Ask BBB: Parenting Advice from Betsy Brown Braun

QUESTION: My husband and I are very physically active and have always been excited about introducing our son to the sports we love – golf, tennis and baseball. But so far, our son, 7, hates sports with a passion. Is there a way to make it fun for him so we could do some of these activities as a family?

BBB: How true it is that sometimes kids don’t share their parents’ excitement for a variety of their interests and activities. You are not alone in wanting to share your interests with your son, and he wants no part of it. We have a good friend who gave birth to an exceptionally tall son. That son pursued his own interest all the way through school – technology. There was not one bounce of the basketball about which his father was so passionate. Oh well.

Your use of the word hate to describe your son’s feelings about the sports you love tells me that something else, beyond just not particularly liking, is going on there. Perhaps your desire for your son to join in your fun has been received as a “have to” by your son; it’s more pressure than he can manage. Perhaps he is the type of child who doesn’t like to try something new unless he feels comfortable or competent with the activity, not allowing himself a learning curve. Maybe he needs to be in control of what he does and not you.

It is important that you take a close look at yourselves, your expectations for your son and your son’s place in the family. It is likely that what is going on will come into better focus. It is also likely that the hating isn’t about the sport(s) at all.

The best cure I can offer is to suggest that you lay off. Rather than inviting your son to join you, assume he has no interest. You can say, “Mom, Stevie, and I are going to play tennis over at the park. I know you would rather stay home with [the babysitter, the nanny, the older sibling], so we’ll see you later.” (And no sarcasm or anger in your tone, please.) Or when you sit down to watch golf, “I’ll be in the den watching the golf tournament. You can join me if you’d like.”

At the same time, make every effort to join your son in his world, be it Legos or dinosaurs or Transformers. Show interest in his interests and a real desire to learn about them. Give a little, get a little. His hate of sports may be all about attention getting in the family.

And you thought parenting would be easy.

Betsy Brown Braun, M.A. is a Child Development and Behavior Specialist (infants to teens), a Parent Educator, and Multiple Birth Parenting Specialist. Betsy consults with parents privately, runs parenting groups, seminars and workshops for parents, teachers, and other professionals.  She is the award-winning author of the bestselling, “Just Tell Me What to Say” and “You’re Not the Boss of Me.” Betsy has been featured on the Today Show, The Early Show and Good Morning America and has been cited in Parents Magazine, Twins Magazine, Family Circle and many more.  Betsy and Ray Braun, Palisades residents for 38 years, are the parents of adult triplets and have three grandchildren, so far.