Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

When Parents Behave like Children

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

When Parents Behave like Children

Article excerpt

For 6,000 children in West Palm Beach, Fla., the new year could bring welcome change at youth sporting events. If all goes as a local athletic association plans, there will be no more loudmouth parents on the sidelines, yelling at coaches, bullying players, and taking their children's ballgames too seriously.

Beginning Jan. 1, parents of the children, who range in age from 5 to 18, must take an hour-long sportsmanship course. The ethics program, called Parents Alliance for Youth Sports, costs $5 and explains the roles and responsibilities of parents of young athletes. If parents refuse, their children will be barred from playing. Parents will be asked to sign an 11-point code of ethics, promising to "encourage good sportsmanship" and demonstrate "positive support" for players, coaches, and officials.

Bring out the cheerleaders to applaud the Jupiter-Tequesta Athletic Association, which is sponsoring the program, and the National Alliance for Youth Sports, which developed it. The course has been used elsewhere in the country, but this is the first time it is mandatory.

Teaching good sportsmanship counts as one important part of the training parents are supposed to give children. But as longstanding stereotypes of overbearing Little League parents attest, student athletic fields sometimes serve as a place where children demonstrate more maturity than adults, and where offspring could teach parents a lesson or two.

Who are the grown-ups? Who are the children? Increasingly, generational confusion and role reversals are spilling over into other areas of life as well. While some parents exert wrongful authority on the playing field, others meekly cave in and relinquish their legitimate parental voices elsewhere. Sportsmanship is not the only area in which some parents might benefit from a guiding hand or two.

Consider the mixed messages both generations receive from television. …

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