You know the drill. Wake up the kids. Get them some breakfast. Tell them to brush their teeth. Throw water bottles in their bags. Tell them you’re leaving soon. Remind them again. Finally get in the car, drive off but only get 500m down the road before a cry comes from the back seat: “I forgot something!”
Just getting kids to their sporting commitments can be stressful, but it’s crucial to keep a level head both before, during and after the big match.
“For kids, sport is a structured form of play and it’s important to remember that,” Mr John Gardiner, an expert in child psychology from Murdoch University, told The New Daily.
“It is a bit of a look into society and life for them, with rules enforced by referees and coaches, and parents should always keep in mind that the reason most kids play sport is to have fun with their friends.”
So, to ensure sport remains fun for your child, here are five steps you can follow.
1) Don’t coach your child through a match
It can be hard to stay quiet through a game, particularly if you notice something you think is worth passing on to your child.
But, Mr Gardiner said, it is important to let your child make mistakes – and often they’ll solve the problem themselves.
“Kids are like sponges and pick up things easily, so if you’re over-competitive, they’ll notice,” he said.
“You don’t want your child to be playing sport because they don’t want to disappoint you.”
2) Don’t criticise the coach – even if it’s not at the game
Doing this puts your child in a difficult position, Mr Gardiner said.
“Criticising the coach rather than offering to help is a danger,” he said.
“There’s a triangle between coach, child and parent and sometimes the kids don’t know who to follow.
“If there’s an issue, approach the coach – but outside game time so your child isn’t directly involved – and don’t be afraid to offer your help.”
3) Don’t try and be an umpire
“Fans might think it is fair game to go to the AFL and yell at the umpire but it’s simply not appropriate at kids sport,” Mr Gardiner said.
“Kids need to be encouraged to accept rules and having parents questioning their decisions doesn’t help.”
4) Don’t pace up and down the sidelines
Yes, it can be tempting – but don’t. If you can’t resist the temptation there is a solution.
“Some parents find it very difficult to watch their kids play sport. For them, it’s a stressful experience,” Mr Gardiner said.
“For these parents, it can be a good idea to be the timer, scorekeeper, or even assistant coach, because you are still involved but need to be objective.
“If you’re looking after the score, for instance, you can’t be questioning the umpire or yelling, and if you’re helping with the coaching, you’re probably too busy getting water, organising substitutions or talking to players.”
5) Don’t live through your kids
If your bid to turn professional never worked out, you shouldn’t force it onto your kids.
Mr Gardiner said that if parents are super-serious about sport and future ambitions, it can destroy children.
“Parents often see their kid play – and they can also ‘see’ what they might be like in the future – but kids don’t have that forward thinking,” he said.
“Kids under pressure from their parents might think they won’t be loved as much if they stop playing, or their parents won’t be proud of them if they don’t meet their standards.”