Skater dad shove: How hard should parents push kids in sports?

Parents struggle to determine how hard is too hard when it comes to pushing their kids in sports. One dad, who kicked his 6-year-old son off the lip of a half-pipe at a skateboard park might have pushed a little too hard.

Screenshot from ABC News video
In this screenshot pulled from ABC News coverage, a dad can be seen behind his son shortly after kicking him off of a 13-foot tall ramp at a skate park in Jacksonville, Fla.

The “Oh no he didn’t!” parenting moment of the week goes to the Florida dad Marcus Crossland who was caught on video apparently delivering a kick from behind to his 6-year-old  son who was taking too long to “drop in” to a skateboard half-pipe, according to ABC News.

Martin Ramos, owner of the Kona Skatepark in Jacksonville, Fla., where the incident occurred, has been teaching skateboarding for decades, and says that the sport usually steers clear of overbearing parents.

“One of the things that attracts kids to skateboarding is that it’s not a coached sport,” Mr. Ramos explains. “While typically that whole coach-mom/coach-dad exists in all sports it’s rare that you have this kind of unfortunate incident in skateboarding.”

Ramos adds, “As someone who’s a father and who’s taught this for 30 years, I know that kids are better off when they’re comfortable and learn at their own rate so they develop a love for the sport in their own time.” 

This story is the subject of much debate between me and my husband. He is an advocate of the “This is Sparta!” style of parenting, while I practice the philosophy of not kicking my children into the pit of doom from the film “300” or, for that matter, leaving them in the wolf-infested forest to survive.

There has to be a happy medium.

“The Florida Department of Children and Families is also looking into footage of the incident, which has elicited angry responses from the Internet and other parents who regularly skate with their children at Kona Skatepark in Jacksonville, Fla.,” according to the ABC report

My husband heard this and was shocked that the world has come to such a wimpy, nanny state of affairs that parents can’t “help their kids overcome their fears.”

“Mother birds push their babies out of the nest,” my husband argued this morning. “That’s nature.”

For the record, this mama bird finds that example to be for the birds, literally and figuratively.

While my sons may often joke that their mom is “pushy,” it’s never literal.

I prefer the take on this incident offered by another boy who witnessed the dad kicking his son over the lip of the pipe.

In an interview, the witness says he confronted the father.

"I asked him why is he doing this, and then he said 'because he needs to learn,’" the boy says, adding “…Pushing him down is not teaching him how to drop in."

I’m with him. Pushing a child off the top of a half-pipe is only going to teach the child not to trust his father, or whoever else does the pushing.

Trust is one of the greatest powers parents have when it comes to raising kids and being able to teach them.

Maybe there are kids who respond well to “tough love” and “Tiger Mom” antics, but in my experience, none of those kids come from my bloodline.

When my youngest son, Quin, 10, saw the skate park video, he was livid at the dad, saying, “Someone measure the height on that drop and tell me it’s not like shoving your 6-year-old out a second-story window.”

According to Ramos, the height of the half-pipe from which the child was kicked was 13 feet tall.

Given the fact that most houses measure approximately 8 to 10 feet per story, with 2 to 3 feet in between floors, Quin made a pretty good guess.

The height would be roughly equivalent to the boy being pushed out a second floor window.

Seeing it in that light, it’s not hard to see that this dad made a very unfortunate, snap decision which has since escalated into a case for the Florida Department of Children and Families.

“Yeah, this is sad because Dino, the boy who’s dad pushed him off the top, loves to be here,” says Ramos. “His dad’s one unfortunate decision in a moment of impatience has probably seriously impacted this boy’s ability to enjoy this sport.”

I hope that’s not the case. For the sake of Dino and his dad, I hope everyone will learn something of value from the incident.

The lesson I see here is that as parents, we should only push our kids so hard in whatever sport they choose.

We are here to provide strength, motivation, and encouragement in the moments when our kids doubt themselves and their ability to prevail.

As in everything else, kids should know that their parents have their backs, instead of checking over their shoulders for mom or dad’s foot on their backside.

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