Is having your kid chase your dreams child abuse?

I just read a story about FC Barcelona, the home of Lionel Messi and arguably the best soccer club in the world, signing a nine year old boy from Sweden to a contract to train with them.  That’s not all that unusual as young kids do this every year, including a handful from the United States.

Now with the caveat that I’m a total soccer nerd and have two sons that would beg me to go if this opportunity was ever offered to them (I wouldn’t let them go), I think that parents that push this type of goal should be investigated for child abuse by DCFS.

I didn’t even know what European soccer was as a boy.  Now my sons and most of their friends on their team can rattle off the names of players and clubs and they can watch them on TV every weekend.  But does a nine year old really have the ability to know what their dreams are?  Or are those dreams really just being mirrored by one of their parents.

The reality is that even by going to this training, the chances of this boy being a professional soccer player are almost none.  There are just too many variables.  But it makes me cringe to see someone have their youth stolen from them.  It might be different in Sweden, but in Chicago at least, even a prodigy should try their hand at other sports and activities.  If you are truly that gifted, you can still work hard and make it.

Now I think DCFS is the most awful government organization around.  They seem to operate like the wild west when it comes to conducting investigations and enforcing the law.  In many ways though, this is neglectful , wrong behavior if an adult doesn’t take a moment to tell a kid that there will be a time to pursue sports, but there also needs to be a time to build Lego’s, go to school, play a musical instrument, learning how to twerk, etc.

So when should a kid be allowed to pursue your, I mean their dreams?  I’m no expert, but I did talk to a friend who is a professional soccer coach about this issue.  We were watching an indoor game in which one kid was clearly light years ahead of others at age 10.  I asked when a pro team would really be able to evaluate him as a prospect and his quick response was “14 at the earliest.”  Starting in high school seems to be a reasonable compromise for when a child might really know what they want to do.

Of course, it’s not just soccer that has these issues.  In fact, soccer probably has less of it because there are so few opportunities.  If you watch America’s Got Talent, you’ll see a bunch of incredibly talented kids who have no business skipping out on school to be performing.  It may be hot button, but even while living at home, tons of little girls spend 5-6 days a week taking dance classes.  What’s the end goal there?  And I remember growing up with two girls that trained to be champion ice skaters and sprint cyclists respectively, requiring them to wake up early every day and often travel to work with specific coaches.  They were apparently great, but never in the top 10 in the country, so there was no Olympics for either of them.

I’m certainly not anti hard work or chasing your dreams.  But until you can prove that a pre-teen knows how to formulate what is really their own life goals, I really don’t think it should be allowed.

Whether you agree or disagree with me, hopefully you’ll find this gallery of bad parent photos as funny as I do.

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