As a manners expert, I get asked all manner of questions about social norms and behaviors. A recent one I received went something like this: What are your thoughts on the importance of parents attending their kids’ sports events? Some parents have to work, but should they find a way to go? Do you think it makes a difference in their kids’ lives?
I do think that it is important for parents to attend their children’s sporting events — or any extra-curricular activity. When we show up for our kids, I think it gives them a sense of being cared about and supported, and it builds their confidence. And I would take it a step further and say that bringing siblings along to support them is also very important. If you do that, make sure that they support each other.
I know that a lot of parents work and are unable to attend their children’s events. This is where parents need to think outside the box. Is there a grandparent, aunt, uncle or someone else who can attend? I have three children, and so often they had games at the same time. So I would go to one, my husband would go to one and my very supportive mom would go to the third game. We would make sure that we all rotated so that one child did not feel slighted about one of us not going to their game as often as possible.
If you do not have a relative to fill in for you, then ask a neighbor or family friend. Explain to your child how sad you are that you will not be at the game, and that you will do your best to get updates. Encourage your “substitute” to take videos and pictures and ask your child to give you the play-by-play afterwards.
With this being said, make sure your attendance is a positive experience for your child. Do not berate them for how they played, or criticize the coach because he or she did not put your child into the game. Keep your comments positive right after the game. I also advise waiting a day or two for your child to process their performance before you discuss it with them. And when you do, be sure to tread lightly. As parents, we seem to get way more worked up than our children do when it comes to sports. Keep it as light as possible, and if your child expresses that he or she would like to play better, or get more playing time, then have a positive and constructive discussion on how you can support them to make this happen. But give them the tools to make it happen. This could be practicing more, or try role-playing with them talking to their coach. Do not do it for them! The bottom line is that they enjoy the sport or activity — and that you do not make it unpleasant, or make it all about you.
Elise McVeigh founded Elise McVeigh’s Life Camp seminar company and Mrs. McVeigh’s Manners children’s manners school in 2001. A former journalist, McVeigh wrote a weekly manners advice column for 10 years for the Dallas Morning News, and has been a regular contributor to magazines such as Parents Magazine online. She is a bestselling Amazon author of “A Parent’s Guide to Manners for Kids.”