Good Parent Sportsmanship

The line between being a supportive, engaged, sports-loving parent and applying too much pressure on kids is easily crossed. To avoid embarrassing your child and making him/her feel more pressure than he/she already feels about playing the game – we recommend these strategies:

During the Game

Avoid criticizing referees. This teaches the child to have a victim mentality and reinforces that it’s okay to blame others for his/her performance. Even if the call is wrong, the referee is doing his/her best.

Use ENCOURAGING comments during the game. Save constructive feedback for one-on-one discussions with your child after the emotion of the game has passed.

Avoid coaching from the sidelines. Nothing frustrates a coach more than when a parent yells, “shoot the ball” when the play intended for your child to “pass the ball

Show unconditional support. Immediately following the game – win or lose – put your arm around your child and give encouraging feedback.

After the Game

Focus on effort and improvement versus winning or losing. If the child believes it’s all about winning – he may come to believe he can never please you. Comment on the improvement since the beginning of the season or since last year. Acknowledge how his/her extra practice is showing on the field. footballThe child will naturally bring up the topic of whether the team won or lost. Celebrate wins – but tie them to specific behaviors. What did your team do (or did you do) that contributed to the win? Same thing for losses – what could your team/you do differently next time?

Counter-balance your child’s complaints about the referee. Remind the child that both teams had the same referee and like players, some referees are more skilled and experienced than others. It’s part of playing sports.

Come Clean. If you do “lose it” during a game, come clean with your child after the game. Let him/her know that you were frustrated/angry with the referee/the other team, etc. – but it is NOT OKAY to demonstrate that frustration/anger with yelling and behaving poorly from the sidelines.

This teaches your child that feelings are okay – but the way you express those feelings is not always okay. Apologize for embarrassing your child (even if he says he wasn’t embarrassed – assume he was) and reinforce that this is an area you are working on improving. You will earn great respect in the your child’s eyes by “coming clean.”

There’s a lot to cheer for when it comes to athletics. Not only do our kids develop a sense of teamwork and stay in shape, they develop traits such as responsibility, accountability and resilience. Follow these tips to be your child’s biggest fan on and off the field.

About the Author

Amy McCready
Nationally recognized parenting expert Amy McCready is the Founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and the best selling author of The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic - A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World and If I Have to Tell You One More Time…The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids to Listen Without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling. As a “recovering yeller” and a Certified Positive Discipline Instructor, Amy is a champion of positive parenting techniques for happier families and well-behaved kids. Amy is a TODAY Show contributor and has been featured on CBS This Morning, CNN, Fox & Friends, MSNBC, Rachael Ray, Steve Harvey & others. In her most important role, she is the proud mom of two amazing young men.