Q: “My 13-year-old daughter is determined to try out for cheerleading next year. My husband and I don’t think this is a very positive use of her time. Should we forbid her from trying out?”
C.L., Green Bay, Wisconsin
Our 13-year-old is currently a cheerleader at her junior high. I, too, felt it wasn’t a good use of her time nor the crowd I wanted her to associate with. Now that she’s on the squad, however, my feelings have changed. Cheering is treated just like a sport. Girls have to demonstrate excellent behavior at all times and must maintain a qualifying grade point average. Between practices and games, she’s busy four days a week after school. She’s learning good lessons in time management as she juggles homework, social life, and her cheer schedule. Also, it’s great exercise!
J.W., Gilbert, Arizona
What parents need to realize is that, sooner or later, our daughters will be interested in activities for which we have little regard. The question isn’t “should we forbid her from trying out?” but “how can we support our daughter in learning about herself from this activity?” The parents should communicate their feelings about cheerleading and why they feel the way they do, and ask their daughter what she hopes to gain from participating in it. By “agreeing to disagree,” they are acknowledging that their daughter may feel differently about cheerleading (or any other subject) and they are establishing a precedent of respecting these differences.
This family could agree to let their daughter try out under the clear understanding that, if she makes the squad, her academics and family time come first. They might also require her to cover some of the costs. If she makes the squad, the parents should stay focused on the positive—how hard she is working, how much fun she is having, what she is learning—so that they can be included in their daughter’s experience in a positive way.
R.H., Santa Rosa, California
My husband and I faced a similar dilemma. Cheerleading was not a top priority of ours for our daughter’s time. But our sixth-grade daughter recently started cheerleading in a school where anyone who wants to commit the time can join the team. There’s a real camaraderie among the girls, and it’s been a good experience for her. She remains a straight-A student, whose favorite subjects are science and math. She is also a pianist, a soccer goalie, and a basketball player. The stereotypical “cheerleader type” we once knew has changed, thank goodness.
V.F., Chicago, Illinois
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