By Paul Peavy, MS, LMHC
I have great news. I have discovered what a parent’s job is at an athletic event. It is…wait for it…TO BE A PARENT!
Yep. Your child already has a coach—or three or four. Your child already has pressure to perform so it is not to be a pressure adder. Your child may already be confused as to what to do so it is not your job to be a confusion adder. There are officials who actually have the authority to make the final decision, so it is not your job to be the bleacher referee. There will already be official referee jeerers, so it is not your job to promote yourself to Head Referee Jeerer.
If you are tempted to give your child advice, you might want to run it by the coach first. Because you might say to the coach, “Well if my kid leads with his hips won’t his follow through be more pure?” The coach can answer in a couple of ways, “Great idea! Will you tell him that at lunch and I’ll follow through when we warm up.” Or he might say, “Actually, research now shows that leading with the shoulders causes more force as the hips follow, so I’ve been trying to get junior to slow his hips down.” Either way it’s better than you telling Junior to lead with his hips while his coach tells him to slow his hips down leading to paralysis of the hip by contradicting analysis.
The best way to deal with a kid is to open it up to let your kid tell you about it, “How’d that feel?” “What was going through your head as you started?” “Well, that was interesting,” is a safe statement that might get your child to open up.
Also constantly nagging your child to hydrate, be on time, have his or her equipment leads to either dependency or rebellion on the child’s part. “I don’t have to have to remember anything, Mom will have it,” or “I will show him I can go all day without drinking my Gatorade, he thinks he knows everything.”
Okay, I started to start this blog with something like “It’s as simple as…being a parent.” That of course is the most complicated thing in the world. It is like walking through a minefield. But I trust you have figured out what works in avoiding the minefield in encouraging your child when he or she is not at a sporting event so I assume you know those mines are probably more potent when you add the pressure of an athletic event.
Here’s what I do know is simple advice. There is no need to add pressure. Your child feels it on his or her own. There is no need to yell at your child, an official, or a coach. This is the absolute surest way to make your child not perform his or her best. Be a positive reinforcer, be a sympathetic ear, be an arm around your kid’s shoulder. Be the kind of parent you wish you had had when you were a kid playing a kid’s game.
Paul Peavy is a Licensed Psychotherapist who has found a unique and energetic way to help people. As a former stand-up comic he knows one way to get people unstuck is to get them to lighten up, laugh, and live! Paul competes in Ironman triathlons with his wife. www.paulpeavy.com