Parents’ behavior affects the game and the child.
The day after my 12 and 13 year old sons finished their first basketball season, I began a devotional called Growing Kids with Character. Yes, I need all the spiritual help I can get these days! One of the first statements I read said, “we need shaping as parents just as much as our children need it.” What an eye opener! That one statement put into words the feeling I had several times while cheering for my boys during their game. Here’s where I’m going with this: parents, we don’t get a pass as to when and where we emulate principles and values to our children. For some reason, competitive sports can bring out the worst in adults!
Throughout our entire season, sitting in the stands among the other parents was mostly pleasant. We were all there with a common goal, to support our kids while they learn the fundamentals of the team sport. The league we are part of is exceptional in their teaching and the atmosphere they create for the kids, year over year. The closer we got to the end of the season, the harder it became to be a silent, but loud, supporter in the stands. Why? Because who can sit there and listen to grown folks complain, very loudly to each other about other children not being “good,” yell at refs and coaches, and throw what amounts to toddler fits when their kid sits out a 6 minute quarter so that each child has an opportunity to play!
Is this sportsmanship?
I get it. Being passionate about what our kids love, being their loudest cheerleader and their biggest supporter. Yet, we fail our children over and over again as parents when we fall into these behaviors and believe them to be ok. What are we teaching them in these defining moments? It’s up to us to raise children with character. That means, teaching them how to be a team player, how to accept a bad call, and how to move through the feelings of defeat and disappointment. Your child might be the best player on the team or he may not. The point is, we get to teach them how they should treat others in this world through our own behaviors. If you’re that parent, next time you yell at the coach or the ref from the stands, think if you witnessed your child do that to one of his peers. Would that look like kindness, love, or support? Would that look like passion, purpose, or valuable character?
The more pleasant side is there are parents who correct lovingly from the stands and encourage loudly without making other children feel defeated and even cheer for the whole team! What children learn in their chosen sport is not just how to be a better player physically. They also learn how to just be good people. They learn how to accept and grow from winning and losing, how to be a supporter of others even when you feel like you didn’t do your own personal best. These things get lost when the stands reduce themselves beyond the age group on the court.
Can we do better? Of course we can! It starts with parents realizing their actions not only affect the game, but, more importantly, the stand actions, affect the child.