Remember the tantrums of the "Tennis Brats" of the 1980s? A new study coming out of Ultrech University in the Netherlands (as well as previous studies done at the University of Southampton in England and Ohio State University) suggests that their bad behavior may have resulted from overindulgent parenting that became popular in the 1960s.
Parents who overvalued their children, treating them as smarter, more talented and more entitled than others, did and continues to do more harm than good. Such treatment, especially between the ages of seven and 12, leads to narcissistic behavior and feelings of superiority in children according to these studies. This narcissism results in a lack of tolerance for any failure and triggers feelings of humiliation and rejection and demonstrations of anger and aggression.
Unfortunately, angry and unproductive behavior is still common in junior tennis. Go to any junior tennis tournament across the country and spend some time with the parents on the sideline. You will inevitably hear complaints about how other parents believe their child is somehow special. Not surprisingly, you will also witness angry behavior on the court during matches and off the court after matches.
You could make a strong case for the need to clip some helicopter wings.
Parents want what is best for their children and self-esteem is a pillar of success. This esteem comes from being treated with warmth and kindness, not coldness and anger, as is common after a match loss.
The ultimate goal for well-intended parents is the development of excellence, not the promotion of anger, entitlement and elitism. It hurts to lose and no one wants their child to be disappointed, but failure promotes growth, and confidence is both tempered and elevated by humility.
Steven Kaplan is the owner and managing director of Bethpage Park Tennis Center, as well as director emeritus of Lacoste Academy for New York City Parks Foundation and executive director and founder of Serve & Return Inc. Steve has coached more than 1,100 nationally-ranked junior players, 16 New York State high school champions, two NCAA Division 1 Singles Champions, and numerous highly-ranked touring professionals. Many of the students Steve has closely mentored have gone to achieve great success as prominent members of the New York financial community, and in other prestigious professions. In 2017, Steve was awarded the Hy Zausner Lifetime Achievement Award by the USTA. He may be reached by e-mail at StevenJKaplan@aol.com.