Parenting --Teens/Teenager and basketball


Dear Mr. Windell, our son just turned 13 in January.  He's been in basketball for the past couple of months.  He's a great ball handler, but often times, I think he's scared to be in front of an audience so he clams up, and he doesn't play like he should.  

My husband and I both know that he is not a "go getter" or a "self-starter" so we pushed him into joining the basketball team so he went along with it.  Is it right for us to do that or should we not?  He likes playing basketball in the front of our house by himself or with a few friends, but he has a tough time being on a team and playing in front of a crowd.  We thought it would be good for him.  

My husband said the worst thing is seeing "unfulfilled potential" since he's really quite good, but it appears that changes when he's in front of people watching him.  He has no interest in anything which worries us also.  He gets good grades so we're happy with that, but as far as outside interests, he has none.  No music, nothing.

My husband's biggest fear is that if we don't push him, then he'll be one of those young 20 year old men wanting to live at home and not wanting to do anything.

What are your thoughts on this?  Are we being too pushy or should we let him decide what he wants even though he's not the kind to push himself?

Thank you for your help.

Hello Cynthia,

I think the question you're asking is likely to get a range of answers -- depending on the personal opinion of the person answering the question. I don't think it is easy to bring in research on this one.

Your son sounds like a well adjusted teen who does well in school, but does not show strong interests. The fact that he may not be driven in any particular area, or be motivated to excel in basketball, or be able to overcome his anxiety in front of an audience doesn't make him a candidate for being afraid to face life in the future. He is only 13 and there's a lot of development that will take place between now and ages 18 and later years.

I can think of so many children I knew who were timid, shy, introverted, unmotivated, or very dependent on their parents in their early teen years, I had the privilege of watching grow up and astonish everyone by becoming so successful in life. Kids have a way of fooling both parents and professionals by finding themselves as they mature.

Sure, I think it is good to encourage kids to join teams, take music lessons, be involved in sports, and participate in various after-school activities. But they all have to find their own interests and whatever is going to truly motivate them. Pushing them too hard to be the successful basketball player, musician, dancer, even student often has a way of backfiring on us. What so often happens is that we alienate them and disrupt our relationship with them, rather then helping them find success in some area. Kids need us for support and encouragement; not so much for criticism and pushing them to excel. They need us to expose them to things so they can see the range of possibilities for self-expression and creativity.

Your son may not be destined to be the next Lebron James, but he is destined for something; very likely you and he will not know what that destiny is until he discovers it sometime in the next 10 years. In the meantime, it's best to enjoy your son what his strengths are and for the pleasures he can bring to your family. Life -- for both you and your son -- is far too short to make both of you unhappy by trying to make him into something he is not.

I hope this helps.

Please feel free to get back to me at any time with other questions.


James Windell  

Parenting --Teens

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James Windell


I am a parent trainer, psychotherapist, and author specializing in parenting issues.During the past 40 years I`ve worked with parents with discipline problems and challenging children. I give frequent lectures and workshops related to discipline, social skills, and aggressive children. I consult with various agencies and schools where there are child behavior problems. I am listed in the American Psychological Associations` media panel as an expert on parenting and am frequently quoted in leading magazines and newspapers.


I have worked in a juvenile court as a clinical psychologist and as a psychotherapist in private practice. In the Oakland County (MI) Juvenile Court, I developed an award-winning parent training program for parents of adolescent delinquents. In addition I have done group therapy with adolescent delinquents using a social skills-building model. I have consulted with courts, schools, churches, preschools, and domestic violence shelters in areas of parenting.

I received my BA with a major in Psychology in 1963 from Wayne State University. I got my MA in Clinical Psychology from Oakland University in 1972.

I am a member of the American Psychological Association and the Michigan Psychological Association. I have written pamplets, newspaper articles, and professional journal articles. I have been the Coping With Kids columnist for several newspapers for 26 years, and my columns appear weekly in the Staten Island Advance. I have been the author or co-author of 16 books. My books include, 8 WEEKS to A WELL-BEHAVED CHILD, CHILDREN WHO SAY NO WHEN YOU WANT THEM TO SAY YES, 6 STEPS TO AN EMOTIONALLY INTELLIGENT TEENAGER, and THE FATHERSTYLE ADVANTAGE. My most recent parenting book (2012) is THE EVETYTHING CHILD PSYCHOLOGY AND DEVELOPMENT BOOK. I have appeared on over 180 radio and TV shows related to my books and parenting. For more information about me, my books and columns, go to my website at

I have an M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Oakland University.

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