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Parenting is Not a Football Game – Why I Disagree with James Harrison’s Parenting Style

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James Harrison’s post about returning the trophies, “I am sorry I’m not sorry for believing that everything in life should be earned and I’m not about to raise my two boys to be men by making them believe that they are entitled to something just because they tried their best.. cause sometimes your best is not enough, and that should drive you to want better…”

By Darrell “Coach D” Andrews

WILMINGTON, Del. (BlackNews.com) — All day long I have been listening to radio station after radio station, internet show host and the public give their opinion on James Harrison’’s actions as a father to teach his kids how to “earn” things. His decision to “give back” his kids’ trophies to teach them the power of self-determination concerns me as a father, community leader and consultant to schools and school districts nationally. I understand his beliefs in the need to teach his kids to have drive and determination, but I do not agree with his methods. I also read his tweets and am glad to see that he said he loves and will always support his kids.
However, as a father of four children, ages 4-17, I would never teach my kids this way. My kids are driven, self-motivated and overachievers on many fronts, and in our house we have too many “participation trophies” to count. All of my kids played (or are playing) sports in their younger years. I coached many of their teams.
From my perspective, especially for kids under 10, the premise is to create a sense of oneness by giving these trophies over the typical “MVP” or “Most Valuable Player.” We see in professional sports today the arrogance that comes when someone thinks they are a “superior athlete” compared to others. At the younger years of life, I think you are robbing kids of their youth and innocence by raising them to get theirs by earning it, do what it takes to succeed, grind, have grit and don’’t let anything stop you. One year a team my son’’s team played football against taught their kids this way. A team of 9 and 10-year-old players were spearheading, blindsiding and low cutting, all for the sake of winning the championship. Every year this team wins a lot of games, but I am deeply concerned about the mental well-being of their players later in life.
As a motivational speaker, I inspire people from elementary school kids to corporate giants. You will never see me go into a school with second and third graders and tell them “you have to make sacrifices now, to achieve your goals later!” You have to go for it and not let anyone stop you!” My goodness, they are second graders!! Let them enjoy being young! Let them enjoy their friends. Let their grandparents enjoy taking a pic with their babies with their trophy. They have their whole lives to grind! Not now!!!
Another reason I think this is a problem is when you teach kids at an early age to hustle, drive and earn their futures, they become insensitive to people. It becomes about “getting theirs.” Are all of his kids going to be pro-football players? What if his daughter becomes a housewife – is she now a failure? Every year you hear of kids committing suicide because they did not meet the overreaching expectations of their parents. At a college, one of which I will not mention it’s name, they had to erect a high fence near a bridge because they had too many students jumping off the bridge and committing suicide because they got a B instead of an A. This is insane! Parents place so much pressure on them to excel that they come to the conclusion that life is not important, mom or dad will never embrace me for me, and I do not want to live anymore! I am not saying this as a casual observer but as a person who has spoken to close to a million youth at school assemblies, college campuses and events. I have helped to stop several from taking their own lives as a result of feeling like they are not good enough. This mindset is the primary source behind youth depression and stress. It all starts at home!
My four kids are super-talented. My 13-year-old daughter has been in a national play that reached a million people. It was very competitive to land the role she landed. My son is one of the top up and coming animation students in the nation. He recently spent the summer at a pre-college program, which is the #1 art school in the country. It was competitive to get this slot as well. They chose 100 of the best up and coming artists and animators. My younger children are also excelling and growing. My wife and I have them all on a purpose path based upon their own gifts, talents and abilities. We want them to live their dreams, not ours! We are teaching them self-determination as well, but not by humiliating them, getting in their faces and driving them. We use various scenarios to encourage them to be their best. The funny thing is this, we do this while we look over and admire their trophies. It is not a trophy that shapes a child; it is a good parent who lovingly guides the best out of them.
I do not agree with his methods or styles. This mindset does not make strong men; it makes aggressive ones who may use their aggression in the wrong way. In saying all of this, as a man of color, I will say I am glad that he is a father. I may not agree with his method, but I appreciate his willingness to be there for his kids.
My two cents!
Darrell “Coach D” Andrews is a loving father of four, speaker, trainer, consultant and author of several books including, The Parent As Coach: Developing A Family Dream Team and Believing The HYPE-Seven Keys To Motivating Students of Color. For the past 18 years, He has traveled the globe motivating schools, parent organizations and nonprofit organization to maximize youth, family and community potential.