Good behavior is just as important at sporting events as it is any other time. Being kind and considerate of others’ feelings makes the experience of attending a game a positive one for all involved. (Plus, when we make our players feel good about what they are doing, they are much more likely to perform well — and maybe even win — than if we make them feel bad.)
Having a strong repertoire of the language we expect and desire from our children empowers them to do the right thing. Here are some suggestions for positive things we can all say at sporting events. (A positive tone of voice is important — each of these can be turned into a negative by a negative tone of voice; so, modeling includes positive voice tone.)
- “Good hit!” “Great kick!” “Way to go!” “Good game!” “Well done!”
- “Good effort!” “Nice try!” “Getting better!” “That’s OK!”
- “Ooo that was close!” “Almost!” “We’ll get ’em next time!”
- “Dig deep!” “Don’t give up!” “Go, ___!” “You can do it!”
We can turn sporting events on TV into character development opportunities. Before watching a game on TV, discuss positive cheers and take turns with your children naming positive things to say during a game.
Keep score, mark each time your child makes a positive cheer, and reinforce them with “great, cheer!” or “way to be positive!” If your child slips up and says something negative, say, “Oops! How could you turn that around into a supportive cheer?” And then give your child a high-five and a “good job for turning that around!”
At the end of the game, tell them how proud you are, “look at ALL the positive things you came up with to say.” To further reinforce the positive aspects, ask: “How did it make you feel? Did it feel different when you accidentally said something that wasn’t positive?”
Have a conversation with your child about behavior at sporting events. Ask what behavior they enjoy being around and what they don’t. Ask how the various behaviors they describe make them feel — and how they might make others feel. Ask what the consequences might be if everyone behaved well (or poorly) at sporting events. Talk about how proud it makes you feel to see them behaving kindly. Ask them how it makes them feel when they behave kindly to others. Ask them if they think their teammates can perform at their best if the people around them are yelling negative things at them.
A Note on “Blaming the Ref”
It is easy to blame the ref when things don’t go well for our team, but the ref’s job is important and is probably the most difficult one of the game. Who, really, can keep their eye on EVERYTHING that is going on from ALL ANGLES at one time? No one. They try to be fair. We need to keep that in mind and explain that to our children as well.
Be patient, and be as consistent as possible. The rewards in good behavior are well worth the effort.