Yesterday, two of my boys ran their little hearts out in the school cross country event. Their little legs kept pumping and they came 3rd and 4th respectively in their events. I was very proud of their achievements. But not so proud of my behaviour. Before I go on, let me back track a little. Thomas, to my shock and horror, has often expressed the notion that winning is everything. In a conversation we had I tried to espouse the sentiment that it didn't matter whether he won or lost, what was important was that he had fun. On hearing this, he piped up with, "Well, losing isn't fun". I was gobsmacked but couldn't really argue with that. In all honesty, I suppose it isn't fun. However, by the same token I can't let it be "all about winning".
The night before the race, the discussion came up again. I told him it didn't matter if he came first or last, I would still love him no matter what. He told me that if he went there and raced and didn't win it would be a big waste of time! Oh boy, how could he be so obsessed with winning? Sam and I don't put that sort of pressure on the boys! With Thomas, I guess it's just an innate desire to succeed. Pity he doesn't apply it to his school work as vigilantly :)
But back to the day of the race. I attempted to take a quick grab of video on my camera in order to show Sam what he had missed. On playing it back at home, besides the shonky camera work, I was mortified to hear myself shouting "Go Thomas! Keep running! You're coming 3rd!" and to Daniel similar exclamations. I tend to get carried away at all sporting events and get excited supporting my team/athlete. I was yelling out in encouragement, willing them on. I was happy that Thomas was going to earn himself a place and with it, a ribbon as I knew how much he wanted this. And of course, I wanted Daniel to do the same, although he just missed out.
Does my behaviour make me a bad sideline parent, just like the 'ugly parent' mentioned in the first paragraph of this post? Well, apparently it does. The cheering was okay, but the "keep running" is a no-no! According to the article "Why Sideline Screaming Can Stifle Your Child's Game" by Mike Woitalla (which I have seen reproduced on many sites), he explains that there is a difference between cheering/words of encouragement and giving instructions. "Keep running" is no doubt an instruction, as are other phrases like "kick the ball", "run", "spread out", "go the other way" that I and others may or may not have called out at soccer matches from time to time. As Woitalla explains, imagine if we as adults were trying to complete a really difficult task like assembling a piece of furniture with hieroglyphic instructions and someone (or a group) was standing there screaming at us. It certainly wouldn't help and could even be frustrating. He also points out that we don't stand there shouting out instructions as children attempt to colour in or do maths homework, so why do we insist on doing it on sporting fields? Woitalla clearly explains that children learn games like soccer by starting with a simple skill and building on it (as a teacher, I should know that!). By screaming instructions, we are not only invading their play time but also preventing them from learning the game, and we are stifling their instincts and creativity. Makes sense.
In my defence (and in defence of fellow parents that I have been in contact with), we also cheered on other runners in the race and at soccer, we applaud when the opposing team scores. We also don't berate our children if they make mistakes or don't win. These are obviously good traits and teach good sportsmanship, but they do not excuse the instructions that are also being called out.
So today at soccer, being conscious of all the above, I didn't call out any instructions. I just called out words of encouragement. It's really hard not to get carried away, but it's necessary if we are to raise children who can think for themselves, try their best and hopefully succeed (but not at all costs).
|Cartoon found here|
What sort of sideline parent are you?