarcasm) so I see this ridiculous over the top sports stuff all the time and it drives me nuts. Kids need to choose, they need to have a say, and they really need to enjoy what they do. And really, most of these kids will drop a lot of these sports right after high school graduation because the real world turns everything upside down. Making your kids childhood filled with unenjoyable forced past times is simply not worth it.

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  53. Since kids are balls of energy I think it is vital they be in a physical activity, however I think it should be their choice. Kids are told to do so many things, their free time although guided with an activity should be their choice. It helps them to feel empowered, learn who they are, and gives them the stepping stone to independantly making their own decisions. If they sign up for something, they should complete it but it should always be their choice.

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  54. I'm a therapist, and I would like to throw out this option: Any psychiatrist or family practice doc worth his salt would have to ask "why do you want me to prescribe an anti-depressant (which also combats anxiety) or an anti-anxiety med to your child?" These are heavy psychotropics. They require a build up in the system, and not all kiddos handle them very well. I would hope that the doc would have a discussion about the inappropriatness of medding your child to participate in a sport.

    We all have gifts. But we can spoil those gifts when we force children to use them. I think too many runners have stories that start "I ran in jr high school/high school and just got burned out, so I didn't run for X years..."

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  55. The question that nags at me is "Has anyone bothered to seriously talk WITH this child about why she's so anxious about the competitive aspect and letting everyone down?". Has anyone asked her and really listened to the answer? The parents? The coach? Has anyone given her a chance to articulate what makes her hate the meets? Perhaps having the coach or a disinterested third party might get to the heart of the matter, if there *is* one other than "Actually, I really do HATE running, period."

    The parents (though maybe something to the contrary was edited out for the purposes of this post or I just missed it) seem to be skipping making it a conversation and telling her she's a natural talent over and over and that she *must* run. Now, it's great to tell kids they're *naturally* awesome at something and that not everyone has the same abilities... but that's kind of like praising them for having their eye color. It's great to tell a kid s/he's naturally smart, but it's probably a better move to tell a kid you're proud of the way they studied well and worked hard for those good grades. Otherwise, it sometimes smacks of backhanded compliment, like "You're so pretty, I just can't understand why you don't have a boyfriend. How disappointing. Must be something majorly wrong with you." if the kid is hearing "You're so fast, I just can't understand why you came in fourth at that meet. How disappointing. Must be something majorly wrong with you." instead.

    That "gift" business may be inadvertently putting even MORE pressure on her to win all the things to the point that she's petrified of losing and can't function. After all, if that's her most amazing talent according to her parents and she's the "best" at it, what does that make her think if she doesn't win every race? That would a recipe for some serious "What's wrong with me?" anxiety when she doesn't win. Some kids are just naturally demanding of themselves and a bit on the "perfectionist" side, and not meeting their own expectations makes them really anxious. Maybe they're accidentally feeding that tendency with what they think is encouragement?

    I mean, I've known kids with perfectly sweet, supportive, non-pressuring parents who were still very hard on themselves about not getting things "right" or being "the best". They were just wired that way. The kid may not actually hate running, she may hate being made to feel as though she's always got to win or risk disappointing everyone.

    I was even occasionally that kind of kid. Being smart was my "gift". I literally made myself physically ill over the very thought of not getting college credit through my first Advanced Placement exam. Despite having the most awesome and supportive and non-pushy parents ever. I got over it in fairly short order and did great on the exam.

    I agree at least a short hiatus is a good thing. I took a summer off of piano lessons, barely touched the keys for a couple of months around that same age and it actually helped me avoid total burnout. I still play publicly at least weekly about 20 years on from that brief hiatus.

    I also became a late onset athlete despite not being all that naturally athletic and not really doing organized sports in school. I took up running local 5K and 10K races at 33, and my dad is hilariously dedicated about always being there with the camera at the start and finish, but I know he doesn't expect me to win.

    Good thing, as he would be a tad disappointed. There are some major speed demons in my age group around here and I'm not one of them. ;P

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  56. I have 3 kids and the very best runner of them all does not like to run. Let me say that she does not like to run competitively. Yes, we wanted her to run track and xc and encouraged her in middle school, hoping those 1st place awards would change her mind. It did not. She adores volleyball and plays for her high school every year.
    She loves the workouts so she has been in track. BUT, she hates track and the meets. Will I force her to run? ABSOLUTELY NOT! I know that she IS a RUNNER. She will lace up the shoes when stressed or just wants a good workout. I would much rather have a lifetime runner on her own terms than one that quits because she was forced. And of couse, I agree, NO PILLS!

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  57. I agree no pills! I also agree to let the kids do what they want but only after they've given the sport a decent chance. They could very well hate it if they're not good and this would take time to overcome.
    I used to do karate when I was very little and hated some parts of it - my feet would burn walking across the playground in the summer and I was the only girl in a class of boys. My parents let me quit because I lied and said I didn't like the sport - I didn't tell them the real reasons. I discovered karate again in high school and joined and improved rapidly as I loved it. :)

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  58. I have been a running coach for children ages 5-18 since 1998. I have seen many kids with loads of running talent given to them by nature and kids not as blessed. It takes more than "god given" talent to be a runner. It also takes desire, dedication, discipline and determination to the sport. Believe me if you are making a child run, they will NOT stick with the activity! If her daughter has running talent, does not want to run now, and has anxiety about every event, back off. Let her take time off. Let her experiment with other sports. Remember that almost all the sports the kids play now include running in one way or another. Not all the kids that run for me, or have run with me, ran just to run, they ran because it improved their baseball game, they were faster running the bases, they ran for soccer because they had the ability to get up and down the field quicker then most kids, running helps the kids who play basketball and lacrosse or field hockey, because it gives them the endurance to stay in the game. So, give her the option of another sport that is less stress producing, and involves some running, and she might find that because she doesn't have to be a competitive runner, she will want to occasionally participate in a local 5k for fun, and be surprised at her results.

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  59. Great response and great rationale behind all of this. I despise wanting to pop a pill in a kid's mouth to change how they feel. How is that fair?

    Should she take a pill so she doesn't care? I don't think so!

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  60. I think your response was perfect. As I was reading her email, that is exactly what was going through my head. Don't make her run.

    My parents never forced me into sports or made me continue with something I didn't like. Some day I'd love it if Ella ran with Josh and I, but if she's not into it, that's ok. She can do whatever interests her.

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  61. My parents (well, mostly my mom, I think) made me stay in judo for years. Every year I said I didn't want to do it, and every year she made me. Finally, in grade 10, I just stopped going without telling her. I was doing lots of other activities, so it wasn't about keeping me active. Honestly, I'm not sure why she made me for so many years. To this day, just talking about it makes me angry.

    I make my kids finish out the season, but otherwise, they get to pick what they want to participate in.

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  62. I "made" my daughter do her last year of gymnastics. She phoned it in but I think she'll appreciate it later that she got past the compulsory levels. I also "made" my kids finish what they committed to (finish the season). Otherwise, I encourage them but the ultimate decision to play or not is up to them. I feel a lot of times that I was the scapegoat that got blamed when they had a bad day or whatever - I didn't want to play anyway but you made me. Its kind of a joke at our house now.

    I wish my parents had encouraged me more to do sports. I think it would have done me good.

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  63. I agree wholeheartedly with your response. Making a kid do something they hate is not good; they will resent it and the activity. Finish the season because of the commitment to the team and be done with it. Now, making them find SOMETHING active to do? Absolutely; my parents did not do that, and it took me until I was 55 to find something that lit my fire and made me want to move off the couch, which was key to helping me lose weight and become more healthy and fit.

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  64. My 8 year old son plays little league and this he started whining and complaining before games (mostly because this year they started having to wear a cup!) He said he wanted to quit. We said he is committed to his team and the season and he woud have to go to all the games, but we wouldn't make him play... he could sit on the bench if he wanted. We wanted to make sure that he understands the importance of being a team player but also want to respect his feelings. As far as the anxiety goes, I don't think it's something to be taken lightly. Being someone who has dealt with anxiety since childhood, I believe it's important to foster a healthy self image, a feeling of security and to teach relaxation techniques. Prescription drugs for kids should be a last resort and only in extreme cases... in my opinion. I would never want my child to feel that he couldn't trust me or his dad... the two people in the world who he should always feel he can depend on, receive comfort, love and support from. I hope that little girl is allowed to find something that brings her joy which I think is far more important in life than talent. Just my two cents :)

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  65. I would like to hear your Opinion on this matter?? which is just the opposite of the matter of discussion .

    My Daughter took baseball away from My 8 year old grandson as a punishment . He apparantly made an agreement with her that he could not follow through with and not playing baseball was the Punishment . I totally agree with her trying that aspect of parenting,, but the Punishment was a little excessive if you ask me . He is an ADHD child with emotional/behavior issues and that I am sure was not an agreement he should of gone with,, but how would he know that,, he is 8 Years Old !!! I was so upset with her over this,, I still am . Your thoughts ?

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  66. Your response was perfect! Certainly no need to force it on her and I agree that when my kids have signed up for something, we finish that season. Hope the mom really takes it to heart!

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  67. Oh, good grief. I could go on and on about this one. First, this issue really isn't about running, but about parenting. I teach "Gifted & Talented" kids, and I spend A LOT of time getting kids away from their obsessed parents so that they can be themselves. The kids who are genuinely the most creative, innovative, and disciplined are the ones who have loving support from parents, BUT have parents who are NOT overbearing, or attempt to force their child into an activity, interest, sport. I am convinced that the best thing to do for any child is to give them "age appropriate choice". Yes, for a 3 yr old it's Cheerios vs French Toast, for a 7th grader it's sometimes "having" to choose sports vs. art vs. debate club vs. drama vs. whatever. That's just how schools do it--but we, as well-adjusted adults--can encourage mere "hobbies" that will stick w/ them for a lifetime even if they pursue other interests within the context of school.
    On another note, a gang of parent running fanatics (myself included) finally extracted the practice of using RUNNING THE "THINK TRACK" AS PUNISHMENT from our local elementary school. Rather, they instituted a "running club" where the students earned miles over the course of the school year. So, by the end of the year, 1st & 2nd graders ran 26.2 miles total and got a t-shirt and party if they completed this!! It's one of the biggest honors in those grades!

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  68. My parents never encouraged me to do anything active. I will encourage my kids, however, it is up to them to decide what. Once they choose, they need to commit to a given length of time, a season generally. After that, they are free to choose something else if they want. I am blessed in that I have naturally active children (ok, at bedtime it feels more like a curse). My son loves to ride a bike, swim and practice Tae Kwon Do. My daughter is only 2 but tries to do everything her brother does. My son is a gifted cyclist. I would love from him to follow this passion but it is all about him. I loved it when you said it was his journey!

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  69. My parents neither encouraged nor supported any physical activity I did at school. However, they went to every game, award ceremony, recital and toilet flushing my step-brother participated in.

    Strangely, I ended up an educated, happily married, employed, tax-paying, Christian, runner with happy kids. Whereas my step-brother is a divorced, unemployed, ex-con, alcoholic, recreational drug user with anger-management issues and I have no idea where his kids are.

    I think the important thing is to realize that we are not raising kids, we are raising adults and to treat them fairly. If participating in sports prepares them for being responsible adults, then I say go for it and make them stick with it. If sports makes them feel like they are the only kid in the house, it it could be detrimental because the world is cruel place for kids who never learn how to fail.

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  70. Great response. It's great that you recognize that the issue needs to be broken down into specific aspects to address. I absolutely love your approach to question what, exactly, the child hates about the sport and if it's everything or one particular part of it that is the issue.

    There are several ways to look at not liking something, and it's important to address why the child doesn't like the sport. It's impossible to tell what good could come by forcing a child into doing something he or she doesn't want to do. There are plenty of reasons why pushing a child in a sport as demanding as running could be a bad choice. Sure it all depends on the individual, but going by statistics and by observing many, many cases of parents forcing a child to run and compete at a young age, it's easy to see that there's a good chance that this path could potentially lead to injury, burn out, more anxiety, emotional problems later in life, and an increased hatred for the sport.

    It's actually important to realize that kids are not adults. At a young age, it's essential to encourage at least a little fun in whatever physical activity they participate, because without some enjoyment, there will be less chance that the child will want to continue later in life.

    I believe that life calls us in certain directions. Children can usually sense when something isn't working out well and a different road needs to be taken, though they might need some feedback in order to get to that decision. There is nothing wrong with allowing for change. If quitting is a regular issue, that's another story, but with some guidance and questioning, I'm sure parents can figure it out and help either encourage staying in the sport or switching to something more appropriate.

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  71. I know this is a late reply, but I've been thinking about this post since I read it.

    I'm in my mid-thirties, and I'm STILL too anxious to anything competitive that involves a team. I "know" that I'll be the weak link in the chain, that I'll let everyone down, and I'll ruin everything.

    Maybe if I had addressed these fears, I wouldn't have been inactive in my teenage years. Maybe these fears are still holding me back now.

    Medication isn't the answer for me, and I agree wholeheartedly with the other posts that point out the drawbacks & dangers of meds for kids and teens.

    How do kids/teens/36-year-old adults learn to be team members, with all the responsibilities and rewards that it entails?

    ((Also, why aren't there non-competitive running groups in school? Seriously, given the ability level required to be even a mid-pack runner at that age, wouldn't it make sense to have a running CLUB as well as a team?))

    -g.

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  72. I will add that since I have competed at an elite level when I was a teen and into college, I (and many other coaches and athletes) don't think it's a good idea that kids younger than twelve compete. What anonymous said above is a really good point. Things are starting to slowly change in other countries too, but if one looks at some of the great athletes from around the world, very few competed in structured events at a young age. That's not to say they were inactive or avoided racing all together. Avoiding serious competition while still allowing for more unstructured activity (and fun) is a healthier approach. I rely heavily on the teachings of coach Bobby MaGee, the author of Magical Running for my information, because he has coached all levels of athletes around the world. Also, I've just witnessed too many cases of burn out and injury in this country with all these running clubs and intense competitions at very young ages. I didn't start competing until I was fourteen, and I even experienced it. Then again, I had too much internal pressure going on and was fortunate that my parents didn't push me at all in the sport. I think I would have been even more of a mess had they done it. In Andre Agassi's autobiography "Open" he discusses how his dad pushed him in the sport and also how much he hated tennis throughout his career. So while he achieved great success, it was often at the expense of his mind, body and happiness, occasionally turning to drugs and other unhealthy ways of coping.

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  73. I run so that I don't have to take meds. Putting your kid on meds just to run defeats the purpose. I think your response was right on.

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  74. I completely agree with your take on this. My fiance encourages his son to TRY everything and once the season is over, he doesn't have to do it again if he doesn't want to. Therefore, in his 8 years, the kid has already tried soccer, football, baseball, dance, gymnastics, wrestling, karate, basketball, broomball, dodge ball and running. Some he loves (baseball and soccer), some he likes (football, basketball and running) and some he hates (wrestling, gymnastics, karate). It's all up to him.

    So far, though, he's showing an interest in running. I let him know about events he could do with all of the details and then he makes the choice as to whether to do it. Ribbons are good motivators, though.

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  75. Hi - I absolutely agree with not pushing your child into a sports activity they don't enjoy. Both my girls do activities that they love. But how would you deal with the situation with the once a year school cross country event that everyone takes part in. My daughter is year 3 at school (nearly 8) and just isn't a long distance runner and doesn't enjoy it. The real problem is that coming last in the cross country race really knocks her confidence. My daughter is not naturally a confident girl and we do a lot to build her confidence and that works well. The cross country race is this week and already she is saying she doesn't like running and feels bad coming last. I've talked about how it's not about the placing and it's more about the effort and trying. It doesn't change how she feels. Do I keep encouraging her to run in cross country this week or do I let the sore toe she has turn into a reason not to participate in cross country? Keen to hear other thoughts on this. Thanks.

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