Most young athletes are fortunate to have parents who exercise patience and regularly offer praise and positive reinforcement. Others are not so lucky. Some parents yell and constantly complain about mistakes their son or daughter makes, sucking all the fun and enjoyment out of playing a sport. Dealing with an overbearing parent can be a challenge, but with good timing and effective communication skills, it can be done.
The reasons why parents are overbearing vary greatly, ranging from unfulfilled dreams to lack of understanding of what it means to be a positive and supporting sports parent. Regardless, something needs to be done if you have an overbearing parent who is hurting your game or experience. To improve the situation, try the following tips.
Listen to the deeper message
Although it’s not fun, try your best to tolerate the yelling and listen for the message. There may be things your parent is saying that you can improve upon. In other words, if your parent is yelling “get your head in the game,” did you miss a pass or a shot because your mind was wandering? Sometimes we lose sight of the message because it was delivered in a hostile or aggressive tone. It can be difficult hearing a parent yell at you, but consider whether the message is warranted, regardless of the tone.
Let emotions cool
If you feel that your parent is regularly embarrassing you while you are on the field competing, find a calmer time later in the day or the next day to discuss the situation. Rather than attempt to confront them when emotions are high, let things settle down and try to talk later. Have a tough time controlling your anger in the moment? Check out these tips.
When you find the right opportunity to speak with your parents about how their actions make you feel, start the conversation by praising them for all they do for you. Successful conflict resolution often starts by finding common ground. Although their yelling doesn’t seem helpful, they probably want what’s best for you, but simply don’t know how to be supportive.
Use “I” statements
After showing your appreciation for your parent, try using “I” statements rather than “you” statements. For example, saying, “I feel embarrassed on the court when I get yelled at,” is better than saying, “You make me play worse when you yell at me.” “I” statements are much easier to receive than “you” statements, which often come across as an attack.
Seek outside support
If things don’t improve, try talking to your coach or athletic director to see if they can help. Again, the idea is not to penalize your parent, but to give him or her better, more pro-social ways to support your efforts as an athlete. Is your coach the problem? Learn how to deal with an angry coach.