The line between encouragement, constructive criticism and downright bullying at children’s sporting events these days seems to be getting thinner and thinner.
I am just now learning about team sports from the sidelines as both of my girls are now involved. For the most part, I haven’t witnessed anything horrific, yet. But I am learning through the anecdotes of other parents, my daughters’ keen observations, and my own limited observations, that the “outraged-parent-in-the-stand” is not a myth, but a reality.
It’s no wonder that my daughter’s volleyball organization asks parents to sign a code of conduct. Clearly, they have had issues in the past with inappropriate behavior from adults who should know better. I’m glad they do it so that in the case of a parent who simply doesn’t know how to behave, the league has a signed document that allows them to be removed from the sidelines.
Granted, I wasn’t the best athlete growing up, and my parents didn’t really care very much as long as I got good grades. But I did play many teams sports. And while I had a competitive spirit, I was also a realist at a very young age who simply knew the other kids were a whole lot better than I was at most sports.
I didn’t need my parents screeching (come on, you know what I’m talking about) from the sidelines to tell me how bad I was. Nor, would a dressing down off the field from my parents have served to improve my performance.
Don’t get me wrong, things like: get in there, pass, keep your eye on the ball, are fair game. They are about the game, not about the child. But if someone attacks a child personally, whether or not the child is his/her’s, or not, I think that’s plain wrong. Bottom line, embarrassing your own child in front of other people is just a form of grownup bullying.
The only thing I can imagine is that some people think their children’s successes or failures reflect upon them, therefore they are personally invested in the outcomes.
Believe me, if my older daughter nails a serve in volleyball, or my younger daughter beats her personal best in the fifty yard breast stroke, the successes belong to them. I have no claim on their errant athletic genes based on my own grim athletic history.
Likewise, their failures are their own, but in that case I will be there with a hug and words of encouragement because I believe that’s what works.
Amanda is the mom of two, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books including three on motherhood. Find her here on Mondays.