Don’t “Should” On Your Kids: Build Their Mental Toughness

This book -should-be required readingfor sports parents

Youth sports offers a nearly endless opportunity to teach your kids life lessons and character traits that will benefit them for the rest of their lives. Don’t “Should” On Your Kids: Build Their Mental Toughness is a great book from Dr. Rob Bell and Bill Parisi that will help you along the way.

This book is for you, if you have your kids in youth sports to have fun and learn the skills needed to succeed in life like work ethic, mental toughness, confidence, grit, being a team player, leadership, overcoming failure, how to handle pressure, and more. 

The goal of the book is to help you raise confident and resilient kids.

I’m a big proponent of having perspective as a sports parent. Keeping the bigger picture in mind. This book does a great job of helping sports parents see the long game. It makes you realize how all of the little things you do and how you handle situations while your kids are growing up affects their mental toughness in the long term.

“Mental toughness is simple; it’s just not easy. It’s how we handle, cope, and deal with the setbacks and adversity. Mental toughness also involves how we perform under pressure; these ‘have to’ moments. And it’s only a matter of when, not if, these moments will occur.”

I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Rob Bell, one of the authors. You can listen to our interview here.

Link to Rob Bell interview

Don’t “Should” On Your Kids.

“We take an adult view and impose it on our kids.”
-Dr. Angus Mugford

In the book they talk about how our entire lives, we’ve all been “should” on. Have you ever had someone tell you that you “should” do something? Or maybe that you “shouldn’t” do something?

“You should be more like your friend.”

“You should go to college.”

“You should be a lawyer.”

“You shouldn’t quit your job to start your own business.”

When people “should” on you, they’re imposing their beliefs and experiences into your world. How do they know what’s best for you?

Even when the “shoulds” are well intentioned, they create expectations to meet other’s expectations.

Do you ever “should” on your kids?

“You ‘should’ have caught that ball.”

“You ‘should’ have made that save.”

“You ‘should’ practice more on your own.”

“You ‘should’ play more like Charlie.”

I know I’m guilty of it.

“Parents who constantly should on their kids produce kids who should on themselves. Is we were should on long enough and severe enough as a youth, the voice of should becomes internalized and we start shoulding on ourselves.”

“When we conjure up feelings of “should,” it doesn’t motivate us. It does the opposite. A pile of should just reinforces the negative and reminds us that we are not good enough.”

“The shoulds pile up. Directive statements about your child’s past performances do little to inspire, instead creating fear. Condemnation, guilt, and shame are the result.”

“It’s best to realize and be aware that a child will do almost anything to please his parents and his coach. When we should on our kids, we are establishing expectations, brutally reminding them of negatives, mistakes, and that they aren’t good enough. When kids fail to reach your expectations, they can suffer and feel like a failure. Shoulding on them creates expectations that they may or may not be able to reach.”

Begin With The End In Mind

“Beginning with the end in mind means visualizing the type of person we want our son or daughter to become.

The most important skill to learn from sport is mental toughness, grit, and resilience. The mental toughness of your son or daughter is largely due to how you parent, model your life, and surround them with a healthy environment. The arena of sport can provide the skills, ethic, ethos that we desire, and the life lessons that will transfer and permeate long after their career is over.

The foundations of this book are passion and confidence. However, drive intrinsic motivation, perseverance, and persistence must come from your child. They must want it. They must be in touch with their own ‘why.’ It cannot come from us because it’s hard to be driven when you’re being driven.

Passion and confidence are the most important attributes in our children’s development of mental toughness because it will become difficult at times. If they play to please their parents or coach, for a scholarship or for pats on the back, it won’t be enough.”

Topics In This Book

Many of the quotes above were contained in just the first 11 pages of the book. The rest of the book is packed with great lessons and words to live by.

Other key topics and chapters in the book include:

  • Winners, Losers and At-Leasters
  • Vicarious vs. Supportive Parents
  • Confidence – Prepare Them for the Hinge Moment
  • The Impact of a Parent’s Body Language
  • Can’t Want it More Than Them
  • Reward Effort, Not Rankings or Winnings
  • Focus on the Process, Not the Product
  • The Car Ride
  • Let Them Fail
  • Mentioning Money and Time
  • The Gateway Drug to Specialization

Lots of Little Nuggets

One of my favorite things about this book is that it’s broken down into many bite-sized chunks. You can pick up this book, flip it open to any section and read on a few topics, 5-10 minutes at a time.

It’s a great book to have sitting around to read whenever you have a few minutes to kill. You’ll get a great reminder every time you pick it up.

As a sports parent, it’s a battle to keep the right perspective and frame of mind for the long term. Sports are emotional. If you don’t keep your mind right then your emotions will overcome your mind and get the best of you.

Keeping tools like this book around will help you keep your mind in the right place. When your mind is in the right place, both you and your kids will enjoy youth sports a lot more.

If you decide to grab a copy of Don’t Should On Your Kids: Build Their Mental Toughness, I would be grateful if you got it through my Amazon affiliate link. I’ll get a small commission for sharing the book with you, and it won’t cost you anything extra. Thanks in advance!



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