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"One of the interesting findings in this study was that there was little difference between boys and girls in task or ego orientation," Ian Tofler, MD, tells WebMD. Tofler, the co-chair of the sports psychiatry committee of the American Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and a consulting psychiatrist at Children's Hospital in Los Angeles, tells WebMD that a certain amount of parental pride in children's athletic accomplishments is normal. However, parents should avoid becoming overly invested in their children's achievements, particularly in athletics, because this stance can actually harm children by encouraging them to perform despite injuries and fatigue.

In an accompanying article in the same issue, Gershon Tenenbaum and colleagues found that athletes were more likely to improve their performance if they had attainable goals than if they were to simply give their best efforts toward unattainable goals. In this analysis of previously obtained data, the researchers from Israel and Australia found that easy and difficult goals that were realistic were the most beneficial ones, compared with very difficult and unattainable goals and "do your best" goals.

Vital Information:

  • Whether teen athletes believe their success is defined by how well they perform or by winning, they are likely to have peers who support the same view, according to a recent study.
  • Those who define success as winning can become discouraged in adverse situations, while those who focus on performance will continue to do well.
  • In another study, athletes with realistic goals were more likely to improve than athletes who had unrealistic or 'do your best' goals.

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