How protective should sports parents get?

By Janis Meredith | Posted 2/22/2016

The term “protective parenting” means different things to each parent.

To some, it means that they are there to provide, support and care for their children. To others, it means they must stand between their kids and all that is bad in the world.

But how far should you take protective parenting when it comes to youth sports?

Protective parenting doesn’t mean:

  • Bailing out your child when he makes a choice. He must live with the consequences of his actions.
  • Lashing out at people who don’t give your child the recognition you think they deserve. I knew a sports mom who would call my husband screaming at him on the phone because her daughter – who was the main pitcher of my husband’s high school softball team – sat out two games in a tournament weekend. She wasn’t just protective. She was ballistic.
  • Embarrassing your child by fighting their battles. Kids must learn this gradually on their own.
  • Putting a bubble around your kid and keeping him from every bad experience. Little ones do need a protective bubble, but as they get older, the bubble should slowly disappear so they can learn – with your guidance – how to deal with circumstances that are less than perfect.
  • Orchestrating the details of their lives so things will be easy for them. Resist the temptation to push for them to be on a winning team just because they win or to switch teams just so they don’t have to fight for their position.

You should protect your child:

  • When you are keeping him safe from things that will harm him physically, emotionally or spiritually. As long as he is living in your house, this is part of your job. And that includes speaking up when he makes choices that endanger him.
  • When someone or something causes him to feel afraid. Even then, he needs to know that is OK to be afraid, because you are there for him when he needs you.
  • When your child makes a bad choice, and others feel it is their job to step in and parent your child for you. Of course, he must suffer consequences in the arena where the offense was made – school, work or sports team – but when other parents step over the line from positive adult encouragement, to parenting mode without your permission, they need to know that is your job, not theirs.

Protective parenting is a normal instinct. In fact, I might question the dedication of any parent who does not rise up to protect a child from harm.

Just be sure that your “don’t-mess-with-my-kids attitude” doesn’t cross the line from healthy protection to manipulative controlling.

Janis B. Meredith, sports mom and coach's wife, writes a sports parenting blog called JBM Thinks. She authored the Sports Parenting Survival Guide Series and has a podcasting series for sports parents. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.