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Sideline parenting

Schoolgirl: “I love netball but I don’t want to play any more because mummy keeps shouting at me when I’m playing so I don’t think I’m very good.”

Schoolboy: “I was at a football match and there was a spectator and one of my friends did something wrong and the spectator actually sweared at him and yeah it was really uncomfortable.”

Schoolgirl: “Once I was at a swimming competition and one of the parents got angry at the child for not winning the race and I don’t think it’s very fair because they tried their hardest.”

Girl: “I don’t like it when people get yelled at or when I get yelled at.”

Boy: “It’s pretty embarrassing w hen someone is shouting at you halfway through the game.”

Girl: “It makes me feel like I’m useless and I can’t do anything.”

These are just some of the quotes by children around the world who have suffered from sideline parenting.

Children’s sports –  there’s something about it that brings out an aggressive side of parental behavior that most parents would never even dream of displaying off the sports field.

Our behavior on the sidelines of our children’s sporting activities is incredibly important. And yet, what we often display is neither beneficial to your child nor supportive – but can verge on the side of being downright rude.

Children choose a sport because they enjoy it, or their friends are playing. They aren’t elite athletes. They are simply children taking part in sports because they enjoy it. So, our behaviour is instrumental in their continued enjoyment of that sport.

I have attended many sports games and have witnessed some pretty ugly behavior. Not only does it send a negative message to everyone in the team, it embarrasses your child and would likely lead to them giving up/ no longer wanting to be part of it.

I’ve watched my son’s rugby team and heard fathers from the opposing team shouting out the words “Kill them!”

Likewise, I’m embarrassed to say the parents on our own team were not much better yelling out – not encouragement but negative messages:

“Oh for god’s sake” and “C’mon, what on earth are you doing, wake up!” are likely going to churn up a child inside and cause them to retreat into themselves and get upset –they are not likely to help them perform better.

There was one rugby game where I’m sorry to say that practically every child in the team was in tears at the end. There was another one where there was a full on punch-up between parents and coaches from both teams. And this is in Remuera unbelievably!

I have witnessed a mum saying loudly that her daughter was not going to be getting any treats for the rest of the day as she performed badly. I witnessed a case of score cheating at netball with one team. And I was told of another parent saying that she was going to make her child do 100 push-ups that day as they had been useless at gymnastics.

Not great parenting, huh?

So, with that in mind, here’s some stuff to ponder:

1         Respect the coaches and umpires – these are generally volunteers or other parents/ older students. They have given up their time to coach your child and don’t deserve to be yelled at.

2        Remember your child is watching. Don’t use the parking lot to ‘have a go’ at referees/ parents from the opposing team or coaches. This can often get out of hand and remember your child is watching.

3     Think before you scream! Support your child in a positive way. Don’t put down the other team and, if you must call out, make it encouragement and congratulations about a pass well made – keep your mouth firmly shut on the negative stuff. If you really struggle then take a vow of silence.

4        Respect the other team.  The other team is not the enemy. They want to win as well. Respect that.

5         Support the whole team – not just your own.

6    It’s not just about goals. – Not everyone can score goals and sometimes it’s out of their control – focus on what they are good at – a pass done well, something new that they must have learnt at practice. When you ask them questions like ‘did you score any goals’ you are acting like they needed to have scored goals to be any good.

7. Be your child’s
biggest fan – Actas your child’s cheering squad. When you stand on the sidelines, your child should read encouragement and love in your face. Remember. You are there to enjoy the experience with your child.

8. Don’t be ‘that’ parent…if the rest of the parents tend to stand away from you on the sidelines…ask yourself why. Maybe your behaviour is spoiling the enjoyment for everyone…

#sidelineparenting #parentingfromthesideline #aggressiveparents #supportthereferee #childrensports #theAMshow #duncangarner #amandagillies #markrichardson

Written by

Jacqui Lockington is a working mum. Jacqui works full-time for an advertising agency in New Zealand and juggles life at work with being mum to two young children, Jack and Sasha. Jacqui is married to John and has published her first book with co-author, Nat - If Only They'd Told Me. She does public speaking and regularly blogs and records podcasts. Jacqui trained in journalism in London and worked in radio, newspapers, public relations and advertising before moving to New Zealand where she currently lives with her family. You can contact Jacqui at