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What role do (non-parent) adults play when a child misbehaves?

The Role of Adults in Child (Mis) Behavior

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Number eleven had apparently forgotten that he was playing soccer. He more closely resembled an MMA fighter.   Recklessly and relentlessly, he swung his elbows at our players, kicked at their shins, and sent them to the earth with extended forearms. What role do (non-parent) adults play when a child misbehaves?The referee, a well-meaning but inept father from the other team, blew his whistle when our players were thrown violently to the ground, but he never issued a warning to number eleven, nor did he explain what eleven had done wrong. It was extremely frustrating on many levels.   The ref during the first half of the game (full disclosure—it was me) had kept control of the players on the field. Kids were playing hard, but not in a dirty manner. Secondly, and more to the point, number eleven pummeled and punished our players without a single comment from his coach. Had one of our players displayed even a fraction of the savagery that eleven showed, Emil, the head coach, or I, the assistant, would have pulled him off the field with an explanation as to his misdeeds. Eleven’s coach, however, watched the proceedings without comment.

Eleven’s behavior became increasingly bad as the game went on, and Emil and I considered pulling our boys off the field to keep them safe. Blessedly, the referee blew his whistle signifying the end of the game. We had won handily, but I felt no joy- still outraged by eleven’s style of play, and the adults who had let it happen. I replayed the first half in my mind. There had been no hard fouls, only a couple of blatant off-sides penalties. They were easy calls, but the opposing coach hadn’t thought so. “One of our parents will ref the second half,” he called threateningly.   At the time, the plan had seemed fine. It seemed fair that one of their parents would officiate the second half as one of ours had officiated the first. I should have been more concerned however, but I was blissfully unaware of the overly aggressive play to come.

So, who was at fault? Number eleven holds some of the responsibility, obviously.   He did perpetrate the shoving, elbowing, kicking, pushing and hacking. However, he is a child playing on a team coached by an adult who did nothing to stop the egregious behavior during a game officiated by an adult who did nothing to alter eleven’s style of play. What a disservice to number eleven (not to mention to the many bruised and battered boys on our team). I considered saying something to eleven post game. In retrospect, I would have approached him, complimented him on his aggressive mentality, but given him suggestions how to do it cleanly. At the time, I chose not to say something. Eleven probably would have misinterpreted any such communications as criticism (and who could blame him). It is not, after all, the job of an unknown adult to advise him how to behave. It is the job of familiar adults: coaches, referees, parents. Sadly, none of those adults did their job, and it is likely that number eleven will play as recklessly and unsafely when we have our rematch.

One can view the opposing coach as a parent who lets his child scream and bother others at a restaurant without taking any action. The parent was not doing the yelling, but the problem starts and ends with him. We are, after all, ultimately responsible for our children’s behavior. The opposing coach did nothing to address his player’s misbehavior so it persisted much in the way that a screaming obstreperous child will continue unless addressed by a parent. Calming such a child is not a herculean task. Talking to the offending child in a patient, soothing voice and really listening to what it is that is bothering them will frequently dampen the fire of his irritation. Not doing so, will fan the flames of his tantrum. One could view the referee (a parent who presumably knew number eleven) as a non-stranger adult who should have helped as well. A calm comment regarding number eleven’s transgressions would probably have curbed them. The lack of such a comment led to greater and greater transgressions.

 

Super Simple Organization Plan - The Bag Lady System

Get Organized with The Bag Lady System

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Organization has always been a bit elusive for me. I love to see a well organized space and truly see the value in it but as a busy mom of two, it is the reality that gets in the way.

Super Simple Organization Plan - The Bag Lady SystemSo, in my attempt to save my sanity, I devised an organizational system that works for my kids and myself. I have dubbed it The Bag Lady System, but really make it your own.

Designate a Bag

We have designated tote bags for each activity that my girls participate in. Soccer has its own bag and all soccer related stuff, including extra water, bug spray, sun screen go in that bag. The cool thing is it is a system that seems to work for my family too. If they are looking for certain items I will here them say, “look in the _________ bag for it.” I have never been accused of being over organized, mind you, but I hate getting to an event without the proper uniform, snacks or equipment.

Get Organized with The Bag Lady SystemRestock Immediately

In this type of organizational system the key is to check the bag or box after each use. If you have to wash something, make sure it goes right back. If you run out of something, replace it in the bag immediately. Now this system will drive type A personalities a bit crazy I am sure, but for the rest of us mere organizational mortals, this system seems to work quite well!

Choose Your Bags Carefully

I have also found that the style of bag can play an important role in the success of this system. I use a sturdy backpack for our adventures at a local amusement park so it is easy to carry around all day. On the other hand for soccer or swim lessons I use a big open tote so my kids can easily access towels, balls, snacks and water bottles. For school, as I am a teacher, I designate one bag for my school stuff. This bag is a professional style computer bag that I am not embarrassed to be seen with in a work setting. You may have to play around with the style of bag to see what works for you, or for the given activity.

Good luck on your endeavor to quickly and easily becoming more organized without breaking the bank or losing your mind in the process.

The Ups & Downs of Vicarious Living

The Ups and Downs of Vicarious Living

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I am tempted to buy my boys’ soccer club’s uniform in adult size which my wife (thankfully) has forbidden me to do. I refer to their teams as “our” teams. I spend hours on-line following their teams’ progress, and countless more watching practices and games. I am living vicariously through my children.

The Ups & Downs of Vicarious Living

Pride and Joy

I am always pleased to walk alongside my older son, but when I do so and he is clad in his full soccer gear (club training jacket/pants and club backpack) I walk with a straighter back and a pep in my step. I’m with the center back!!!! A casual observer might assume that I had some connection to the team. I do not. More evidence of vicarious living.

Soccer GoalMy younger son recently scored a hat trick in a state cup game. Each wonderful goal is etched in my mind. Other parents congratulated me as the game progressed. I wanted to hug each one and express my heartfelt joy. Instead, I accepted the kind words with a smile and a shrug. I wanted to appear cool and humble. On the field below me, my son was doing the same thing, deflecting the enthusiastic words of his teammates with a simple nod and smile. Father and son experienced the success in the same way. The key difference was that he had actually scored the goals. I live vicariously through my boys.

Too Invested?

Such an existence can be nice, but it has its dark side. After last week’s tryouts, it was unclear whether my younger boy had made his team. As we awaited the results, a thick knot of unease tightened around my stomach. I experienced dread, disappointment, worry, fear, and outrage. Was it my team or his?

My older boy went through a rough patch a few years ago during which the coach played him less. I was wracked by self-doubt, defeatism, anger, and sorrow. The situation weighed heavily on me for weeks. Had I lost my starting position or had he?

There is a dark side to the parenting phenomenon that I am describing. Many adults cross the fine line between sharing and supporting their kids’ hopes, dreams, and successes and becoming too invested. My older boy has played with a child who doesn’t even like soccer, but plays because his parents insist. Some parents heckle and intimidate players on the opposing team. Mostly, the misbehavior is motivated by love and magnified by the current culture of helicopter parenting. Occasionally, it can be driven by more complex factors such as control, parents’ thwarted dreams, and distorted expectations for a child’s future. Whatever the motivation, such excessive behaviors are equally unpleasant for children and observing adults.

A Balancing Act

Parenting GoalI find myself in a conundrum. How do I strike a balance between the pride I feel for my boys (and for the role I played in their success) and still allow for their achievements and challenges to remain their own? The question is essential because the entire point of all this is helping my kids develop the skills they will need in life— how to work hard to achieve a goal, how to handle disappointment and loss, and how to continue to grow. My tendency is to joke about the wealth of pride that I have for my boys’ athletic achievements, and hopefully remain aware of the boundary between exuberance and boorishness. As a parent, I am a spectator and a supporter, not an actor. Humor is the route I chose, but there are others. T is equally invested in his boys’ athletic life (they are excellent fencers). He navigates the boundary differently. For him, every moment is a teachable one, particularly those where challenge and failure predominate. One of his boys came in last in a tournament, and T spent a lot of time explaining the usefulness of the experience. The emphasis was on the opportunity for improvement when facing challenging opponents, not on berating his son for a lack of success. In our culture of achievement, the end point is often the only point with parents forgetting the importance of the journey.

It can be be a bumpy road. Events over which I have no control (or role) jerk my emotions from happy to sad, angry to contented, rejected to accepted. I love my boys tremendously and I experience their excitement and disappointment more vividly than my own. As evidenced by my behavior, I occasionally lose track of whose experience it is that I’m feeling. Vicarious living is a difficult but unavoidable part of parenthood.

Competitive Youth Soccer

Down the Rabbit Hole of Competitive Youth Soccer

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Competitive Youth SoccerDown the Rabbit Hole

“Come on, dad,” my thirteen year old son pleaded to me when he was eleven, “I’m not going to get better at soccer if I keep playing Rec. I need to do Premier like CC.” He gazed at me earnestly. He had mentioned his interest in Premier soccer before, but I had always hoped that his interest was fleeting—that he would outgrow it like so many other absurd notions in childhood. He was deadly serious though, and the sincerity in his brown eyes weighed on me.   I gathered my thoughts, unsure what to say. The ticking of his New England Patriots clock- situated next to the Red Sox emblem painted on the light-blue wall- sounded above me. The second hand of the clock ticked off ominously like the count-down to a blast-off. Would the mission be successful? Would it crash and burn? My son continued to stare at me, and I could feel sweat begin to form on my forehead. The decision was above my pay-grade. “Let’s see what mommy thinks,” I said, clinging to the familiar lifeline.

CC, the boy who already played Premier soccer, was two years older than my son. His parents are great people whom my wife and I like very much, but their decision to let their son play Premier had always confounded us. Their entire life seemed ruled by soccer.   Their experience seemed ludicrously complicated to us. They brought CC to three (sometimes four) hour and a half practices a week and one or two games per weekend.   They could not plan vacations or even nights out without checking their availability vis-à-vis soccer commitments.   And CC’s soccer season did not end. Ever. Fifty-two weeks a year (holidays off- usually). My wife and I could not see the logic in letting one’s life be dictated by a youth sport. But my son was correct. If he wanted to get better at soccer, he would have to leave Rec. Rec, or Recreational, soccer is an enterprise that adheres to two main tenets: soccer should be fun win or lose and everyone should get equal playing time. Premier, on the other hand, is a wondrous meritocracy that produces results. If one works hard, one gets better. And earns playing time. My wife and I discussed these truths, but came back to another undeniable truth: our son was too young to have his (and our) life dominated by a sport.

Soccer State CupI love athletics though and have instilled a healthy (my wife would call it over-the-top/potentially unhealthy) love for sports in my boys. I am exactly the sort of sucker whom Premier preys on.   “Just take a tiny sip of the Kool-Aid. You’ll love it!” And sip the Kool-Aid I did. Hell, I chugged it, inhaled it, became addicted. Premier Soccer now rules our life (our younger son does it as well). And I’m not embarrassed to admit (well, maybe a little) that I am fine with it. I attend five and a half hours of practice a week (three for my younger boy for whom I am the only driver; and one for my older son who is part of a carpool), I spend hours (literally) checking and writing emails regarding soccer. I follow my boys’ teams’ progress on- line (both teams are undefeated and have won their divisions, thank you very much) as if they were professionals. It’s crazy. I admit it. But I love it.

Premier soccer has taught my boys that if you work hard and put in 100 percent effort, you will succeed. (I know that I sound like an after-school special, but when the shoe fits….) It has also provided them with a group of friends whom they would not have met otherwise. It has exposed them to some feedback that can be hard to take in the form of criticism from coaches. Learning to accept such criticism, however, is an essential life-skill.

We have seen the bad and the good in Premier Soccer. Its intensity has serious impact on our life.   Our experience is by no means unique. Other people’s children might pursue musical instruments, or drama or art or chorus with a similar vigor. Any serious pursuit of a childhood activity should be examined thoroughly. At my older son’s school conference on Friday, his advisor commended him on his good grades. They were particularly impressive, she said, in light of his having a second job. She was referring to Premier Soccer, and she was mostly joking. But her comment raises an interesting point. Are my wife and I saddling our son with too much pressure/responsibilities given his youth? Of course this important question did not occur to me at the time. I have already plunged, head-first, into the deep rabbit hole that is Premier Soccer.