Help for THAT ParentPosted: July 24, 2013
When I told a friend that I was going to write a post on how not to be THAT parent, he pointed out that THAT parent usually didn’t recognize themselves as such, so the people that really need the advice were not going to think they needed it. He has a point there. So I devised this little test based on behaviors that I have witnessed to help you identify yourself in case your family hasn’t yet staged an intervention. Just answer the following questions with a simple yes or no.
Have you ever . . .
- Had other people describe you as out of control or moved so they don’t have to sit near you?
- Been thrown out of a game?
- Had a shouting match or altercation with a parent from another team?
- Had a shouting match or altercation with someone from your own team?
- Yelled something or gestured at an opposing player?
- Gotten “the look” from your spouse?
- Gotten “the look” from your player?
- Yelled or signaled coaching instruction to your player from the sidelines (assuming you are not the coach)?
- Flipped off, gestured toward your crotch or sworn at a game official or team official?
- Did or said something that you were later ashamed or embarrassed about?
OK, time for scoring. Add up all your YES answers. Be honest.
1-2 yes: We will grant that everyone can lose it once or twice. You are mostly under control but could use some techniques to manage your game emotions.
3-5 yes: You are one incident away from some serious consequences, like an arrest. Or a divorce. Please continue reading for some techniques that might help.
6-10 yes: How many people have taken restraining orders against you? Don’t go to any more games until you get some therapy. I can’t help you.
Admitting you have a problem is the first step so congratulations on beginning your journey to become a better sports parent. Now, let’s move on to some ways to help you overcome your issues with some techniques to help you stay in control. First, let’s recognize that poor behavior is a pattern, and you’ve got to be willing to break that pattern. That means doing some things differently when you attend your next sporting event.
Avoid the mob mentality. It’s easy to get caught up in the hysterics of other people, especially when you are sitting in their midst. And maybe you are fine until the mom next to you starts hollering, and then the next thing you know, you’re hollering too. To avoid this, find a different place to sit, further from the madding crowd. Take your lawn chair and move down the line so you are not right in the thick of the home plate whining. Find a seat in the stands that’s away from the hometown crowd. It’s a lot harder to get whipped into a bad behavior frenzy when you are by yourself or with a couple other reasonable people.
Try watching as disinterested observer, like you just walked in off the street and decided to take in a game. Repeat to yourself “I am not emotionally invested in this game. I am not emotionally invested in this game.” as often and as many times as necessary. Trust me, this works– it has helped me survive 30 years as a Detroit Lions fan.
Distract yourself with short breaks
When there is a lull in the action, flip through a book or some of those boring trade journal articles, scan email on your smart phone or count the cute moms or dads. These mini distractions help break the intense focus on the game that causes you to get crazy out of control. This also a good technique for sports like hockey or baseball, when your kid isn’t involved in every play. Have a friend nudge you when your kid comes to bat, or it’s his shift on the ice. This is one of the best parts of buzzer hockey. The only best part.
Refocus your attention
Find a job, like keeping score or tracking shots. You see the game with an analytical, detached view but it also requires you to pay attention and stay engaged. It’s sort of a transference thing. You’ll be forced to focus on the nuts and bolts of the game and that keeps you from getting emotionally invested. (see above on disengaging)
Take a walk
Sometimes even the most controlled parent can get heated about what’s going on (or not going on) in the play. Then it’s time to take a walk and practice some deep breathing.
The sights and sounds of a sports event combine for an arcade level of stimulation that can cause you to get stressed out faster. Try just watching the game while listening to a podcast, book or music on your iPod. It will reduce the sensory overload that gets you all hyped up.
Look for good
Keep track of the good things that happen in the game. It will change your focus and give you something positive to talk about later, like “Wow, your team made 10 great passes today” instead of “Wow, Melissa had 2 giveaways right in front of the goal.” Makes for a much nicer car ride home.
Lay off the sauce
If you have visited the tailgate before the game and had a beer or two, you are much more likely to use bad judgement and lose control. Plus you are violating the 20 parent code of conducts you signed at the beginning of the season.
Those are my suggestions on how to avoid being THAT parent. Feel free to print and send anonymously to the worst offenders on your team. And please add the ways you keep it in check into the comments. I’d love to read how other people do it.