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  • Writer's pictureJoe Puentes, Psy.D.

5 Most Common Parenting Pitfalls as Witnessed by a Sport Psychologist

Updated: Jun 11, 2019

If there is one thing I’ve learned working with parents of student athletes for over a decade, its that you love your kids, you really do. Underneath the frustration and the worry that sometimes spills out on the top, is a deep commitment, awe and appreciation of the young adult your child has grown into. I continue to be inspired by how meaningful the love and support a parent has for their child is and how positive an impact it can have. Being the human parents we are though, despite our best intentions, we make mistakes along the way. In the following article I identify the five most common pitfalls I see parents make, in hopes you don't have to make them too, or if you have, you can find your way out.

5 Most Common Pitfalls

1. When the athlete gets overly worried or frustrated, the parent does too!

Being a competitive athlete is an incredibly challenging endeavor for your young adult. It will be natural for them to get worried or frustrated along the way. The pitfall for parents is getting sucked in and becoming overly worried or frustrated themselves. Now we have two or three people in trouble. Solution: The strategy is to stay supportive, positive and confident in their abilities to navigate the natural challenges along the way. If you become worried or frustrated yourself, be careful not to dump it on your student athlete. Share your concerns with the other people in your life who support you.

2. Parents focus too much on results.

Yes, you’re invested, its understandable that you care about the results. The problem is, focusing on results only increases tension and fear of failure and decreases the likelihood that good results happen. Instead, Solution: Sport Psychologists across the board recommend elite athletes focus on the process, meaning how they play the sport and what they can control. So for example in baseball, they were 0-4 today is the result, but the process is about how the quality of their at bats were, their effort, their attitude, their never give up approach. If you as parent focus too much on results, your child naturally will and their performance will suffer.

3. Parents solve too many of their young adult’s problems for them.

This at first glance looks supportive and even helpful for your child. Staying in constant communication and fixing problems so they can succeed seems like a good thing. The pitfall though, is this robs your child of the valuable experience of finding ways to solve their own problems. This steals the chance for them to grow their self confidence. They will need as much confidence in themselves as they can come up with as they face the many challenges ahead, academically and athletically. Solution: When they call to ask you to solve the average problem, talk them through how they might solve it and restrain yourself from fixing it for them.

4. “All I get from my parents is lecture or worry, so why would I want to talk to them.”

Unfortunately this is the most common complaint I hear from student athletes that stops them from turning to their parents for support during important times. Solution: What they need is someone to listen, say they love them no matter what, and that they believe in them. What they often get is lectures and worry. Avoid the trap!

5. Parents blaming themselves for their child’s missteps and mistakes.

How tough to be a parent sometimes, we do too much, we don’t do enough, we say or do the wrong things. We can be hard on ourselves, thinking that when our children struggle that somehow we are not good enough parents. The pitfall here is that if we are beating ourselves up as parents we are also sending the message to our children that they are not allowed to fail because then we feel like failures. That’s too much pressure. Our children will struggle no matter how perfect our parenting, especially as they aim to accomplish big things. Missteps and mistakes are normal and to be expected and at their best, are learning opportunities. Solution: Zoom back to the big picture, see that their journey is connected to the support of many, and that staying positive with your own process will undoubtedly rub off on them.

Gold Nugget Question: What will you take away from this article that you found valuable?

Leave a comment below or take the time to write down what you want remember. This increases the likelihood you utilize it and then benefit from it in your own life as a parent.

Want to dive deeper into how to support your student athlete? If you think you or your student athlete would benefit from one on one Sport Psychology services, contact us to set up a free 15 minute phone consultation: (707) 596 - 8280 or email at

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