Have you ever noticed that some parents tend to ruin youth sports matches? Certainly, most of us are familiar with the type of parent that flies into a rage when their child doesn't score a point or win a match. You might see such a parent verbally abusing a coach or referee or bullying their kid into doing better on the field. These individuals take "helicopter parenting" to a new level of emotional abuse.
Certainly, there is something very off about modern society when parents feel entitled to behave in this way during a game. At base, sports are valuable pastimes in life precisely because they inculcate valuable lessons about fairness, level-headedness, and equality into the value systems of our children. But controlling parents upend these important lessons and replace them with nothing but snobbery and anger.
The Root Causes of Sports Snobbery
So why do these parents behave in this way? What do they hope to accomplish by driving their children to the brink of exasperation on the playing field? Why do they antagonize other parents or bully school administrators?
As in many cases of snobbery or displays of "moral superiority" over one's peers, the truth is that these parents have profound self-esteem issues and immense problems related to personal insecurity. For these parents, not feeling "good enough" has become a way of life. These parents likely aspire to the company of a "better" class of people and in all likelihood feel as though they deserve a life of comfort and wealth.
When Bullying Becomes a Parenting Style
Perhaps these individuals were driven to succeed by their own parents. Perhaps they were taught that anything that they did in life was not good enough.
To wit, a person who feels secure about their social position or about their character does not have to bring other people down to feel good about themselves. Secure people do not have to "prove" their worth by making more money than their peers or pushing their children to a psychological breaking point.
The Effect of Bully-Parenting on Children
Sadly, with regard to this last point, it is the children who often suffer the most from the behavior of such parents. In these families, success is prized above everything else. Moreover, it is taken for granted that a person's social position relative to others is commensurate with their worth as a human being.
Despite their obsession with wealth and position, however, the types of parents that behave in this way are seemingly never actually from the upper classes. Their snobbery is in fact a type of bluff designed to inflate their position beyond its natural boundaries.
When Deep Insecurities Cause Problems
In fact, the type of snobbery displayed at youth sports matches almost always relates to parents whose social position is far from assured. No actual aristocrat would feel the need to stoop to such behavior; any person from the upper classes who did behave in such a rude way would be immediately taken to task and even ostracized for their lack of manners.
In a sense, we should feel sorry for individuals who have such issues with self-esteem that they feel the need to flaunt their supposed superiority in front of everyone else. And we should certainly feel sorry for the children who have to endure such parenting. After all, the effects of this type of bullying can last a lifetime. And you can rest assured that it doesn't stop at the baseball diamond or football field. If this is how these parents behave in public, imagine how they must act behind closed doors.
What We Can Do
So what can we do as parents when we witness this type of bullying firsthand? The truth is that parents who "make a scene" at youth sports matches thrive on attention. If they're not given that attention, they'll be less inclined to repeat their negative behaviors in the future.
In a wider sense, however, we must understand why this type of behavior bothers us. However ironic it is to admit it, parents who try to telegraph their own sense of superiority to their peers often succeed in making others feel insecure too.
Learning From Quidditch
This type of toxic parenting was actually a major plot point in the "Harry Potter" book and film series. As the father of Draco Malfoy, Lucius Malfoy is constantly berating others and placing his son on a pedestal. Lucius often suggests that other Hogwarts students such as Ron Weasley are not good enough to compete with scions from the Malfoy family.
This obsession on the part of the Malfoys with social status plays out most fiercely on the sports pitch. During the game of quidditch, debates about social status play out as fiercely as matches. Clearly, author J.K. Rowling had been to at least a few youth sports matches in her time: As a writer, Rowling is all too familiar with the posturing and pretensions of "striver" parents and the immense pressure that the children of such parents experience during sports matches.
Seeking to Change
As always, moreover, we should recognize the life lessons that such parents inadvertently teach us about our own behavior. How do our own insecurities affect our relationships with our children? Do we place such a premium on our own wounded self-esteem that we push our children to succeed at all costs? Does social snobbery bother us because we have our own insecurities and hangups about status?
Indeed, we should in some sense thank the types of parents who interrupt sports matches with their boorish behavior. By their example, we know exactly what bad parenting looks like.
When we're truly confident in ourselves, in other words, we will not need to live vicariously through our children. Snobbery on the part of others may still irritate us from time to time; however, such displays of rudeness and selfishness should not affect our deepest values. And it certainly should not affect our child's self-esteem!
Youth sports are supposed to be fun for your children not a place for parents to take over and ruin the fun for everyone.
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