The Slow Erosion of Independence and How Self-Awareness and Self-Control Help stop it

Posted on 15th November 2014

The Slow Erosion of Independence and How Self-Awareness and Self-Control Help stop it

My experiences as a teacher and coach have affected me deeply. I have rarely worked with a parent or coach who doesn’t want the best for the child. I do not believe people set out to deliberately undermine and limit a child’s potential, diminish their independence and reduce their enjoyment of sport. It can be obvious in some cases (shouting, threatening, ignoring, punishing) but mainly it occurs in subtle ways, so gradual and slight that no one really notices at the time. The erosion of the Child’s enthusiasm, individuality and consequent internal motivation to learn and develop can often only be noticed in reflection over longer periods of time. I am sure nobody labels themselves the ‘Pushy Parent’ that they easily tag others with. This is because the intrusive behaviour is ‘meant’ to be genuinely positive; ‘for the greater good’, ‘constructive criticism’ that you will thank me for one day.  Common thinking (not to be confused with common sense) can be:

  • I am only trying to help you, what is your problem!
  • So what if I get involved a bit too much, they are my kids and I know them better than anybody!
  • I know what it feels like to be them; I was them when I was their age! So I know exactly how they are feeling.
  • I can rescue them if only they would properly listen to me.
  • They don’t want to repeat my mistakes and missed opportunities
  • They should repeat the strategies that worked for me through my life
  • I can’t stand by and watch them fail (learn!) especially when I could have prevented it for them
  • It is my job to make them successful
  • You should be doing what ‘x’ is doing because that’s what the other child is doing to win more and of course winning more is good
  • We are in this together, we are a team and we can get there together. Good bonding opportunity for us!
  • They are just like me when I was their age, I know they have the same desires and fears I had. So I can fix this.


From the position of observer it is easy to witness parents taking control of their children’s sporting adventures.  The behaviours noticed are often so obvious from the outside that it is hard to understand that the parents themselves are not aware of what they are behaving like.  Emotional outbursts during and after their Childs play go unnoticed and just fuel tension levels, thwarting the normal type of rational reactions that one would expect loving people to display.

I believe we have all fallen into this state at some occasions in our lives with those we love. I certainly have with my wife! We judge situations on our own terms through our own experiences and act like there is only one truth going on, MY truth, THE truth. Our mission is to coerce and convince ‘the others’ towards our truth because we know all the solutions, after all, we know THE truth.  We are quite convinced we know best and therefore the judging begins. When we judge people we apply pressure to them. They must come in line with a standard of thinking and consequent behaviour set by us. If they meet the standard then we like that, we accept them more fully and generally praise them for their efforts with rewards of some kind. If they fail to meet our judging standards then they are treated as failures. They may be directly told, they may face a dirty silence or just a lack of empathy or attention but whatever it is they know they are facing consequences of your judgement. Children know when you are sulking with them or when you are let down by them. They know when you are panicking too by cooking up “Master plans” of how to beat the enemy once and for all.

What really helps is Self-Awareness.

Having the skill to feel what is rising inside you is where emotional mastery begins. Recognising feelings enables you to control them and this is when people begin to get better at emotional control. “Awareness is the beginning of all growth. Awareness of a problem is the beginning of the solution. Awareness transforms that vague something into a specific action you can correct or improve. Sometimes when we feel like we are ‘getting worse’ we are finally ready to get much better.” Dan Millman, Body Mind Mastery

With more self-awareness you can feel the emotions taking over and prevent them from spilling over into regrettable comments and judgements.  Learning to recognise those rising emotions is the start of personal control over them.

Emotional Self-Control– this is the ability to control those rising emotions especially during matches and at competitions.

If you are easily “wound up” then you are likely to be ineffective support for anyone let alone your child. Having the ability to keep cool under pressure, refrain from negativity and allow feelings to rise and pass through you is a key coaching intelligence. This is not always easy and on occasion it is useful to let emotions go but very rarely is it the pathway to excellence. Self-controlresults in an overall reduction in pressure. There is less fear and stress involved and like all the best leaders you begin to lead through calm presence and love. The way you affect your child will be much deeper and encouraging. They will sense confidence and calmness in you not anger, insecurity and blame. They will truly know you love them more than any sporting victory could give. From this place you can genuinely guide them. You can cheer, contribute with improvement ideas if THEY ask you and be there as a ROCK for them. You can lead through example much more than by what you say. Most of all you will have space for EMPATHY and LOVE. You won’t be making excuses, or blaming officials or criticising their attitude you will simply let them be and come from a more powerful philosophic outlook how to improve or deal with a victory. You yourself as a parent will drop off paranoia, feel less judged by the other parents and be far more proud of the basic fact your son or daughter are healthy, innocent, alive and young.


  1. Go to one competition and no matter what look for the good in all your child does completely regardless of their sporting performance.
  2. Get another parent you trust and work together to help each other stay supportive and constructive. By observing them well you may “realise” you do similar things and it may shock you!

Next topic: Don’t put your own inadequacies and fears onto them; work on yourself helps more than working on them!

Danny Massaro

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