By Paula Redmann

We’ve all been there. You’re happily attending your child’s sporting event. You’re thinking you are—once again—the WGM (World’s Greatest Mom) because you got your child to the event on time, with the right shirt, the right equipment, two matching shoes, a snack, a change of clothes, a coupon for a treat afterward, AND (double bonus) other relatives in the stands. Yes!

The event begins. There is applause and encouragement spilling forth from the stands. This is America. Life is good. Smiles abound. And then, you hear it: that one ugly comment from another parent.  A derogatory remark. You’re not sure who the target of the remark was. Was it meant for the official? The coach? Oh, no. NOT a child. Not your child. Not anyone’s child. You feel a group cringe and a bit of a turn in your stomach. And you do your best to clap louder, so that the target of the remark is not hit again.

Don’t Be “That” Parent

What can you do to make sure you are not that parent in the crowd, to show your support for your child—in whatever activity—in a positive and encouraging way?

The list of recreational opportunities for kids in Bismarck-Mandan is very long and very diversified.

What does your child like to do? Is it cheerleading, dance, football, or basketball? Cross country or lacrosse? Flag football or swimming? Volleyball, archery, hockey, or track? Perhaps it’s fencing, swimming, figure skating, or tennis? Baseball or softball?

No matter what your child’s recreational interest is, as a parent, you’re involved. You’re in it, all the way from the point of registration and fees, to transportation and fundraising, and then to the competition. From the get go, parents should know their role in the big picture. You’re not the coach. You’re not the official. You’re not your kid. You’re the parent. Your role is support staff, actually, to be there and be positive, with a capital P.

Keep Perspective

Randy Bina, Bismarck Parks and Recreation District’s Executive Director, says parents should keep in mind that recreational activities provide valuable life skills for their child, like listening to the coach, supporting your teammates, respecting the officials, and being a good sport.

“Parents should keep it all in perspective, and keep it all positive,” says Bina.

The scoreboard might show a loss, but did your child learn something new?  Perform a difficult skill? Take their turn? When a parent focuses on outcomes and lessons beyond the score, the parent is instilling and modeling behaviors that go far beyond the game outcome. Positive and supportive parents focus on learning skills, playing the game and having fun, not on a “win or nothing” mindset.

Sports media would like us all to believe that sports are larger than life. What gets lost in translation is the fact that it IS just a game. Doing your best and coming in last is still worth celebrating. It’s interesting to note that even if a game is lost, the sun still comes up the next day.

Bottom Line: Keep it Fun

“We should all want our kids to be busy, to try a variety of activities, and perhaps most importantly, to have fun,” says Kevin Klipfel, Bismarck Parks and Recreation District’s Facilities and Programs Director. “Recreational activities provide all those things.”

According to the National Recreation and Park Association, the more your child is having fun, the more relaxed he or she will be, and the more they’ll look forward to the activity. No fun means your child could burn out and even drop out of that activity.

Did you listen to some of the post-event athlete interviews at the recent Olympics in Rio? More than one elite athlete, who possibly trained for four years for their sport, said, “Well, that was FUN!”  What’s the biggest motivation for kids to participate in activities? So they can have fun.

What role will you choose? Will you be the parent who yells at the official? Yells at the coach? Yells at other parents? Belittles your child’s teammates?

How about choosing a different path? Why not instill confidence, leave the coaching to the coach and the enforcement of rules to the officials, make your child feel good, learn from losses, and let your kid be a kid? Why not facilitate some happiness in the bleachers?

It’s really ok to be passionate and competitive, but it’s even more ok to be supportive, positive and understanding. At the end of the day, are you trying to raise an athlete, or are you trying to raise a good human with a good heart?

Paula Redmann

Paula Redmann

Paula Redmann is the Community Relations Manager for Bismarck Parks and Recreation District. She likes to run, walk, play, sing, putter in her yard, laugh with family and friends, and count her blessings. She married her high school sweetheart, Tom. They have two grown sons, Alex and Max.