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From the Sidelines: The Perils of Living Vicariously Through Our Kids

From the Sidelines: The Perils of Living Vicariously Through Our Kids

Hey there, fabulous sport moms and cheerleading enthusiasts! 🌟

As a cheer mom to two amazing girls, ages 6 and 8 (she also has a twin brother), I’ve had my fair share of high kicks and high drama. I genuinely love seeing others succeed and usually keep a sunny disposition, but I’ve also witnessed the darker side of competitive cheerleading. It’s time we address it head-on – the dangers of narcissistic parenting. Let’s talk about it, and maybe share a laugh or two along the way.

The Cheer World: A Balancing Act

Cheerleading is all about balance – not just on the mat, but in our roles as parents too. Supporting our kids means celebrating their victories and comforting them in defeat. It’s a team effort, and that includes us moms on the sidelines. Remember, teams win. A group of kids competing as individuals don’t.

The Danger of Narcissistic Parenting

We've all seen them – the parents who live vicariously through their children, pushing them to win at all costs. They’re the ones yelling from the sidelines, coaching their kids over the actual coach, and often, bringing more stress than support. It’s a phenomenon known as narcissistic parenting.

Joseph Burgo, PhD, author of The Narcissist You Know, explains how competitive parenting can be more damaging than you might realize. Narcissistic parents often feel like they haven’t achieved what they wanted in life, so they try to fulfill their goals through their children. It’s a harsh reality, and it’s something we need to be aware of and guard against.

The Fallout of Narcissistic Parenting

Narcissistic parenting can lead to significant issues for children, including:

1. Emotional Distress: Constant pressure to perform can lead to anxiety, depression, and a sense of never being good enough.

2. Loss of Enjoyment: When winning becomes everything, the joy of the sport is lost. Children may end up resenting the activity they once loved.

3. Fragile Self-Esteem: Kids raised by narcissistic parents often have fragile self-esteem. They’ve been told they must win to be valued, which can lead to lifelong issues with self-worth.

4. Difficulty in Independence: Overly involved parents can hinder a child’s ability to develop independence and resilience. They might struggle with basic life skills when they’re older.

Let’s Keep It Real

So, how do we avoid becoming “that” parent? Here are a few tips that have helped me stay grounded:

1. Remember, This isn't Life or Death: There’s a 99.993% chance that our kids aren’t going pro. So, let’s calm down and enjoy the game for what it is – a fun activity for our kids.

2. You Are Not the Coach: Unless your shirt says “Coach,” keep your advice to yourself. The real coach is there for a reason, and they don’t need our interference.

3. Be Kind: The only words you should say to a coach, judge, team rep, etc. are, “Thank you.” They’re doing their best, even when they make mistakes.

4. Let Your Child Speak for Themselves: Encourage your child to address their concerns with the coach. It’s a great learning experience and builds independence. 

5. Model Good Behavior: Our kids are watching us as much as we’re watching them. Show them how to handle competition gracefully.

6. Compliment Other Kids: Never say anything negative to someone else’s child. Keep it positive and encouraging.

7. Keep Stats to Yourself: Unless Someone Asks, There's No Need to Share Your Child’s Stats. Focus on enjoying the experience Instead of bragging rights. Team placement and skill level don't need to dominate every conversation. Support other athletes and their parents—mutual support, friendship, and a positive attitude will take you and your team further than you think. You might even make lifelong friends who will always celebrate your and your children's successes.

8. Focus on Life Lessons: Sports teach valuable life skills like teamwork, resilience, and leadership. These are far more important than any trophy.

9. Say These Six Words: “I love to watch you play (cheer/dance/etc.)” It’s the best thing you can say to your child. It conveys support without adding pressure.

Share Your Stories

We’ve all been there – dealing with the overzealous parent or trying to keep our own competitive instincts in check. Let’s create a community where we can share our experiences, support each other, and keep the cheer spirit high. A little positivity can go a long way- especially in today's climate.

What crazy cheer mom stories do you have? How do you handle the pressure of tryouts and competitions? Share your thoughts in the comments below. Let’s laugh, learn, and lift each other up!

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  • Amanda

    Yas!! Ashley for president!

  • LaDonna Sheridan


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