Everything in moderation
July 28, 2014
by Jenni Sebora

Olympic gold medal-winning gymnast Dominque Moceanu was a part of a show I was watching regarding parental pressure and expectations.

She discussed the abuse she endured under the direction of her coaches, Béla Károlyi and his wife.

Moceanu shared via this show, as well as various news articles, that she was afraid to make mistakes for fear of reprimand and berating by her coaches. She felt nervous and vulnerable. Her positive performances were erased by any mistake she made.

Gymnastics became a job for Dominique. The joy of the sport that she once felt began slipping away because of the negativity she endured by her coaches.

She shared that she loved gymnastics and pushed herself, but when she began working with her coaches, the love of the sport dwindled because of the belittlement.

She felt no positive connections with her coaches.

She shares this to help parents realize that when young people participate in activities, belittlement and pushing by parents to the level that it is not positive for their son or daughter causes more harm than good.

Moceanu stated that when she participated in gymnastics for her own love of it, the experience was far more positive, joyful, and less stressful. She took the ownership back, and in doing so, the love and joy returned.

It seems these days, our youth are pushed harder than ever before to be the best or to succeed and exceed according to what others think success is.

In some situations, it is the adult values that are pushed onto the children and not those of the child. Again, this can do more harm than good.

Stress in everyday life is normal, but stress – distress because of feeling overwhelmed – can be very unhealthy for everyone, especially for children. It can affect kids’ health – physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Are we pushing our children for their sake, or because of the adult’s agenda?

Do we feel that our children will get behind if they don’t specialize in one sport, and practice it all the time?

Do we feel like we aren’t good parents if we don’t schedule our children in a gazillion activities, even if they really don’t want to be busy all the time?

We also have to remember, less than 10 percent in most sports will participate beyond high school or college, and far less than 1 percent will participate professionally.

Overscheduling our children has become a widespread epidemic. Our children are running all the time, and we are running after them all the time. Family time is limited, if any exists at all.

Is there some down time to play, create, imagine, dream, and just plain relax?

Experts say adults need to take a step back and relax, themselves. Lighten up. Adults need to ask themselves; are they pushing their children to fulfill their own egos; to keep up with the Joneses; or from social pressure?

Lighten up. Just as with other things, the key is moderation and balance.

Are children enjoying the activity? Are they feeling burned out? Are they distressed and overwhelmed?

Parents need to keep these points in mind, and not run their own agenda.

The majority of studies show that having children specialize in one sport all year-round, or nearly all year-round at a young age (before high school), reaps more negative consequences than positive.

It may interfere with healthy child development. As discussed, burnout and overuse injuries, as well as other emotional results can occur.

Actually, participating in different activities, rather than just focusing on one sport all the time, helps develop gross motor skills overall. We just have to be mindful of overscheduling our children.

Participating in extracurricular activities, of course, does reap many benefits, including self-confidence, academic achievement, fewer behavioral issues, and less chance of participating in risky behaviors, such as using drugs and alcohol.

Moderation and balance – these are the keys. Our children should enjoy the activity. What our children and everyone needs the most are relationships and connections with people. That is what brings the most satisfaction and happiness to children.

All in moderation!

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