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For Parents Crazy gym parents! Should I do something? (long)

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snowbound

Member
Jan 2, 2009
179
My DD has a friend in her level who has crazy parents (IMHO). The kids are L4, and her friend has been in it for 5 years (she's 7) she's repeating L4, because she had a pretty bad season last year. My DD is repeating too, but has made a lot of obvious progress, and barely missed being a L5 this year.

Anyway, my DH was talking to the father last year and her dad was saying how they push her to do gymnastics or else she would quit. DH told him that we don't push our DD, it's her decision, but if she wants to do it she has to be committed. The dad basically said that he makes her do it because she isn't capable of making those kind of decisions (Okay, whatever) So we let it go, and her dad stopped talking to us. The poor kid is in Gymnastics 12 hours a week regularly, and they are sending her to 3 private lessons on top of that. She's also in horse back riding and dance (I don't know how this kid has time for homework).

She also sleeps in her parent's bed...a little strange, I suppose. Her 2 YO brother has his own room and sleeps in his own bed. The mother is a nurse and works the night shift a lot. I still think it's strange, but I don't know exactly what's going on, and if I did I wouldn't have any evidence of it anyway.

On Sunday, we were at a meet, and he was bragging to another parent that if their daughter doesn't come in in the top three, she gets punished! They give her a backpack full of heavy books and make her do lunges around the house. The parent he was bragging to was sitting next to me, and thought he was kidding, but he said "no, she won't focus unless we force her to!" His wife was sitting right there, nodding her head.

Now at this point, I'm thinking "this is emotional abuse, plain and simple." I think there is more than that going on, because the daughter has some weird behaviors which I won't go into, but the long and short of it is that I am worried about this little girl. She's very underweight, she really doesn't like the sport. She gets the whole class in trouble because she just doesn't care about being there. I feel like I should tell the coach or someone, but I don't know who, and I don't want people to get all upset with me or my DD for opening my mouth.

Any advice?

snowbound
 

gymmomntc2e6

Moderator/Proud Parent
Aug 25, 2007
2,842
North Carolina
I am not sure that I have any advice at all, but that is very sad.

The punishment for not finishing in the top 3 is strange and horrible. IMHO this is supposed to be fun.

I will need to think more on your post, but it is very concerning.
 

MdGymMom01

Active Member
Mar 5, 2008
2,236
North America
That is really extreme and disturbing. I really don't know what to say either. I'm thinking that is this father is bragging out loud to other people, then there will be enough people who will probably be inclined to maybe say something. It's a tough call. I'll have to think more on this as well...
 
N

nettyinpa

Guest
That really is so sad. :( On so many levels. I would find it very hard not to take some kind of action.

Have you thought of maybe writing an anonymous letter to her coaches or the gym owner? Just saying something like you overheard this girls father talking like that and you're concerned. Who knows, maybe they'd take the first step in helping this poor girl.

I don't think it's right that they're making her do gymnastics. My dd is 7, too, and no way would I 'make' her do anything she didn't want to do. We ask her all the time if she's still having fun and still enjoying it. If we ever hear she didn't like it so be it, we'll move on and she'll just get involved in something else. That man sounds obsessive about his little girl and I'm also concerned about her sleeping in their bed, not her own. That sends so many red flags up for me. I know you have no proof but how do we know there's no other abuse going on? :worried:

I do not envy you this situation or how to help her. Do you ever invite her to your house for a sleepover with your dd? Maybe she needs her friends to intervene on her behalf.

I wish you and her all the best in this very diffiicult situation.
 

bogwoppit

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Feb 26, 2007
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That is so terribly sad. It is that open abuse that makes you wonder what you can do. She, of course, is not the first child to be forced to do a sport because their parent wants them to for whatever reason. Or sadly to endure "conditioning" for poor acheivment.

It is more the other "stuff" that would raise my eyebrows somewhat? If your child exhibited these unusual behaviours would you be concerned enough to take her to a doctor or mental health specialist? If that is the case you may be in a position to write to Child Protective Services and very simply state what you know to be true.

It is unusual for a 7 year old child to share a parents bed, but I do have some friends who did co-sleeping until their kids were older and they stopped when the kid asked for their own bed, the kids seem well adjusted and not even slightly odd.

I hope there is nothing to it and the family are just odd, but it does sound iffy, and with the odd stuff that would make me very uncomfortable. She is a child and cannot protect herself.

I feel for you, this child is part of the gym and her well being does affect everyone.
 

gymjoy

Member
Jan 31, 2009
410
Wow, that's horrible.
I think your reaction of emotional abuse is right on the money. I'd also wonder if there is more going on as well. I would encourage you to do a little research into these other odd behaviors you mentioned. If they fit into the behaviors for abused children, then please call you local child protective services. It really sucks to have to do that, but the girl is only 7. If her parents are not going to do the right things for her someone else must step in. How many children could be saved from these horrid situations if that one person with a nagging feeling did what they could for the child?
I really feel for the position you are in, but most especially for this little girl.
 

gym law mom

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Dec 23, 2006
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The issue of making her do gymnastics is bothersome, but what really concerns me is the sleeping in the bed(with dad?) and the carrying around a heavy backpack as punishment. I've worked with abused children in the court system and there is usually much more than anyone can ever guess that goes on behind closed doors. And yes, abusers will brag---because they don't see what they're doing as wrong!!! I don't want to label these parents as abusive, but the behavior sounds suspicious.

In most states, you can make an annonymous report to Children's Services(or whatever the name of the agency is in your area). You don't know---they may already have some reports on this child or you may be the 1st. I would alert the coach as to what dad said about the whole backpack punishment as just an FYI. They probably have already guessed this little girl doesn't want to be in the gym and that she has overbearing parents, but may not know how far they go. In most jurisdictions a coach could be legally bound to report any suspected abuse, but since they didn't hear "daddy dearest" talk about the punishment it really isn't their observation.

This little girl needs some help and I hope she gets it.
 

Tim_Dad

Member
Nov 3, 2008
414
Region IV (Missouri)
I feel like I should tell the coach or someone, but I don't know who, and I don't want people to get all upset with me or my DD for opening my mouth.

My advice: be VERY VERY careful when interfering with another parent. That's just bad joo-joo. You need to accept that some parents are whackos.

How about this: A child that is forced to attend church against his/her will. Or be made to read, memorize and recite the bible? Is this also emotional abuse? I would absolutely think so, but those that are devout would argue otherwise.

That said, you may want to voice your concerns to the coach, but end it there.

There is a chance you may be reading more into this then it really is, and engauging child services could be devistating to the family if they happen to get an over-zealous caseworker assigned. What if your suspicions and concerns are being interpreted wrong. It happens. If a child was removed from the home as a "protective measure" while the case is open... and nothing truely wrong occured.. how devistating would that be to the family?! That happens too!

FWIW: My DD will crawl into our bed late at night when shes cold or has a bad dream. She's been doing that since she was 2. I personally see nothing wrong with it. It could be that it's the same with this girl, in that she has her own bed, but would rather sleep with her parents. Some parents disallow or discourage this, others don't. But that's not up to you or anyone but the parents to decide.
 

gymjourneymom

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Mar 9, 2008
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My advice: be VERY VERY careful when interfering with another parent. That's just bad joo-joo. You need to accept that some parents are whackos.

How about this: A child that is forced to attend church against his/her will. Or be made to read, memorize and recite the bible? Is this also emotional abuse? I would absolutely think so, but those that are devout would argue otherwise.

That said, you may want to voice your concerns to the coach, but end it there.

There is a chance you may be reading more into this then it really is, and engauging child services could be devistating to the family if they happen to get an over-zealous caseworker assigned. What if your suspicions and concerns are being interpreted wrong. It happens. If a child was removed from the home as a "protective measure" while the case is open... and nothing truely wrong occured.. how devistating would that be to the family?! That happens too!

FWIW: My DD will crawl into our bed late at night when shes cold or has a bad dream. She's been doing that since she was 2. I personally see nothing wrong with it. It could be that it's the same with this girl, in that she has her own bed, but would rather sleep with her parents. Some parents disallow or discourage this, others don't. But that's not up to you or anyone but the parents to decide.
Tim_Dad, I have to say I agree with you here. This is a slippery slope. Comments can easily be taken out of context. Hey...many of us on CB may be considered "abusive" in some parents eyes. Just for allowing our children to "spend so many hours in the gym". Although, my DD's hours have never seemed excessive to her or I (15hrs/wk now @L7), many non-gym parents, have questioned me about my DD "spending her whole life in the gym". She has a very full life, that includes gymnastics, by her choice( I would never force her). But some non-gym parents just don't understand that. Also, my DD loves my bed...because I have a Temprapedic mattress & she doesn't! Does sound scary if you would have just heard the 1st part right? The OP does arouse suspicion, especially with the 'over conditioning as punishment for low placement' & 'forcing her to do gymnastics'. Both of these are just wrong on so many levels! I would mention that to the coach, if you did hear it 1st hand from the parents. Because these things must also be directly or indirectly affecting the coach, whether he knows is or not. But beyond that, it's a sticky situation. I do hope this child is safe & happy. Lets face it, some parents are just plain "different".
 

Blackie6

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Mar 1, 2007
1,284
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My advice: be VERY VERY careful when interfering with another parent. That's just bad joo-joo. You need to accept that some parents are whackos.

How about this: A child that is forced to attend church against his/her will. Or be made to read, memorize and recite the bible? Is this also emotional abuse? I would absolutely think so, but those that are devout would argue otherwise.

That said, you may want to voice your concerns to the coach, but end it there.

There is a chance you may be reading more into this then it really is, and engauging child services could be devistating to the family if they happen to get an over-zealous caseworker assigned. What if your suspicions and concerns are being interpreted wrong. It happens. If a child was removed from the home as a "protective measure" while the case is open... and nothing truely wrong occured.. how devistating would that be to the family?! That happens too!

FWIW: My DD will crawl into our bed late at night when shes cold or has a bad dream. She's been doing that since she was 2. I personally see nothing wrong with it. It could be that it's the same with this girl, in that she has her own bed, but would rather sleep with her parents. Some parents disallow or discourage this, others don't. But that's not up to you or anyone but the parents to decide.

Totally on board with everything Tim dad said too. My motto is unless it directly affects me or my DD then I stay out of it. My DD is only at the begining and I tend to think gymnastics is like parenting, everyone has their own beliefs and it is not up to me to comment on their decisions based on my own opinions. I think that eventually children who are pushed or forced will either move along to another gym or eventually quit. All the money in the world can't buy dedication and love for a sport which is what you are going to need for upper level gymnastics. I would not get involved with the coach either, chances are the coach probably already knows. I would be more afraid the parents caught me talking about them in a negative manner and go after me!

And, FWIW, I also have a bed hoping gymmie...her first year of life was attached to an Apnea monitor next to my bed and the next 2-3 yrs after that was just a nervous mommy who was still scared something would happen. Now she's mostly on her own but pops in here and there & since my DH works 24hr shifts, I don't mind the company, LOL
 

snowbound

Member
Jan 2, 2009
179
Thank you everyone, for your input. One of the "odd behaviors" I mentioned is that this girl can't stand to be away from her parents. During our year end banquet, they seated the girls separately and she came over to see her parents 5x during the meal. During awards at the last meet she came off the floor and went and saw her parents 3 times. She doesn't cry when they drop her off or anything, but she shows a weird attachment to them when they are around.

I decided that my DD needs to know that we would try to do the right thing, otherwise if she ever had a problem, she would be less likely to come to us with it if she thought we weren't going to do anything about it. She thinks there is something wrong with her friend (she doesn't have a clue what it could be, she's very innocent, she just thinks there is something "not right") But I also don't feel that I have enough information to get CFS involved.

I asked my DD to see if she can get the little girl to open up to her a little more and see if she says anything that might be helpful, or explain things better. She asked her if she ever gets punished for doing poorly at a meet, and the girl just said "no" and walked away like she didn't want to talk about it.

I am going to talk to the other parent who heard the dad, and if she's willing to go with me to the coach, I will tell her. Otherwise I am going to sound like I just took something out of context and I'm making up gossip. I am going to write it all down with dates and such, in case I get more information later. Thank you for all your support!
Snowbound
 

skfleming255

Member
Jul 29, 2007
169
I would tend to say, "Stay out of it." I have a friend whose dd gets in bed with them every night. She is 7 years old. My dd just started sleeping by herself when she was 6. My youngest dd, who is 5, still sleeps with us. I don't see anything weird about it.

If there was something inappropriate going on, I don't think the dad or mom would have mentioned that she sleeps in their bed. Wouldn't you keep that a secret if there was something going on?

As for the other odd behavior of hers, you probably just have them under a microscrope b/c you think all of their behavior is weird or wrong. Just try to ignore the situation. Unless you see bruises or see some sort of physical sign of abuse to the child, just try to ignore them and the situation.
 

Mom2Gymgirls

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Proud Parent
Jul 25, 2008
293
Midwest
I agree with what Tim Dad and others have been saying. The punishment is definitely disturbing, and I might mention something to the coach about that, but I don't think I would go any further than that at this point without having any other proof. About the bed thing.... My 7 year old sleeps with me almost everynight. She doesn't have her own room though, other than one that she shares with one of her older sisters, so I guess she just prefers to share with me instead of big sis. It's just me though, so I don't mind her being in there, and it's not like she's overly attached to me. She's actually a very well-developed and outgoing child.
 

bogwoppit

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Feb 26, 2007
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Everyone, now you'll have us talking TD!!!
 

gym law mom

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Dec 23, 2006
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Ok, I come at this from a different perspective. I've seen parents and damaged children in the court system usually too late to rebuild a child's life because nobody wanted to say anything. The most troubling thing was the hauling a heavy backpack around for not placing well---all other observations are totally an opinion at this time.

Believe me, 1 call to child services does not send an army of police/social workers to a home yanking the child out at 2am. I've had cases where the file makes War and Peace look like a kiddie book before we are even in court to permanently remove kids. The goal of both social workers and the court is to keep the family together and some families do need help whether it be classes, counseling etc.

I can't tell the OP what to do---but please all, if you do witness something you feel is not right concerning a child, don't back away. Reports in most places are annonymous and we would rather send someone to the home to find nothing wrong(or minor problems that can be dealt with easily) than have children hurt(physically, psychologically) to the point that they never truly recover.
 

jls1969

Member
Sep 27, 2007
105
I agree with GLM...I taught school and by the laws in our state was required to report any suspicions. It is difficult, but if a child needs an advocate and the parent is not acting in that role, then help may be needed. That being said...I also think it is important to realize that there are very different styles of parenting. If you can honestly step back and say that you think this child needs help outside of the parenting style, then maybe you should call someone. Talking to the coach may or may not be a good idea...if you have one who is open to hearing about these things, it might be helpful. In our gym, I would find it hard to go to the coach unless something was directly affecting my daughter. I admire you for your concern toward this other little girl and I wish you the best. I don't envy you at all...I will also send the little girl a ((((hug)))).
 
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