(This is a reprint with some edits from my Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner column on Examiner.com).
It has been referred to by some of the coaches, counselors and educators interviewed over the past 15 years as “hi-jacking” kids’ sports and activities. These are the scenarios wherein parents and some coaches become so involved in children’s sports that they “take it over” with administration of policies and rules to fulfill adult desires on the child’s field of play, and engage in arguments that can ruin the fun and squash learning about the character associated with good sportsmanship, teamwork and camaraderie. These are the adults who are so emotionally invested in the winner/loser outcome of every play and game, they become abusive and manipulative challenging the referee’s calls or dumping rage upon the players because the scrimmage or play was lost. And while these boundary violations are not new, the intensity is heightened with social media.
Columnist Ashley Brown of The News-Times, calls out what she refers to as “a minority of parents” who are posting and tweeting disparaging remarks about the coaches of their child’s Little League or PeeWee Football teams. “I recommend you let the coach handle the team,” she writes. “Your role is to make sure your child is on time for practices, games and any other team event, and once you are there root for the team.”
Role clarification is a beautiful thing, and is easily obscured by misplaced desires to be in control of the successes in your child’s sports and school life. Unchecked, the devices beckon us to let it all hang out – all of the mistakes you witnessed your child’s coach make, and the unfair decisions about who to play and when. In the heat of the moment, broadcasting your dismay is a natural impulse. After all if your child’s sports experience is being sullied by someone who doesn’t care about the children like you do, or who is simply not qualified to coach, why sit by and say nothing?
Two big reasons why parents should be present and silent at sports venues, on and off-line
Communicate confidence in your child. Your child needs to know that you have confidence in him. That you expect her to communicate with the coach and make their best effort to contribute to the overall success of the team. As soon as your child knows or senses that you do not respect the coach, their experience will be tarnished by role conflict. They will be torn between pleasing you or cooperating the coach. This creates a distraction for your child, and can be tormenting – especially if you are tweeting and posting all of your objections. It is a form of cyberbullying.
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7) This is true for every human being, including young athletes
Allow your child to own the experience. If parents are hovering over a child’s sports experiences, running interference and offering criticisms for how things are going, they will not experience a sense of ownership about their chosen activities. This is the ownership that builds resilience to learn how to deal with disappointments (such as not getting to be in the starting lineup), as well as learning how to handle unfair circumstances (the coach is not giving everyone a chance to shine). The lesson they learn when parents are always commenting and proactively advocating for their child’s success, is that they are not capable of handling the situation and living with the consequences of their choices.
That said, one big reason not to be silent is when you are witnessing abusive behavior on the part of the coach or other adults involved on the field or in the stands. In order to confront inappropriate conduct by adults without creating more drama, do not post or tweet your concerns and objections. Bring the concerns to the people directly involved: the coach and officials and perhaps the parents of other players involved. When your aim is to give people a chance to correct themselves, then the chances are greater that there will be a more peaceful and productive outcome. Berating and bullying people on-line tends to have the opposite impact.
About: We are a non-profit education center founded in Roseville, CA to strengthen the parent-child bond in a hyper-connected world. Our mission is to restore families with the mustard seed of faith that declares liberty already belongs to the soul because one God, the Creator of all humanity, grants every human being intelligence and free will to choose what to believe, and that is power that can never be taken, but is easily surrendered to the bully, the drug or the device. To that end, ten percent of all proceeds are donated to prison ministries. Your donations are greatly appreciated. (Donations are payable to Banana Moments Foundation).
Joanna Jullien is an educator and speaker on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber-powered world. Trained in behavioral science at U.C. Berkeley, she is a mother of two grown sons, an author of books on parenting, growing up and family life in the network culture, and produces the Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner column on Examiner.com.