How do I “temper” my over involvement?

I had an interesting conversation with a top South African Equestrian rider on our flight back from Cape Town a few weeks ago. He has had years of experience in coaching, training horses and competing at the top level himself. Our conversation turned to parenting and he made the comment that the ONLY common denominator that he has experienced in all his years with children is that well raised and functioning children have had parents that have been involved in their children’s lives and sport.

Being involved in your child’s sport is a must, but you should (re)consider the manner of your involvement. In this article we are going to look specifically at your behaviour while being involved in your child’s life. Let’s take a look at your behaviour as a sporting parent.

We tend to behave as a result of either our values or our emotions. Often, parents who are considered to be over-involved are the ones who react based on their emotions. This can be seen in parents shouting obscenities at the referee or umpire (frustration), getting involved in fighting (anger), or being overly critical of their child’s performance (disappointed). The problem with this is that emotions can change all-day every-day. If we engage in emotion-driven behaviour, our behaviour changes as often as our emotions or mood changes. This is no way to raise a child! We need something else to drive our behaviours, something that is more constant and predictable. This brings us to values.

When you get home, tired and frustrated after a long day at work, you are greeted by your child holding a ball and immediately he/she wants to play. Reacting to your emotional state of frustration, you say that you will play later, sending them away to play elsewhere while you kick off your shoes and take a seat in front of the TV. This behaviour is a direct result of your emotional state of frustration and your physical sensation of tiredness. If you were to tell them you will meet them outside, go get changed and spend the next 40 minutes playing with them you have behaved as a direct result of your values, being that of an engaging and involved father or mother, despite any emotional state you might be experiencing.

If you are watching your child play a match and the referee is making some questionable decisions, you will understandably get frustrated or even angry. If you shout obscenities at the referee from the sideline in an attempt to make them realise they are making mistakes, you have behaved as a direct result of your emotional state of frustration or anger. If you raise your concerns with the relevant person(s) at a more appropriate time such as in a break, between plays or after the game, and in a respectable and more private manner then you have behaved as a direct result of your values of being a composed yet concerned parent, despite your emotional state.

Imagine your surprise when your child informs you they want to try out a new sport and stop participating in one of their current sports. If your behaviour is informed by your parental values of being a supportive and understanding parent you will have a conversation with them regarding their choice and help them consider all they need to make an informed choice. If you behave based on you possible disappointment with their request you might reject their request and not allow them to explore the option of participating in another sport.

Positive values that you can live by as a parent might include, but is by no means limited to, the following:

  • Be an encouraging father
  • Be a composed parent (especially for those parents fighting the emotion-driven behaviour next to the sports field)
  • Be an engaging mother
  • Be a parent that values discovery and exploration (age relevant activities obviously, just before I get misunderstood!)
  • Be a supportive father
  • Be an understanding mother

It is vital that you engage in behaviours that are informed by parental values; values that keep you involved in their lives and also give them enough freedom and responsibility to grow and learn. Happy value-driven living!

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