International Games

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

There's nothing like living in another place to help you understand more about how you parent.

Back in 2004, the kids and I broke open the piggy banks to join Dad on a three-month stay in Australia. My husband is a college professor of exercise physiology and a swim coach, and every seven years he gets a sabbatical for a semester. For that one, he worked at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra (it's like one of our U.S. Olympic Training Centers, but with an intramural cricket league and kangaroos wandering the campus).

I homeschooled the two kids and they also joined a ballet school, a karate dojo and a swim team. It was at my daughter's first swim meet that I found out just how different Australian and American parenting styles can be.

I was sitting alongside the pool with other team parents. My daughter, doing a backstroke event, was in the lane next to that side of the pool. Now, I'm not a screamer at the kids' sports events, but here came my daughter and, figuring I ought to say something since she could see me, I leaned over and, at a volume that would be considered conversational at a U.S. swim meet, said, "Go, honey!"

About a dozen Australian parent heads slowly turned as one to look at me. Then they all swiveled back to reaffix their gazes on the pool.

"What did I do?" I whispered to one of my new Australian friends.

"You cheered for your own child," she whispered back.

"Ohhh-kay?" I said.

"You don't do that," she replied. "TPS."

There are many things I love about Australia - the desserts and dairy products most of all - but their swim parents rank way up there, too. TPS, as I found out, stands for "Tall Poppy Syndrome," and tall poppies are "made to be cut down."

In other words, you're just asking for trouble if you publicly express a desire to see your child do well at something. You can - and should - cheer for other people's children, but you don't cheer out loud for your own.

Call it superstition or call it politeness taken to an extreme, but I think it's a great concept. And you can't criticize a nation of swim parents who, when their children make the Olympic team, don T-shirts with the acronym POOS (which stands for Parents Of Our Swimmers).

In this issue of Columbus Parent, we've taken a closer look at the family sports scene in Central Ohio (so have our Columbus Dispatch, colleagues - be sure to check out their series on youth sports, running Aug. 29 through Sept. 5).

Participating in sports can be great for the whole family, but it can also be a challenge to make it a happy and healthy experience for everyone. We're excited to share some new ideas with you, and we hope you'll share your ideas with us at, our Facebook page and our Twitter feed.

Ever since we got back from Australia, I know I've kept my sports-parent experience happy by embracing my inner short poppy. Here's hoping you find the poppy height that works for you!