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The Great Parenting Debates

Sports Gene: a New Way to Pressure Kids

What will they think of next? When it comes to extracting money from worried parents, there's no shortage of business models. Now the so-called "sports gene" test for only $149 is finding a market for one reason only: because we parents are under so much pressure these days to make sure our kids succeed. That's because kids are facing competition everywhere they turn -- in school, in sports, in music, you name it. One girl I know even had to compete to get into her school's community service program!

All this hyper-competition makes us parents feel like our kids must be "the best" if they're going to survive in a dog-eat-dog world. Our evolutionary hardwiring -- which arose when it was essential for parents to push their kids to compete for food and to stay away from predators -- reacts to the competition in our children's world by turning on our "fight or flight" anxiety. It makes us feel that we have to do whatever we can to help our kids compete and win.

Enter the entrepreneurs willing to "help" us do that! Enter our criticism of parents for taking that bait. And yet. Let's tease out exactly why we criticize them. Because isn't it perfectly understandable that we want our kids to achieve? Sure. But the problem is that schemes like genetic testing put pressure on the kids to excel. And such pressure backfires. What makes children excel in sports is their love of the game -- which comes from the fun of playing, the feelings of camaraderie, the pride from acquiring new skills. Their passion motivates them to practice and eventually excel. But pressure from without -- from anyone, for example, expecting them to live up to the 'promise' of a so-called 'sports gene' -- is a good way to kill that passion.
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