The Challenge of Letting Your Athletic Child Struggle


The Challenge of Letting Your Athletic Child Struggle

One mom’s reflection on letting God have His way

Linsey Smith


I have often reflected on and discussed the importance of stewardship as it pertains to parenting. In my head, I totally understand my role as a shepherd to my three children. I know that I am entrusted with their care for a short time until they become adults. 

I also give a good amount of time to seeing and understanding the role of personal struggle and overcoming hardships in life and the great redemptive value they can have.

However, this worldview and value system does not remove the temptation to absorb inappropriate pride from my children’s accomplishments; in fact, I think it just makes me more aware of the sin. It also does not take away the pain and internal struggle I feel in watching them face their own personal struggle or the desire to jump in and rescue them from it.

You may be surprised to learn that the most recent time I experienced this struggle was with my 5 1/2-year-old daughter at her first gymnastic class (Note: I realize this is only a fraction of what it will be like as she gets older!).

My daughter is a gifted athlete. She has been given many natural physical abilities from God. From the time she was 3 months old, many people confirmed her unusual strength and her persistent spirit.

My identity is not in my gifted daughter’s performance or in what others think of her or me.

So the expectation that she would be a great athlete, if she chose to, has always been there.

But, she is also introverted and shy in new environments with lots of people. This made that first gymnastic class extremely tough for me to sit in the balcony and watch with the other parents.

She entered into the class a few weeks late and started at a more advanced level because the owner of the gym had seen her at open gym and encouraged us to give her some class experiences. I knew she could do all the skills they would be teaching so watching her cry in the corner of the gym on the lap of the owner was heart-wrenching.

Then as she warmed up over the next half hour she gave minimal effort in the drills which again was so hard to watch because I knew she was so much better than she was showing.

As I sat watching for 75 minutes I had to keep preaching the gospel to myself and reminding myself that my identity is not in my gifted daughter’s performance or in what others think of her or me.

I realized in this experience that my role was to make this about her and her future. If I did not allow her to struggle I would be taking away her chance to feel the pride of overcoming her fears and learning how to give her all. 

That allowing her to struggle would potentially allow her the sense of accomplishment that comes with overcoming her fears and learning how to give her all.

I could not give into the temptation to rescue her from a healthy struggle or let my pride in wanting everyone to see her amazing skill get in the way of the character shaping experience she was having.

This was just a small glimpse into what I know is coming as my children grow up. So many bigger struggles will come. So many more chances for me to give into the temptation to find my value in my children’s successes.

I am leaning heavily on the Lord to guide me, convict me, and provide for me all I need in this amazing responsibility of stewarding my children!


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