4 Characteristics of a Bully Sports Parent

By Janis Meredith | Posted 6/17/2019

No sports parent wants to be labeled as a bully. And because of that fact, many sports parents are unwilling to scrutinize their behavior and assess whether they are actually bullying their kids.

Of course, most parents don’t fit the dictionary definition of bully: a blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people.

RELATED CONTENT: 11 Sports Manners to Teach Your Young Athletes

But bullying can take much subtler forms. According to nobullying.com adults who bully exhibit these behaviors:

•  Repeated hurtful and hostile actions

•  Actions which are intended to mistreat or control people

•  Hurtful verbal and non-verbal communication

•  Actions which decrease someone’s intrinsic self-worth.

Let’s apply this to sports parenting and see how it fits.

Repeated hurtful and hostile actions: Are you constantly criticizing your child’s performance? Do you get angry when they do not play their best? Do you compare them to other athletes to make them feel the need to work harder?

Actions which are intended to mistreat or control people. Hold on, you say, I would never mistreat my child. Perhaps not, but how about controlling? When you interfere to “fix” the situation for your child--whether it’s chewing out the coach for not playing your child or finding a team where your child will be the star player--you are seeking to control.

Hurtful verbal and non-verbal communication. We’ve all said and done things that hurt our kids, but when you refuse to recognize and apologize, and it’s done consistently, you are bullying your kids. Sometimes the things we mean to sound and look like we are merely “motivating” our kids come across as hurtful.

Actions which decrease someone’s intrinsic self-worth. Without meaning to, we trample on our kids’ self-worth when we always over-ride their choices. I don’t want to play this sport! Your child may say. To which you may respond,You will play because I say so.”  We also damage their self-worth when we don’t believe in them and when we don’t express that belief. When my daughter had a particularly bad game during her senior year of volleyball, I made a bully remark to her after the game which stripped away any belief she had in herself to bounce back: aren’t you afraid you are going to lose your starting spot?  It didn’t take me long to apologize but it took her awhile to recover from the sting of that remark.

RELATED CONTENT: Teaching your Athletes the Fun and Safe Way to Have a Sports Rivalry

Even if your bullying has taken on a softer, gentler tone, it is still behavior that can harm your child’s self-esteem, and perhaps even their health on a long-term basis. In addition, it affects their enjoyment of youth sports as well as their ability to grow through the process.

Janis Meredith is a family coach who wants to help all parents raise champions. You can find out more at rcfamilies.com