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Teach kids stick-to-itiveness, but maybe not with baseball

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Teach kids stick-to-itiveness, but maybe not with baseball

Seattle: What's your take on the importance of kids' sports? My husband did a lot of sports growing up. Me, not so much. Our twin 10-year-old boys are not interested in sports like he was. They have played baseball every spring but are not very good at it, nor are they interested in working to become good.

It's time to sign up and we are facing a showdown: Dad thinks they should play, but they really don't want to. The league at their age becomes much more serious and pressure-filled, so even less fun to them. I say it's not a big deal — they are young and will find a sport they are interested in (one of them already loves basketball), but Dad thinks they should keep at it until they get good and not give up.

I see so many parents push their kids in sports and I don't want to be like that, but I can appreciate the overall lesson of sticking to something. We are at loggerheads.

Carolyn: One of the most important things parents can instill in their kids is the value of working toward and waiting for delayed gratification. Little people aren't good at it, in all their I WANT THIS NOW egoism, but when they become big people and still expect instant gratification, you get binge-eaters and job-/bed-hoppers and deficit spenders and some seriously clogged arteries.

How do you apply this to your kids? It hinges on your observation "nor are they interested in working to become good." At 10, they're old enough to know what they like — which favors your viewpoint — but if they never stick to anything, then that could motivate your husband's harder line.

So, what's the context of that lack of interest — is it just baseball, or is it everything but video games?

If it is just baseball, that's what you present to their dad: Exhibit A, this isn't their sport.

And if it isn't just baseball, can you name any activities in which the boys have shown a sustained interest? The harder it is for you to think of something — and the more blah their attitude is toward applying themselves — the more urgent it becomes that you attune yourself to their real passions. You'll need that passion to drive their education about working toward long-term goals.

Passion often grows from natural ability, which brings me to another angle on the baseball issue. Is it possible their hand-eye coordination isn't up to baseball standards, but they would enjoy, say, swimming? Soccer? Basket weaving? You already mentioned basketball.

Explain that you believe in their having an activity, and you believe in their sticking with something, but that you think they'll get better results if it's something they choose. If you need to sell it to Sports Man, remind him that picking up other sports while they're young will make them more versatile athletes.

Key exception: Some kids have subtle disabilities that make it impossible for them to, say, hit a baseball. If your boys are routinely o-fer, then argue from the angle of mercy.

Unfortunately, if your husband is so fixated on baseball that he'll march your kids through it or else, then he's already beyond the reach of reason. But you have to try.

Continued tomorrow.

Teach kids stick-to-itiveness, but maybe not with baseball 03/15/09 [Last modified: Sunday, March 15, 2009 4:30am]
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