Bullying at the Ballpark – Parents Can Be the Loudest Losers
Parents take the fun out of everything. Kids have been thinking that for years, and sometimes I agree. Take one afternoon and sit at a ballpark, soccer field, dance studio, or ice rink and you will likely hear the calls and cajoles of parents cheering for the kids. I use the word cheering lightly because usually there is a mix of groaning, snide remarks, and general displays of un-sportsmanship-like behaviors. And these are all coming from the parents. Not only do parents take the fun out of everything, but they are teaching their children how to bully, reject others, and pass judgment, all in an afternoon of children’s fun.
Parents Teaching Bullying and Bad Behaviors
He can’t do it!
She’ll never make it!
He’s too slow!
These are all comments heard thrown around by parents who mistakenly think calling out like this equates to cheering at their children’s games. Now close your eyes and imagine a group of kids in a crowded school hallway. Can you imagine them calling these same things out about their peers – does it sound like they are bullying them? The lessons taught at home extend far beyond bed-making and shoe-tying.
Research shows that children who bully are far more likely to come from homes where bullying tactics are used by parents as well. Yelling, aggression (both verbal and physical), and emotional knife-twisting are all strategies that bullying parents use to elicit the behaviors they want to see from their children or other children. Some of the prevailing characteristics of bullies are that they:
- Lack social graces
- Have difficulty problem solving
- Are aggressive
- Struggle in school
- Think negative thoughts and speak negatively
If you translate those traits to the parents at the ballpark, you can almost envision the relationships between parents and kids, and see how the parents’ actions reflect the lessons they are teaching their children.
Parents lack social grace when they mutter under their breaths, a little too loudly, about the poor coaching or bad pitching. They are aggressive in their verbal onslaughts and bring a negative cloud to the game with their taunts and critiques. I was recently at a youth baseball game where a mother yelled loudly for every play – and a good portion of the time she was yelling negatives about the opposing team. It wasn’t difficult to pick out which child in the dugout belonged with her – loud, calling out offensives, and making the rest of us wish we had ear plugs.
Are Parents to Blame for Bullying?
As parents we can’t always predict or control the behaviors of our children – they are becoming individuals who learn to make their own decisions, and sometimes fail at doing so. However, research does show that parents can play major factors that contribute to bullying.
- Lack of empathy by parents translates into a lack of empathy for and by children.
- Insufficient or ineffective social skills being taught can lead to bullying and being bullied.
- Non-participatory parents (those who don’t know up at the games) can have similar negative effects.
What Do Parents Need to Do?
Parents are critical ingredients in positive, healthy families. They also are the ones who steer the ship, either in negative, bullying, degrading directions or on positive, encouraging, and enthusiastic paths. There are several things parents can do – both at home and when cheering for their children that will help get that ship headed in the right direction.
- Show up and follow the rule: If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.
- Cheer for your home team without cutting down a player in order to do it.
- Cheer for the other team – if they make an awesome play – you can acknowledge that.
- Pay attention to your own child, whether he is in the dugout or on the field. If he is the one acting like a loser, don’t let him get away with it. You can speak to his coach or address it personally, but don’t let him think that type of behavior is acceptable (it can also be a real clue for you how he is acting in school).
Parents and coach – remember that it is just a game. Some children will never go beyond a single season, while others might pursue it as a life’s passion. But we don’t know those outcomes, yet, so in the meantime use the game to represent how you should treat others, and maybe your kids will learn a little something on the side.
ALONE AT THE PLATE
[Inside the front cover of the book, You Can
Teach Hitting, by Dusty Baker]
He pulls on a helmet, picks up the bat,
and walks to the plate, “gotta hit and that’s that.”
The crowd starts to yell, the game’s on the line,
last inning, two outs, the score’s nine to nine.
Dad yells, “Go get it,” Mom wrings her hands,
Coach hollers, “hit it,” but alone there he stands.
Heros are made in seconds such as this,
but he’s just a little boy, what if he should miss ??
Years after the game’s ended and he’s little no more,
will he remember the outcome or even the score ??
No he’ll have forgotten if he was out, hit or a run,
he’ll only look back on his friends and the fun.
So cheer this boy on, alone with his fate,
help him remember with fondness this stand at the plate.
Spend your time wisely and help in his quest
to be a hitter with confidence and always do his best.
And when the game’s over, this boy can stand tall,
for you’ve helped him prepare to give it his all!!
HE IS JUST A LITTLE BOY
He stands at the plate,
with his heart pounding fast.
The bases are loaded,
the die has been cast.
Mom and Dad cannot help him,
he stands all alone.
A hit at this moment,
would send the Team home.
The ball meets the plate,
he swings and he misses.
There’s a groan from the crowd,
with some boos and some hisses.
A thoughtless voice cries,
strike out the bum.
Tears fill his eyes,
the game’s no longer fun.
So open your heart,
and give him a break.
For it’s moments like this,
a man you can make.
Please keep this in mind,
when you hear someone forget.
He is just a little boy,
and not a man yet