When I talk about sports and kids, it's important for me to admit up front that I am not a competitive person when it comes to my children's activities. I don't see their successes or failures as an extension of me. While I played sports as a child, I was not very successful in that arena. Thankfully, my parents recognized this and did not push too hard or expect too much.
I am in awe of kids who have athletic talent and applaud their abilities and tenacity. When I attend one of my daughter's volleyball tournaments, I try to be a positive voice, cheering on her team and showing support. Luckily, we have a positive group of parents and a positive club that encourages parents to act with the proper decorum on the sidelines, but I can't say this is true for all of the parents I encounter at tournaments.
Sure, there are the yellers. We've all been around them. Somehow, they think yelling advice to their children over the loud roar of a venue full of simultaneous games is going to be effective. But what I find almost worse than the yeller is the passive aggressive under-the-breath criticism - the parents who says things in a low voice about their child, your child, or children on the other team quietly, but loud enough for others to hear.
The first thing that comes to mind is why do you care? Why is this game involving children so important to you that you feel the need to criticize them out loud? Let me be clear: I'm not one who believes everyone should get a prize or that everyone deserves an equal chance regardless of talent, but, I think there's a place and time for constructive criticism, and its not on the sidelines in the middle of a game. Frankly, my child is the first one to know when she's not playing well. She's hard enough on herself. She doesn't need me ganging up on her.
I think, at the end of the day, it all comes down to perspective. In the whole scheme of life, a child's sporting event is just a game. It's not the Olympics. Very few of them will be lucky enough to get college scholarships. So, it's important for us as parents not to make it a bigger deal out of it than it needs to be.
After all, how can we expect them to be good sports if we're not? Like every other important life lesson, being a good sport is modeled by us. So, if you've got something negative to say, do everyone a favor, keep to yourself.
Amanda is the mom of two, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books including some on motherhood. Find her here on Mondays.