Welcome back to the Ten Rules series where we examine Lloyd Percival’s list of How to Establish Rapport with Your Athletic Child. In the first post, we looked at the background of Percival and his involvement in developing The Hockey Handbook. Now we look at each of his ten rules and how they may (or may not) pertain to you and your young hockey player.
Rule #9 Remember that children tend to exaggerate, both when praised and criticized.
Temper your reactions to the tales of woe or heroics they bring home. Don’t cut your youngster down if you feel they’re exaggerating—just take a look at the situation and try to be the voice of reason. Above all, don’t over-react and rush off to the coach if you feel an injustice has been done. Investigate, but anticipate that the problem is not as it might appear.
Children, like adults, are prone to immediate and visceral reactions when they’re involved in stressful activities. In spite of all of our efforts to make sports fun, there will be times when it causes anxiety for young players. As adults, we are supposed to have learned how to better cope with stress so we need to model balance and calm for our kids, to help them navigate the vicissitudes of youth, including competitive sport, and to prepare them for negotiating life as an adult. Since sports in general and, for Canadians, the hockey rink in particular, can be one of the most significant venues for experiencing stress and developing the skills to cope with it, it is essential that parents be a stabilizing force.
We need to help our young hockey players cope with extremely emotional situations. The last thing your sons and daughters needs is a parent who gets over-involved in the drama that all too often surrounds a team of young hockey players. Yelling from the stands during the game, whether at the players, coaches, referees, or other parents will not help your child learn how to cope with sports, or with life. Getting emotionally involved on the drive home or at the dinner table won’t help either.
Here are a few tips for handling emotional situations helpfully:
- Remember to keep your negative emotions in check during a hockey game and file away your observations for constructive conversations sometime later.
- Pay close attention to your young hockey players’ feelings when you talk to them after the game. Make sure to celebrate success with them and help them cope with failure but try not to get too caught up in the excitement of the moment.
- If a situation has arisen that’s really disturbing them, listen and try to ease their worries without discounting their feelings.
- Plan on continuing the discussion the next day. You’ll probably find that they’re more receptive to what you have to say and there’s a good chance that something monumentally important during and immediately after the game is no longer deemed important and doesn’t even need to be resolved. If there really is a serious issue that requires a meeting with the coach, both you, your child and the coach will be better equipped to deal with it rationally after a cooling-off period.
Minor hockey can be a wonderful tool for learning about life, success and failure, how to cope with injustice and disappointment and how to turn challenging situations into opportunities. Let’s help make the hockey arena a building block for adulthood.
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