Q: My daughter is 8 years old and very athletic. She does very well in gymnastics. Yet, she lacks discipline and struggles in soccer, where her dad is the coach. The soccer season is starting up again, and I’m dreading the inevitable fights and meltdowns between them. My daughter doesn’t want to disappoint Dad — but she’s getting nothing out of soccer. What do you recommend we do?

A: From your description, I believe the best solution is for your daughter to move to a different soccer team, one that is not coached by her dad. Some sports leagues do not allow parents to coach their own kids, and for good reason.

They’ve made this rule because one of two scenarios often occurs: either the parent engages in favouritism, giving his own child special breaks that the other kids don’t get, or the parent is extra hard on his child, pushing her extra hard and criticising her much more harshly than the other kids on the team. It sounds as though your husband falls into the "no special breaks for my kid" camp, and your daughter is miserable because of it.

If your husband is a super competitive type, he may make the mistake of basing worth on achievement and affirming your daughter only when she succeeds. That’s a bad move and may negatively impact her self-esteem for the rest of her life. It will also put a strain on their relationship, and major explosions will occur when she reaches the teen years.

While we should encourage our kids to develop self-discipline and pursue excellence, it’s critical that our relationship with them is based on unconditional love and acceptance. We need to be their biggest cheerleaders, affirming them when they succeed and encouraging them when they fail.

Dr. Bill Maier

Dr. Bill Maier is a veteran broadcaster with a background in both general market and Christian radio and holds a doctoral degree in clinical psychology. During his time at Focus on the Family, Bill hosted the Weekend Magazine program, the Family Minute with Dr. Bill Maier, and the Family Insights TV news feature.

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