There’s always a worst kid on the team – any team. But what do you do if that kid belongs to you? You hate to see them subjected to ridicule. And let’s admit it, our pride is affected too. We know it shouldn’t, but it’s hard to make that separation. (That’s why we also beam when they shine.)
Well, if your primary interest is the long-term best interest of your child, here’s my advice.
THINGS NOT TO DO
Don’t Quit – It’s hard to see your child ridiculed by their peers. Although coaches generally do a great job of squashing overtly mean comments and tactics, no one can protect your observant child from the disdainful eye roll of a teammate. Kids are smart. They know exactly what that communicates.
That said, despite the risk, there is much benefit to gain through perseverance. You can lecture your child on the importance of keeping his commitments when it’s difficult, but there’s nothing like the lab of life for practice. You want him to exercise that muscle so it’s developed when he’s a man and the stakes are much higher.
And besides, continuing to practice may produce improvement in his skills. There’s a lesson there, too.
So even though your child may want to walk away, don’t allow it. Or that’s likely to be the start of a lifelong habit of bailing out when the going gets tough.
Don’t Blame The Coach – We parents need to face facts. Not every child is the next Alex Rodriguez. Click To Tweet We parents need to face facts. Not every child is the next Alex Rodriguez. Your kid may be completely lacking in talent. And there’s only so much a volunteer coach can do to draw out and develop skill. It’s not the coach’s fault.
If you want your child to respect authority, you must set the example. It’s counter-productive for you to run down the coach’s judgment or ability. Because as your child grows into a teenager, they may have learned to be a perpetual victim of other’s judgments and abilities. Including yours.
Don’t Disparage Top Performing Kids – Belittling kids who do well only belittles you. And your kid knows they’re good – stats don’t lie. So set an example of good sportsmanship. Cheer for the successes of others and your child will learn to be part of something bigger than himself.
NOW, WHAT TO DO
Encourage your child to keep doing his best even if he knows he’s the worst kid on the team. However, when he understands he won’t be allowed to quit, he might just quit making an effort. Explain to him the concept of integrity and that you’ll be proud to see that quality in him – no matter his stats. Celebrate his genuine effort and call him out on obvious slacking.
HANDLING OTHER PARENTS
Kids don’t have a monopoly on meanness. There are uber-competitive parents not shy about letting folks know their kid is dragging the team down. What do you say if approached with such a comment? I’d go with something along these lines (said with a smile and all sincerity):
“I’m obviously not raising a professional athlete, but I am raising a young man/woman of character and integrity. And he/she’s learning foundational lessons right here on this team. Tell me, where does your [insert name] practice those skills? It’d be nice to know of another avenue.”
In this way, you acknowledge your kid’s limitations with clear perspective, let them know their priorities are not your priorities, and – um, how to put this? – shut them up with a question they’re not likely able to answer.
It’s not important if your kid is the worst kid on the team – as long as he’s got a parent willing to walk the hard road with him to ensure he’s the best man on the team.