One of the biggest things you have going for you as a sports parent is to realize that in every situation, you have a choice.
You can choose to yell at your child, the coach, or the official, or you can choose to stay calm and not take it all so seriously.
You can choose to nag your child to work hard, or you can choose to let him learn the consequences of his choices.
Recognizing that you have a choice and actually following through on that choice process are two different things. But once you understand that making a choice is a process and you grasp what that process entails, you can take control of your reactions. I love the choice process laid out in the book Change Your Questions; Change Your Life where the author lays out a four-step process: A, B, C, and D.
A - Aware.
Learning to make good choices in behavior starts with an awareness that you actually have a choice and an awareness that maybe, just maybe your behavior is less than desirable.
How many times have you said something and immediately knew that it was not the smartest thing to say?
That’s awareness, and that’s the first step in the process of making good choices.
B - Breathe.
Once you become aware that you are starting to over-react, then ask yourself this question: Do I need to step back, pause and gain perspective?
Obviously, this is not easy in the heat of a moment, but the more you practice it, the more of a habit it will become. Sports parents are notorious for emotional outbursts, which would be avoided if they’d stop to breathe and pause before proceeding.
C - Curiosity.
Once you step back and try to gain perspective, it’s time to ask yourself these questions: What’s really going on in this situation? Am I perhaps missing something?
Asking yourself these questions may require you to do some soul-searching and some seeking to understand others.
For instance, you sit through a game where you feel your child gets little playing time and it makes you very upset. You feel your blood pressure rising and are aware that you might explode at the coach after the game. You stop to breathe and pause before proceeding and take a minute to ask yourself what’s really going on. Is your child frustrated or is it just you? Is this a situation that your child should handle by talking to the coach themselves? Does your child fully understand their role on the team? Do you?
D - Decide.
At this point, you can decide what the best course of action is. Choose the action that will be best for your child, not for your frustrations. Choose the action that will best help your child to grow through the situation, not what eases your anger. Decide to take a big-picture view of your child’s youth sports experience, in hopes that they will truly learn and grow from it.
If you start practicing this choice process, there’s no doubt that you’ll have fewer regrets and more fun watching your child play youth sports.
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