It is OK to get upset. The emotions a young athlete feels are natural and genuine. However, the steps and actions beyond their feelings about how to deal with them make the difference. Pouting and crying solves nothing and can lead to poor sportsmanship and make things worse. They need to know they cannot play perfectly 100%, and situations and calls will not always go their way. When things go wrong, you have to figure out how to make them right. Here are some ways to deal with the pouting athlete and develop maturity through sports.
Understand How To Play
Kids pout when they get angry, don’t get their way, or situations do not go their way. For example, in baseball, if your child strikes out and they pout. They need to understand it is OK. Show them professional baseball players strike out as well and graciously walk back to the dugout. To stop pouting, your young athlete needs to compare their experience with others. They need to understand sports is about ups and downs and their behavior should not change.
Give High-Quality Nurturing
Be a guide for your young athlete. Don’t just leave them on their own alone to figure it out. Children do not have the emotional intellect nor experience to rationalize the situation properly. For example, if they struck out at-bat in baseball or did not achieve a positive outcome and pout, help them explain the situation. Help them understand that there is no reason to hang their head, and that is how the game is played. Help them develop self-confidence to overcome pouting.
Don’t Give In
When you give in, you reinforce their pouty behavior. It does not matter how long the battle ensued. If you give in and it works for them, if you appease them and get what they want, they will continue to do it. Your young athlete is an unprogrammed computer. If you help them understand, you can help program behavior that knows how to deal with situations without pouting. If you give in, they see that a battle needs to happen, short or long, to get what they want. You will have positively reinforced this behavior. So, you need to be strong.
When your young athlete pouts, avoid overreacting. Try to understand why they are pouting and that there is no reason to do it. It is OK to ignore their pouting behavior but engage with them when they are not. This way, your athlete can understand and distinguish between what you will accept and not accept. It is educating your athlete. They will still test the waters. So, have patience.
Highlight Your Athletes’ Good Plays
When your athlete hits the ball rather than strikes out, highlight their accomplishment, show them that it is another part of the game. You are going to win some and lose some. You are going to make good plays and bad plays. When you highlight good behavior and become immune to their pouting, they have something to compare and contrast, and their behavior can go in the right direction.
Redirect Pouty Behavior
When your athlete pouts, remind them of how successful they were before. For example, have them remember other times they hit the ball. Make them feel the fun of the game to avoid pouting. Or, if they are pouting from dropping the ball, take them aside and have a friendly catch to show them they can catch the ball. Have them do something positive to avoid and redirect pouting.
The faster you teach your kids how to deal with situations, the better. And the majority of the time, or it will be short-lived, avoid pouty behavior. The more your young athlete pouts and knows it works, the more they will do it. They seek attention when they pout or cry.
Young athletes don’t have the emotional maturity to understand how to deal with not performing well or understand the rules totally. They need to know the rules do not change or bend for them. And that everyone makes mistakes and has bad days. This is why fun in sports is essential for children. Fun is a way to elevate and perceive good behaviors and avoid pouting because they did not get their way.