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Son Shows No Interest in Sports

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: How can I motivate my 13 year-old son to get involved in a local basketball, baseball, hockey, or the golf team? I think my problem is that I have overencouraged and now he just disregards my encouragement to participate in any activity. He just likes to talk to his friend online. Should I make the use of the computer conditional to him compromising to do a physical activity once a week?

A: Punishing and/or bribing him to force him to play a sport is not going to work. It will create further tension and distance between you. The fact that you have made reference to your having "overencouraged" him to get involved in local sports tells me that you already know you've overdone it in this area. I understand your good intentions and I too am worried about how many of our kids get no exercise at all. Our kids are getting fatter and less fit and that is troubling for their present and future health.

You and I both know that threatening a 13 year-old with the loss of some favorite activity is going to result in anger and defiance. You need to ask yourself why you are so troubled by his lack of sports participation. Do you think all kids must/should play sports in order to have a healthy childhood? Why? Are you worried that his life is basically going to school and then coming home and going online to talk with friends and surf the Net? Once you get to the real reasons and fears that compelled you to be on his back about playing sports, you will be able to speak with him about this issue with more compassion and rationality. He can then hear your reasons, respond to them and make his choice -- which's his right.

If his time at home involves hours on the computer, for any reasons, I would limit that time. Just because it's a computer does not mean that it can't be used as a mindless waste of time, just like TV. I like to see computers in family areas, not in young kids' rooms.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.


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