Michelle Obama's 'Lesson' for Her Daughters Is Ruining Other Kids' Fun

Rant 13

Michelle ObamaIn many ways, Michelle Obama seems like the kind of mom we all want to be. Strict but reasonable. Kind. Loving. Fun. But when a list of her rules for daughters Sasha and Malia cropped up online, there was a big red flag.

The First Lady requires her girls to participate in two sports. One they can choose. The other she gets to pick.

The way Mrs. Obama tells it, this is a way of teaching Sasha and Malia what it's like to do something they don't enjoy and improve at it. That's all well and good, but as the wife of a youth soccer coach, I would beg her to find another way.

Youth sports are good for kids. They teach them to enjoy exercise. They give them socialization. And perhaps most importantly, they teach kids about teamwork.

But you know what happens when a member of the team really doesn't want to be there? It tends to bring down the entire team and ruin the fun for the other kids.

I see it every year. There's always one kid who is playing soccer because Mom or Dad told them they had to be there. Or maybe they thought it sounded good at sign-up time, but by the time they have to tuck a set of shin guards into their socks, the shine is off the apple.

What that generally turns into is one kid who is constantly whining, who is always asking to sit out a quarter, who doesn't take practice as seriously as their teammates. It divides the coach's time (nothing like spending half the quarter trying to convince the one kid to get up off the ground and cooperate!), it makes it hard for the other kids to learn, and it's an all-around morale killer. 

I understand the lesson of "we don't always get to do what we like" that Michelle Obama wants to impart. But it hardly seems fair to the other kids, does it? Essentially it sounds like the First Lady thinks it's OK for her kids to be that cranky brat who everybody wishes would just quit already so they can have some fun.

I'm not one of those soccer moms who thinks every kid on the team has to be the next Beckham -- my kid will likely never be any good at the sport. But I do want every kid to have fun out there. So every year we sit down and have a serious discussion before soccer sign-ups. Does she want to do this? Is she sure? Sometimes it doesn't work. We've had our share of bratty moments.

But you can always see how much better the team is when she and the other kids are all having fun, are all happy to be on the field. That doesn't mean they have to win, but they at least get something out of the experience.

Isn't that why we involve kids in youth sports to begin with: so they can develop a lifelong love of moving and doing something positive with other people?

Do you think Michelle Obama's "I pick/you pick" sports philosophy is fair to the other kids her girls play with?


Image via The White House/Flickr

behavior, activities, sports, michelle obama


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WadeM... WadeMom313

Who said her kids are whiny?  Maybe she teaches them to take on tasks they don't necessarily want to do with class.  You don't have to have a bad attitude when you participate in something you don't necessarily want to do and that's a skill that has to be taught. 

David Khan

I disagree. I think it's great. I doubt she's going to force them to do kickboxing or something crazy. Kids are fat and are going to die younger than their parents, she's doing something about it for her kids.

navyw... navywife0204

In practice, no.  For the very reason that yes, one member of the team that doesn't want to be there will make the other team members resent the one for not doing her part.   Besides, just because they try out, doesn't mean they will make the team.  I encourage my girls to follow their interests... for one child, it's art and music.  She is in her third year of art classes, and she takes trumpet lessons.  my other child takes dance and will be starting baton, because that is where her intrest lies.

fleur... fleurdelys3110

I'm just amazed that there's actually an article critiquing Michelle Obama.


I don't think making your kids do something they don't want to do is a good thing. I made my kids participate in things but I let them choose. Had they not I might have but they did. I tend to agree with Jeanne. If they hate something they bring the whole team down.

tinyp... tinypossum

I agree with her philosophy and think it is a very good lesson for kids to learn. Another part of that lesson is that, even if you don't enjoy what you are doing, you still do it with good grace, respect for others, and integrity. I'm sure she doesn't allow her kids to be brats that bring down the whole team. I don't require my kids to do two sports, but if they choose something, they have to see it through to the end of the season/session/whatever. There's no quitting mid-stream. 

Tripl... TripleC14

I'm fairly certain that part of the lesson is having a decent attitude while you do it...

My mom didn't generally pick my activities, but once I picked something I wasn't allowed to quit until I attained some proficiency (eg piano started at age 5, couldn't quit till Gr 8 Royal Conservatory) or in some cases I just flat out wasn't allowed to quit. And no I couldn't be a brat about it outside of the house (although I complained mightily at home sometimes). And guess what, made me into an adult who can stick with tasks even when they suck. Sounds like a good lesson to me.

MomLi... MomLily67

If she's had this rule always, then her girls know what is going to happen when it comes time to sign up for a sport.  Maybe they even enjoy learing a new sport and decide later id they want to sign up again the following year. It  can also teach them that moms sometimes know better than them what they are really good at. Say, one girl chooses soccer and mom chooses voleyball, and she ends up being better at vb because mom had seen how well she  jumped and maybe her height and strenght seemed like advanteges to practice it, while the girl chose soccer because all her friends chose it.

nonmember avatar Christy Wilborn

I am a teacher and coach soccer. I was also a soccer mom for many years. You are so wrong!! More parents should encourage kids to try things they don't like. Why would you even criticize Michelle Obama. There will be many things in life that bring discomfort and kids need to be ready to deal with life on life's terms. Bravo to the Our First Lady!!

PonyC... PonyChaser

You know, I can see both sides of this argument. I worked with youth band for a while, and you could always tell the kids that 'had' to be there... they were usually the grumpy ones, the ones who couldn't play their parts because even though they were smart enough to play them, they just wouldn't spend any *quality* practice time on it.

I understand the desire to teach your kids to stick to it, to do things th don't like with grace and dignity. But at the same time, I can see Jeanne's point about bringing down the entire team and being a burden on an already stretched-thin coach.

I think it's a fine line to walk. Sign the kids up for a season. If they don't like it, fine, they don't have to go back. But if they truly don't like it then don't MAKE them go back just because it's "good for them". That's just asking for trouble all the way around.

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