How to Raise a Happy, Cooperative Child

Parenting Strategies for All Ages

Tips for being a positive sidelines parent

You've seen the stories about fistfights between parents at kids' sports events.

 

Why is it that each year there are stories about fistfights between parents at their kids sports' events? Or, when you attend your child's soccer game, some parents constantly yell at the coaches or their own children? The underlying problem is that parents get confused about their role and lose sight of the true value of the experience. They believe that to be a good parent, they must push their child to succeed and end up focusing only on the team winning. Parents frequently over-identify with their children, and project onto them their own need to win. Hence, the parent will scream at the coach for making an unfavorable call, or at their child for missing a goal. Parents who stand on the sidelines yelling at their kids, do not realize that they are making the experience tense for all involved. They often fail to see that their child walks away at the end of the game with her head lowered in shame. More than anything in life, kids want to please their parents, and the child worries she has failed. Parents need to focus more on the essential benefits of team sports for kids.

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Playing team sports, enhances children's co-ordination, their concentration, and their endurance. They learn how to share, take turns, work together towards a goal, support a friend and foster another child's success. They learn how to win graciously and cope with a loss. Through this shared experience, kids can develop close relationships with the coach and the other kids. At the end of the day, the primary goal of any activity is to enhance your child's self-esteem. Ideally, he should walk off the field feeling: I am valuable. I can.

Here are some guidelines for being a positive sidelines parent.

Attend your children’s games. When you show up, you demonstrate that your child is important to you and that the activity is valued. If you coach the team or bring snacks for the players, you further demonstrate your support.

Be alert to any negative interactions by teammates or by the coach, and talk them over with the coach, away from the children.

Never instruct your child from the sidelines. You may be telling her one thing, while the coach is advising her differently. Your intervention can easily confuse her, diminish her ability to perform and undermine the coach's authority

Always relate positively to your child’s efforts. If your child misses the ball, tell him, “Good try”, or “You’ll get it next time.” Criticizing children tends to make them feel insecure, binds their energies with worry, and diminishes their ability to succeed. Your criticism also makes your child feel that your love depends upon her success. Children need to feel that they are loved unconditionally.

Act as your child’s cheering squad. When you stand on the sidelines, your child should read encouragement and love in your face. Remember. You are there to enjoy the experience with your child.

On the way home, point out the positives of the game. For instance, “I like the way you kicked the ball to your friend.”

Help your child strengthen her skills. If she’s having trouble catching fly balls, for example, spend time with her tossing a ball around.

Acknowledge his feelings. If his team loses a game, allow him to vent his frustrations, be accepting of his desire to win, and give him support. For instance you might tell him, “It's hard to lose. Everyone likes to win. If the team keeps working hard, they will win more”.

Team sports has another major positive outcome. As you show up to see your child play, cheer him on, and help him get through the bumps of the games, this shared experience will strengthen your bond with your child.

Meri Wallace, LCSW, is a parenting expert and child and family therapist.

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