By Heidi Stevens, Tribune Newspapers
April 17, 2013
From our panel of staff contributors
The other parents need to be reminded that the purpose of these soccer matches is to teach the kids sportsmanship and how to improve their game and to foster friendship. These soccer matches are not designed to help jerk parents sharpen their jerk skills. You can calmly tell them that, off to the side, or perhaps have the coach relay that information. Either way, they need to be made aware of the fact that they are out of line.
Go to the coach and make him aware that some parents are indulging in "unconstructive coaching" from the sidelines, and that he needs to make it stop now. The coach is best positioned to make a general (no finger-pointing) talk about sideline comportment. If that doesn't work, let the offending parent(s) know, in no uncertain terms, to dial it down. For the record, the only acceptable things to yell from the soccer sideline are "way to go!" and "great job!" when things go well, and "nice hustle!" and "it's OK, we'll get it back!" when they don't.
I would try, in the most friendly voice possible, to remind the parents they are being inappropriate and poor sports, and what terrible lessons they are teaching our kids. If that doesn't work, I would get the coach involved. If that doesn't work, I might sign my son up for baseball.
Normally, less is more when it comes to parental involvement from the sidelines.
"Staying out of children's sports and play is usually the best rule to follow," says psychologist Anthony Rao, author of "The Way of Boys: Promoting the Social and Emotional Development of Young Boys" (William Morrow). "There's so little left for them that we don't manage or influence or push our agenda on."
But "normally" goes out the window when some yahoos are criticizing your child.
"A kids' soccer game is not meant to be a spectator sport for adults," says Rao. "It's not supposed to be a place where we yell or vent our frustrations or get entertained. So I see this as a boundary violation. These are parents who don't know their place and it's really unacceptable behavior."
Left unchecked, the parents' offending comments threaten to undermine the spirit of the event.
"When things flip from good-natured rivalry to aggression, the whole point of why you've assembled the kids is gone," says Rao. "Team sports are about staying healthy and having fun and making some friends, and along the way you learn to balance 'how do I get along with others?' with 'how do I get better than others?' That gets tossed out the window when you have aggression and negativity thrown onto the field."
By all means alert the coach, Rao says. She or he should remind the parents to keep their comments civil and encouraging.
Meanwhile, you may need to do some damage control at home — provided your son hears the comments.
"Parents are the people who have to tell the truth about the world for their kids, so I think it's OK to explain it as, 'There are some people, like Sam's dad, who yell a lot and it doesn't feel good, does it?' I heard it, too, and I didn't like it,'" Rao suggests. "A lot of people, even authority figures, don't behave very well. It's OK to start talking about that and not feel obligated to explain it away."
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