Thursday, June 21, 2012

Why Are You Booing Your Children?

   Hey, you!  Why are you booing your children?  
This is what we want--a happy team getting some healthy exercise with friends.

   Yes, I'm talking to you, the parents of my 10 year old daughter's teammates in kiddie basketball and church league volleyball.  Now, most of the parents are very nice and support the children, and the programs are designed to promote sportsmanship and do a very good job of that.  The child players are really great.  But it seems that some of the parents are kind of weirded out by seeing their children play.

   Oh they don't literally yell, "Boo!  You stink!"  to their 10 year old.  However, some of them--especially Dads--seem compelled to yell more polite things that mean the same thing.  For instance....

    "Jane!  WHAT WAS THAT?"  (translation:  Your performance is unacceptable= you stink.)
    "Mary!  YOU DIDN'T CONCENTRATE!"  (Translation:  I would have made that play = you stink).

    "COME ON ALICE!  YOU GOTTA MAKE THOSE."  (Translation:  You have failed = you stink).

    Usually parents are supportive of other kids, thankfully, but with their own kids they show little mercy. The parents seem convinced that their kids can not function without their "gentle constructive" criticism. 

    Now Dads and Moms, I have some boos right back at you.  JUST WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING?  THINK ABOUT IT!  Growing up is hard enough without Daddy and Mommy making sarcastic and critical remarks for everyone else to hear. 
   These are not teenagers trying to get ready for a pro career, like the kids playing for Bobby Huggins in an effort to land a million dollar contract.  Little girls especially are very sensitive in their young teens, and they are all going through that awkward stage (they usually stay there until at least age 40, by the way).  And, Dad and Mom, you ain't no Bobby Huggins. 

"Oh no!  DId you see that?"

   I notice that the 10-14 year olds on my daughter's volleyball team become afraid to try to make plays when they are criticized.  They stand in one place, hoping that someone else will make a play and save them, rather than trying to make a play.  I suspect that they would rather be doing something else, but they play volleyball in order to try--unsuccessfully--to meet their parents' expectations.

   Dad and Mom, please believe that your daughter knows when she misses a shot.  She does not really benefit from your genius observations pointing out their failures.  And remember that the rest of the kids hear what you are shouting to your kid.  It's not a private conversation.   It ain't cool. 

   I probably did some  booing of my own as an inexperienced parent, but hopefully I have learned a little over the years.  I find that it's much better to use encouragement for young children.  

  "That's okay--you'll get the next one."
  "Good try!"
  "Good hustle!"

   If your child's Coach is on the ball, he or she will make a habit of coaching the NEXT play, and never the LAST one.  Little kids forget whether they are supposed to play defense or offense.  They don't really need you to point out that they missed a short or failed to get a rebound.  Instead, they need to be told to forget about the last play and concentrate on the next one.  

   Perhaps sports can be a training exercise for parenting.  It's an opportunity to show what is really important--not winning or losing or the proper form to shoot a layup--but that parents love their children and will support and encourage them, no matter what.  

   Yay kids!  Have some fun out there, eh?

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