Pushy Parents?: Mark and Charlene
Dr. Phil has advice for learning to bond with a child you don't like.
"Mark and I are turning our son, JJ, on to sports at an early age. He's only 8 months old, but we believe the earlier the better," says Charlene. She and her fiancé have been exposing JJ to sports since he was in the womb, by reading NBA magazines to him, and JJ's is almost always wearing a sports-related outfit. When JJ is older, Charlene wants him to play flag football, basketball and soccer. "I've selected toys to gear him up for sports." She and JJ are also enrolled in a Mommy and Me and a tumbling class to help JJ develop his muscles and motor skills. "We do exercises just to get him coordinated," Charlene explains.

"If I could pick my favorite dream for JJ, in a sports capacity, it would be to be a starting point guard on a college basketball team," says Mark, an admitted sports nut, who put a sports bar in their house with two plasma TVs and tons of sports memorabilia. "I'm a strong believer that children have to have other activities besides academics," Mark says. "If JJ did not want to be in sports, his mother would be devastated. I would be disappointed."

Charlene agrees. "I can't imagine how I would react if JJ came up to me and said, 'Mommy, I don't want to play sports.' I've always had the dream that I would be a Team Mom on every team." She asks Dr. Phil, "How do we maintain a balance for JJ to play sports without us putting too much pressure on him?"

"Why is it important that he be in sports?" Dr. Phil asks.


"It's a social thing for him. I think it would be important to be with other children and playing and competing," Charlene replies.


"That sounds really strange to me, [for] this 8-month-old child you've already decided, 'If you don't make it in the big leagues, I'm disappointed.' Doesn't that seem out of balance?" Dr. Phil asks.


"We're not expecting him to be a pro, but we want him to be successful," Charlene explains.


"What if he wants to do art and music or ballet?" he continues.


"I would support him in that," Charlene says. "But I would like him to be involved in something, and because we love sports, I would love to open sports to him."


Dr. Phil explains that Mark's older son, who is now 18, was also pressured to be an athlete, and he felt too much pressure to live out Mark's dream of playing basketball at a four-year college. "How did that affect you?" Dr. Phil asks Mark.


"I did want him to go to college to try and play basketball," Mark says. "Kids that are involved in athletics, for the most part, they learn team activities and things they can take on in the business world and real life."

"If you seek to pre-set an agenda and it's not who the child is, you can get into an awful lot of conflict," Dr. Phil tells them. "In having a definition of success, one of those elements is to find your child's authentic self."


"Even though we would like him to be in sports, we don't want to push him into something that he doesn't want to be," Charlene explains. "But we're afraid of drawing that line because our passion is sports ... We want to draw a line where we're not pushing JJ into something that he doesn't want to do."


"What would happen if you just decided this is just a great gift that we have this young healthy child here, and we're going to expose him to as many different things as we can, and something will catch because a racehorse has to run," Dr. Phil says to Charlene and Mark. He explains that when he was growing up, his dad never took him hunting or fishing. Even though he knew nothing about those sports, "and would rather pet a deer than shoot it," he still took his boys because he wanted to give them the opportunity to try it.


Dr. Phil emphasizes that they must expose JJ to many activities until he finds what he likes and is good at. "You'll find something that you'll be thrilled that he's excelling in and achieving in," he assures them. "You just have to be careful not to lay your agenda on him."