Will You Still Love Me If I Don't Win?: Parenting Young Athletes with Christopher Andersonn

WebMD Live Events Transcript

Author Christopher Andersonn will discuss how sports and competition can affect emotions between parents and their children.

The opinions expressed herein are the guests' alone and have not been reviewed by a WebMD physician. If you have questions about your health, you should consult your personal physician. This event is meant for informational purposes only.

Moderator: Welcome to WebMD Live. Today we are discussing "Will You Still Love Me If I Don't Win?: Parenting Young Athletes" with Christopher Andersonn.

Christopher Andersonn is the author of Will You Still Love Me If I Don't Win? Having worked with 15,000 young athletes and over 3,000 parents over the past two decades, Christopher demonstrates where parents and coaches often go wrong in relating to kids, shows what causes negative behavior toward children and tells how to stop the hurting and start the healing. For more information about Christopher and his work, please visit his website at www.christopherandersonn.com.

Christopher, welcome to WebMD Live.

Andersonn: Please feel free to send me questions through my website. The book is also available everywhere; Barnes & Nobles. First of all, it's for parents with children, but for people who have teenagers, grammar school, middle school... sometimes bookstores have put it in the children's section, and that's not right. It's for any parent who has a child; someone who read it said that if anyone who has ever been a child or parent should read this book. It's not limited to parents, but it'll speak to the parenting and loving a child, and the relationship between parent and child. So much of sports speaks about performance; not of the relationship, but getting the most out of a child performing, and what I found is that kids always younger will place their value on what their parents place their value on, and if it's performance, they attach their self-esteem to how they perform. The kids will watch the subtleties of what the parents are saying, and watch for academics, how others perform, and the messages oftentimes... and the area is often misunderstood, and the reviews I've gotten are about this is a book for kids who go over the edge, etc. But this is not for those parents. This is for your average, everyday parent who's interested in being a better parent; every parent, and not just the ones on the extreme. I purposely wrote it not that way, and the examples inside are not that extreme. It's the subtle things parents do all the time that they're unaware of. One parent said he wasn't like those other parents, because he didn't apply the pressure in sports... but did it academically. So what's the difference? The common event to get to the heart of your question here, or the common occurrence, is that kids would break down and start crying. They would talk about their fears -- it came down to whether their parents would reject them, not approve of them, or live up to what they expect. That's saying, "Will I be good enough to be loved?" And there's a balance -- academics are important, achieving is important... but why? The common sense is that if someone achieves at a higher level, they'll be successful in life. The more successful you are, the happier you'll be -- that's the assumption. Too many parents I know have achieved a great deal, and they're miserable, because they don't know how to relate to other people or themselves. Achieve for the right reasons -- positive competition, whether through academics or sports... it's about discovering your talents, your strengths, and your power. Negative competition is when people hook it up to your sense of worth, self-esteem... and whenever you do that, you'll always put the kid at a loss, because they're going to feel that they're only as good as their last grade, or performance. They'll feel that they've lost something of themselves -- that's not true, but that's the message given in America all over the place. If you get into the right school, there are the stickers -- "My child was the child of the week"... but why? Parents might be proud, but the message is that they're special, if they get better grades than other kids. That doesn't make them a better person -- that should be measured by how much they laugh, how determined they are, how much they care about someone else... these don't have anything to do with achievement. If you can instill these things in children, then you have the development of a person. I cover this in an entire section in the book, under developing the whole self. Few athletic programs address this.

Moderator: In a year-round demanding sport, like swimming or gymnastics, there is a considerable time commitment, a lot of hard work and often great disappointment. It takes tremendous effort physically, mentally and emotionally for a young athlete to commit to this type of sport. Is all that effort worth it? Is it even healthy for a child to be in this type of demanding sport?

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