The other night my son and I watched a production entitled Trophy Kids. This was reality television at its best.
The premise of the program was to follow the lives of a handful of very talented children (and their parents) as they pursued their chosen sports. Two brothers were talented tennis players. Their mother thought that their talent was a gift from God and that it was her moral duty to ensure her sons could develop and foster their tennis skills.
Two children played basketball. One parent was an over-the-top ugly parent. He had quit his business to “manage” his child. He attended each match and was generally abusive towards everyone; the coach, the officiating referees, his team, the opponents, even his own son. He was ultimately banned from attending his son’s games and interestingly his son’s performance on the court improved.
One child played football and in his father’s eyes didn’t deserve his place in the team or the school or the family. After each game he would reduce his son to tears as he berated and manipulated him with caustic and non-constructive criticism.
There was a girl aged 8 or 9 years. She had serious golf talent. As a golfer myself I was impressed by her skill with a club. But her father/manager was always critical and sometimes abusive towards her, particularly when she didn’t follow his instructions.
I know that reality television is heavily edited and sometimes far removed from reality but I thought there was enough “honesty” in this program to give us a fair view of what was happening in the lives of these children. We have all experienced the glowering of ugly parents and as such the premise of this program is not difficult to accept.
The program was riveting viewing and I highly recommend it. I was disappointed when our internet feed cut out.
For me there were two takeaways from the program.
First. How should parents behave when they learn their child has a significant talent?
I assume we all want happiness for our children. Of course, happiness is an individual thing. We want our children to be accepted in society. To be confident in the company of others. To have dreams and to pursue them. To have warm and supportive relationships. To know and give love. To be well adjusted and successful.
For many this boils down to encouraging our children to be the best person they can be, because we believe that this will put them on the path to happiness. I accept that the preceding statement is filled with loaded terms such as “best” “encourage” and even “be”.
So how should we behave when we find out our child is a “Trophy Kid”?
My guess is to first park our own egos. Make sure that we are doing what makes our child happy and not seeking to make ourselves happy by living vicariously through our child. This means speaking with our children and discussing their hopes, ambitions and dreams.
Secondly setting realistic expectations. Our circumstances may be limited by economics or geography or limited resources etc. Be careful what we promise our children and manage their expectations.
Thirdly provide encouragement and support but being sufficiently removed to be objective and provide our child constructive guidance, a shoulder to cry on, a sounding board and so on.
The rest is up to the child… As it should be.
The second takeaway was the irony/tragedy of the drama that unfolded. These children did have a gift but with this blessing came a serious curse in the form of their ugly parents. Each child at some stage would have thought that it may be preferable to walk away from their passion if only to restore peace and normality to their family situation. How sad.
Each child at some stage must have questioned if they had truly received a blessing or a curse. And the cruelest curse at that. I say “cruelest” curse because one’s parents are supposed to be a source of love and refuge. A child should feel comfortable with their parents. Yet their talent had turned their parents into monsters. The loneliness felt by these children was palpable and heart-breaking.
And yet where did this talent come from? Science tells us that such a gift is the product of genetics ie it comes from our parents and their parents. Is the circle complete?
I recommend Trophy Kids for your viewing.