If you’ve read this blog for very long at all, you know we’re a sports family. Both girls are heavily involved in sports, and they take up a big chunk of our time and budget.
I love that my girls play sports. I truly believe that being on a team and competing has huge benefits — especially for girls. But sometimes those sports can cause a whole lot of agony.
My older daughter has had a rough soccer season for a lot of reasons. She’s been really frustrated, and there have been a whole bunch of tears. It’s become all-consuming for her. How do I get better? How do I communicate effectively with my coach? What if I lose my spot on the team? These are conversations we’re having almost daily around here.
And it’s not healthy. Soccer had gotten to a point where it had really overrun everything else in my daughter’s life. Don’t get me wrong, I want my kids to be passionate about what they do. I want them to go hard after what they want. I want them to give anything they do their best effort.
But when something surrounding that thing they’re so passionate about goes wrong, I don’t want it to consume their lives. I don’t want them to be so miserable that it’s hard to find a smile at all. I don’t want it to be the only thing they think about.
So, the other night my daughter and I were at dinner by ourselves. We had a long talk about where soccer belonged in her life. We talked about how it’s important to want to solve the problems she’s having, but it’s not OK to let it affect every aspect of her life. And then I said to her: “Soccer is something you do. It is not who you are.”
Because we had let soccer become something that defined my daughter. Her identity, her self-worth, her entire world was wrapped up in this sport. And that’s not OK. Because while she loves to play it and she has some talent for it, it isn’t the only thing in her life. We needed to put soccer back in it’s appropriate slot in her life — as something she loves to do. Because nothing she does or doesn’t do on the field makes her any less of a person. It doesn’t change her priorities or who she is.
When we let the activities our kids do define who they are, their self-worth gets tied to a score or a performance instead of being tied to their intrinsic value as a child of God.
In this world where we’re told our kids need to find the thing they love and they need to follow that thing wherever it leads, it’s up to us as parents to remind our kids that their worth as a person isn’t found in anything that they do. They are loved and cherished simply because they are God’s creation. God does not care if they are a soccer star, a straight-A student or a prima ballerina. He loves them because He made them.
Our kids should absolutely pursue their passions. They should chase their dreams. They should work hard and give it everything they have. But they shouldn’t let what they do define them. They shouldn’t let the things they are involved in be the measure of their self-worth.
That means sometimes we have to help our kids examine the pressure they are putting on themselves. We have to ask them the hard questions about where they are drawing their identity from. We have to help them keep the things they do in their lives from defining who they are.
Last night, my daughter played her best game of the season. She walked on the field with an entirely different attitude. She looked like she was having fun. She looked confident. But that confidence didn’t come from anything she knew she could do on the field. It came from knowing that no criticism could take away her value. It came from understanding that failure on the field wouldn’t make her any less important to us or to God.
Sometimes we need to step back and assess the value our kids are placing on their accomplishments and failures. Sometimes they need to be reminded that their identity is not found in what they do but in who God says they are. Because when they know and understand that, everything else will fall into place.
Don’t forget to check out my new book Everyday Truth: Teaching your kids about God during life’s everyday moments. Available in paperback at Amazon.com.