Whether you’re a ‘helicopter’ parent, or the hands-off type, keeping a watchful eye on your child comes with the territory of being a parent. For some of us however, this is more intense than others.
So, when it comes to sports coaching, the last thing you want to do is put your child off during a sports class. Physical activity for children is a great way for kids to learn new skills, explore new ways of working and to keep active.
So then, how can parents curb their enthusiasm and keep a healthy distance? Glad you asked! Here’s 15 rules to observe when you’re knee-deep at the touchline, watching your child take part in sport:
Rule 1 – Don’t interfere with the coach
Don’t be that pushy parent in sport. No-one will thank you for it, least of all the sports coach! There needs to be a respectful distance when your child is learning. Observe this.
This means not interfering with the sports coach or their decisions. If you have concerns these can be addressed at the end of the class, but definitely not during it.
Rule 2 – Don’t ruffle the ref
Arguing with the referee is a definitely no-no in parenting circles. Not only does it undermine their authority, but it can also humiliate your child. While it’s no bad thing to teach your child to challenge decisions, it’s important to do this in the right forum and setting.
Rule 3 – Try not to argue with other parents
As with above, arguing from the touchlines will only gain you a reputation as a pushy parent in sport. It’s very possible that poor decisions will be made on occasion, and other times injustices will happen. But isn’t this part of your child’s own journey, learning and development?
Rule 4 – Avoid aggressive behaviour
The only thing that aggressive behaviour breeds is aggressive behaviour. While it’s natural to get annoyed sometimes, there needs to be some consideration around when it’s appropriate and not.
Screaming at your child, or indeed others, during a sports coaching session is definitely not appropriate. It may upset, distress or unsettle the children, as well as gain you a reputation for being aggressive.
Rule 5 – Don’t storm off
Storming off because you’re unhappy with a situation is at best childish, at worst pushy parent in sport behaviour. Bring your ‘A game’ not your attitude. Ask yourself what will storming off actually achieve, and more importantly, what lesson it teaches your child. Whether you like it or not, as parents we are role models, which means being mindful of our actions.
Rule 6 – Consider more than winning
As any sports coach will tell you, children should be rewarded for effort, not accomplishment.Plus, failure is an important life-lesson and part of child development through sport. As a parent, it’s best to focus on your child’s efforts, rather than simply just winning.
Rule 7 – Try not to upstage the sports coach
Even with best intentions, it’s advisable to keep your thoughts to yourself when your child is partaking in sport. And, regardless of your background or skill, upstaging the sports coach is not advisable.
Try not to give your child instructions, allow them to focus on the job in hand and listen to the sports coach in charge.
Rule 9 – Don’t expect your kid to be chatty
Think about it, after an exhausting sports class the last thing you want to do is give a complete lowdown of your performance. The same is true of children.
Physical activity for children can be mentally and physically draining. Therefore, don’t expect much from them after a sports coach session. Instead give them time to relax and wind down. They will talk to you in their own time.
Rule 10 – Don’t use negative body language
Children naturally want to please parents, sports coaches and teachers. Therefore, even the smallest cues from body language can reveal disappointment, which can manifest in a child.
Be mindful of what your non-verbal communication reveals. Try not to be too clenched, or appear angry. If you find yourself struggling with your emotions you may benefit from mindfulness techniques.
Rule 11 – Try not to be critical
It may be tempting to criticise your child’s performance. If possible, try and resist this, especially when children are very young and still learning. Instead, invite your child to evaluate their own performance, asking them what they did well and how they could improve in the future. This is a technique that sports coaches use and can be far more productive than making them feel bad about themselves
Rule 12 – Never stop praising your child
Being a supportive parent, means being proud of your child and acknowledging their hard work. Sport for children is a great way to grow their confidence. It also provides the perfect platform to tell your child how proud you are of them, and invest in their achievements and triumphs.
Rule 13 – Stop focusing on the negatives
Studies have found that teachers who use negative feedback tend to have conflictual relationships with students. While sports coaches and teachers who use positive praise develop ‘supportive’ relationships.
There’s a lesson here for parents too. If you want to form a meaningful supportive relationship with your child, hold back on the negative criticism.
Rule 14 – Avoid putting pressure on your child
Finding the right balance between being a supportive and pushy parent in sport is tricky. However, numerous studies have found that putting too much pressure on a child can be detrimental to their mental health and personal wellbeing.
Rule 15 – Don’t be disrespectful
And finally, rule number 15. In the same way that we expect children to be respectful to peers, we should treat them with the same courtesy.
Don’t dismiss, punish, humiliate, patronise or ignore your child. This only leads to antisocial behaviour and a fraught relationship. Communication is key. Talk to your child openly, and more importantly – listen to what they have to say.
Use sport for children in the positive way it was intended; for fun, for release and for learning how to be the best version of yourself.