Craig has sacrificed everything—his time, his career, his life's savings—and he claims it is all for his 9-year-old son Trenton, whose biggest dream is to become a professional football player—which coincidentally, was also Craig's dream.
Trenton trains relentlessly seven days a week. Between practices, games, coaching sessions with a semi-pro quarterback and chiropractor appointments, Trenton has little time for anything but football. He's also being trained to be emotionally tough. Craig has a rule—if Trenton gets hurt and wants to cry, he can only cry for 10 seconds—then he has to get back to practice.
Craig knows his young son may be his last hope for an NFL dream. "I run two flag football teams," Craig explains, "I also deliver pizzas for Domino's. The reason I don't have one good job is purely so I have the opportunity to be available to Trenton to train. I haven't exactly achieved the things that I set out to achieve in my life. With Trenton, with so much ability and so much enthusiasm for a dream of being an NFL football player, that gives me hope for the future. His future and my future is tied to football."
Dr. Robin Smith is a psychologist who has been counseling families for over 18 years. She says Craig's love for his son is obvious, but he is failing to nurture his son's spiritual and emotional development. What if, Dr. Smith points out, Trenton does make it to the NFL, but can't make it in life? "The job of a parent," Dr. Smith says, "is to create a safe environment where their child can express all of their feelings. So for him to feel that he's got 10 seconds to grieve, 10 seconds to be scared, 10 seconds to know whether he's okay or not, it is stripping him of an essential part of his humanity."
Dr. Smith's words hit home with Craig. He says he has had a "total epiphany." He no longer wants to push his own dreams on his son. Instead, he wants to let Trenton do his own thing. "Trenton's thing could be bigger than the NFL," he says.
Sharon says her 9-year-old daughter Sarah is destined to be a star cheerleader and she will let nothing stand in their way. Sharon is a dance instructor and her daughter's coach, and she believes she must be very strict for Sarah to be the best. Sarah trains for about 12 hours every week. "Sarah misses quite a few days of school," her teacher says, "between being busy with her sports or her activities. A lot of times Sarah doesn't get to be just a kid. It's run, run, run, do this, do that."
Even though Sharon says she's doing a fine job raising and coaching Sarah, Dr. Smith asks her to think about how she could improve as a parent. "Well," Sharon answers, "I don't…I don't try and find the negatives."
Dr. Smith says that Sharon—and all parents—should try to figure out how to be better. Don't just focus on all you're doing right, Dr. Smith says, "We never learn that way."
"It's very hard in my role [as coach]," Sharon says, "because I'm also her mom and I need to be the one when she's crying to go, 'It's okay, babe.' So I think maybe, if I need to find a negative, maybe that would be that I need to back off and let her make some mistakes and then I could say, 'Honey, it's okay, that's how we learn.'"
Lisa admits she's pushed her 12-year-old daughter Amanda to be a figure skater since the age of 4—something she now regrets. "It was my dream, so I wanted to live through my daughter," Lisa says. "I literally took her to the skating rink and just pushed her on the ice and told her that this is what she wanted to do."
Lisa's pushing worked. Now Amanda is a full-blown ice addict, spending four hours a day, six days a week at the rink. But between coaches, skates, competitions, Pilates instruction and more, the family is spending an estimated $35,000 a year on Amanda's figure skating. "I think if I pulled the plug on this dream, I would be shattered, because my daughter would be shattered," Lisa says.
Even though Amanda wants to work toward her goal of making the Olympic team in 2010, for a 12-year-old, she admits to feeling enormous guilt. "I sometimes do feel bad," Amanda says. "…We all want vacations. I feel bad that I'm taking away [financially, from family], because they make so many sacrifices for me to fulfill my dream."
Dr. Smith says that just scaling back on a few figure skating outfits won't answer Lisa and Amanda's family money woes. She says the needs and goals of the family must continue to be met—not only Amanda's dream.
"Look at the guilt she is carrying—that she's 'robbing the family.' She shouldn't even have to figure out, 'Well, maybe they can do this to get more money.' It's you [as a family] coming together and figuring out, 'How do we restructure our lives so they are more balanced?'"
Laura admits that she screams and yells at her son Joseph's hockey games. Recently, Laura got so out of control, she felt embarrassed by her own actions. "I wasn't agreeing with refs not making any calls and I stood up, screamed, yelled, cursed, asked him where his whistle was, and the referee asked whoever yelled to leave. I would not admit that it was me, so my mother took the blame and left."
Dwayne is also a self-described sideline screamer at his kids' events. His fiancée won't even attend his son's games anymore because Dwayne creates such a scene. "I'm definitely intense with my sons," he says. "… I'm willing to sacrifice her coming to the games or me being slightly embarrassed. I'm extreme. And most people that are successful are extreme. … I don't know that I have a problem."
The fact that Dwayne doesn't acknowledge that his behavior is problematic is the problem, Dr. Smith says. "When we have a problem, and we don't know that we have it—even when you just described that you get embarrassed but not until afterwards—that's part of what happens when we're out of control."
Dr. Smith adds that you're out of control and really have a problem if you're unaware of your behavior until after you've done it. "[When you realize] 'It's caught up on me. I believe I've acted out, I've embarrassed my children, I've embarrassed my fiancée who won't even come to games any longer, and I don't even know that I've done it until afterwards'— that is a problem."