Many parents – especially fathers – enjoy coaching their kids’ sports teams and leading childrens’ scout trooops. It is a great way to get to know your child in a social environment, and to actively involve yourself in your child’s life outside the home. Sports and other extracurricular activities are vehicles by which your child learns how to interact with other people and how to observe the fairness of games and activities. They learn valuable childhood lessons during these activities, and who could blame you for wanting to be a part of it?
Some children are excited about the prospect of having Mommy or Daddy involved in their activities, and others fight against it as though it were the worst thing in the world. I was a member of the latter group of kids because I wanted to express my independence and learn how to handle myself without the watchful eyes of my parents. I’m sure I hurt their feelings in my adamency on the issue, but they respected my feelings once I reached a certain age.
If you are thinking about coaching or leading an activity, it’s important to talk with your kids and determine their feelings. Find out how they react to the prospect if your involvement, and ask why they feel the way that they do. Your decision on the issue is entirely up to you, but it is still a good idea to ask your children what they think.
But not matter how they feel, there are a few guidelines that you should follow when coaching and leading activities. These guidelines will help create a better relationship between you and your child, and prevent any problems from arising in the future.
1. Treat your child exactly the way you treat the other children.
As an authority figure, it is your job not to play favorites, which includes your child. If you favor your child above the others, you will create tension in the team or group, and the other players will become hostile toward your child for getting the advantage. It isn’t that you should pretend that you aren’t a parent, but choose teams fairly and give everyone an equal opportunity in the activity.
2. Make time for the activity.
There is nothing worse for a child than to have their parent fail their team. If you commit to coaching or leading, ensure that you can meet every obligation and that you have time in your busy schedule to stay active with the group. If you think that you might have conflicts with time, then wait for another opportunity.
3. Enjoy the activity.
If you want to coach your son’s basketball team, but you hate the sport, then you probably won’t be very good at it, and you will make your son miserable. Coaching a sport just to have time with your child isn’t the right way to go. If you want to help with an activity or sport, make sure that it’s something that you enjoy and that you are knowledgable about.
4. Don’t tell lots of stories.
If you spend half of practice regailing the group with stories from your childhood and how you played the sport, then your child will be embarassed. Keep it completely focused on the kids during the activity, and save your stories for the home. It will make for a better relationship with your child and a higher team morale.
5. Be prepared to deal with other parents.
Even if you coach or lead fairly, be prepared for angry phone calls accusing you of playing favorites. Unfortunately, parents are often more passionate about kids’ activities than the children, and you should be cognizant of what you are getting yourself into. Keep your cool and handle every situation calmly.
6. Cultivate the talent of every child.
Your job as a coach or leader is to assist everyone with their talents and to encourage everyone to work and play better. It is not your job to be your child’s personal cheerleader, or to spend more time cultivating their talents than those of the other kids. Talk with your child about this, and make sure that he or she is comfortable with the scenario.
7. Never take practice home.
If you have a bad practice, or if things went poorly at the scout meeting, leave it on the field or in the community center. You can’t punish your child for the problems with activities, and you shouldn’t make them feel like home isn’t an escape. Home should be a place where your child feels safe and welcome, not a continuation of soccer practice.