Have you heard this parenting tip? Become the parent you’ve always wanted to be.
Good advice, but it stops short. If becoming a good parent was as easy as following that simple word of advice, then I would most certainly already be that parent that I always wanted to be.
It’s the becoming that hangs me up.
And when our kids are athletes, it adds a whole new wrinkle. In fact, I’d venture to say that when our kids plays sports, we as parents will probably undergo just as much character building on our road to becoming a good sports parent as our kids do on their road to becoming good athletes.
How can you work on becoming that good sports parent?
Support the whole team. Not just my kid. That means cheering for the team and going to the games even when my kid isn’t playing. That means knowing that sometimes what’s best for the team may not be what I want for my child.
Learn when to keep your mouth shut. Bite your tongue when you feel like ripping into the coach. Bite your tongue when you want to say something stupid and negative to your kid after a bad game like, “um, aren’t you afraid of losing your starting spot?” Bite your tongue when you want to tear down your child’s coach or teammates. I think it’s safe to say that biting your tongue is the single most important skill a sports parent can develop.
Avoid nagging and pushing; stick with help and encouragement. Sometimes the line between encouragement and nagging gets fuzzy. We think we are encouraging and gently guiding our athletes; they think we are nagging and pushing. And it looks different in every athlete and parent relationship. You know your kid. You know what pushes their buttons. Then stop. Take a step back, and instead of pushing, offer positive encouragement.
Don’t be the General sports parent. You know the type. Always stepping in to do battle for his kid. Defending his right to playing time and position choice. Wielding a protective sword against parents, kids or coaches who don’t treat his child as preciously as he does. You don’t have to wait until your athletes are in high school to let them fight their own battles. Send them to the battle field early in life, with lots of guidance to help them succeed. Teach them how to stand up for themselves, talk to their coach, and work through challenges. As they grow, their strength will begin to show. It’s a battle plan you will never regret.
Becoming a good sports parent is a tough journey. But in the end, you will be the sports parent your kid always wanted you to be and your kids will be better athletes for it.
Janis B. Meredith has been a sports mom for 20 years, and a coach’s wife for 28, and sees life from both sides of the bench. She writes a popular blog called JBM THINKS.