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When Your Kid Is the One Misbehaving

02/10/2016, 3:00pm MST
By USA Hockey

We’ve all been there before.

For all the players who pay attention and behave accordingly on the ice, there are times when a player decides to act otherwise.

Sure, the coach is expected to take care of the situation on the ice.

However, what if that’s your kid on the ice – the one misbehaving? What are you supposed to do?

Let the Coach Coach

According to David Jacobson of Positive Coaching Alliance, you should let the matter play out on the ice.

“The parents should let the coach coach,” said Jacobson, senior marketing, communications and content manager for PCA. “The parent should not intervene in the moment, unless there are some physical safety issues involved. Just that kind of disruptive, not listening to the coach, maybe nudging the players around him in a huddle or something like that – that’s for the coach to deal with.

“One of the beauties of organized youth sports is that parents have a partner in coaches to help socialize kids, and get them to understand how to function with teammates and in groups. In the same way a parent would give control to a teacher in a classroom to correct the child’s behavior, they should give control to the coach to correct the child’s behavior if the child is disrupting practice.”

It Takes a Village

Jacobson emphasizes to parents that it’s important for young athletes to have a variety of adults to learn from as they progress through childhood.

“It benefits a youth athlete to learn from a variety of sources – it benefits any person to learn from a variety of sources,” Jacobson said. “Just to hear different voices, and especially when a number of those voices tell you the same thing about what it means to grow up and act right and be a productive and contributing member to a group effort – the old cliché of ‘it takes a village’ is really true in this sense that kids often don’t take every word of their parents to heart, or don’t want to act on it. It’s just a natural part of conflict resistance from a kid who is coming into his own and trying to feel out boundaries.

“If you have a coach who is sending some of the same messages as a parent, it’s more likely to get through to the kid. The kid is more likely to join that normative behavior of acting right, acting as to what society expects of people as they function in groups.”

What About After Hockey?

So you let the coach do his or her job on the ice – what now? What do you do when the practice or game is over?

“It’s a real touch-and-go situation as to whether the parent should raise this in the car,” Jacobson said. “Sometimes there can be some residual emotions after the child has been disciplined by the coach, and sometimes it’s better to let things to cool off a little bit.”

Jacobson understands it can be difficult for parents to hold off.

“The parent will be tempted to try to correct right away,” he said. “Presumably, the parent is embarrassed to a certain extent, and frustrated because the child exhibited that same behavior at home or in school – that’s a sort of thing that can be recurring. I think step one is to carefully pick your spot as to when you process that situation with your child. Once you have settled on the right kind of temperament and environment on where to have that discussion, there are a lot of factors that I just explained, in terms of is the kid acting up in school, is this going on at home, etc., if it’s a one-time thing that a parent wants to reinforce the coach’s message lightly, that’s one possibility, but if it’s been persistent and the parent needs to provide a different message, that’s another thing.”

Echo the coach’s message, and together you can correct the behavior.

“The thing to do is for the parent to specifically reference some of the things that the coach said, along the lines of, ‘You see Johnny, this is some of what Mom and I have been telling you about proper behavior, and your coach thinks it too. Your teammates may not be saying anything, but your teammates may be thinking it too. See how you are interfering with everybody’s fun and ability to learn the sport, and sooner or later that reflects in your team’s performance. Johnny, you don’t want to be that guy who is keeping your team from succeeding and keeping your teammates from enjoying hockey as much as they can.’”

Beware of Becoming a ‘Helicopter Parent’

Jacobson also wants parents to keep from becoming the so-called ‘helicopter parents’ – especially in these situations.

“In the context of sports or of just watching a practice, I would say to parents – keep your eye on the big picture,” Jacobson said. “The big picture is not that your kid disrupted practice. The big picture is that you’re trying to raise your child to be a productive, contributing member of our society. The coach should want the same thing, and can contribute to your efforts.”

The key to remember is that you don’t need to be involved in every moment of your child’s life. You shouldn’t be.

“In our society, there is the so-called helicopter parent syndrome, where the parent feels the need to be involved in just about every moment of their child’s life, and that’s ultimately counter-productive to the child’s ability to grow,” Jacobson added. “So the bottom-line advice is to have the parents let go in that practice environment, when it really is the coach’s ground rules that have to take effect. Just back off, let the coach do his or her job, and be thankful that you’ve got another helpful adult in your lives."

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