John Cowan - Side Line Parenting

Publish Date
Friday, 24 March 2017, 1:07PM
Photo: Getty Images

Photo: Getty Images

By John Cowan

Gidday, I’m John Cowan from the Parenting Place

I’d like to pay a tribute to a special bunch of parents – it’s big bunch and super bunch – the parents that turn out to support their kids sports. When you are standing there with your toes freezing in your gum boots, with your umbrella blown inside out, rain running down your neck and your glasses so covered in rain that you cannot see the game anyway, you are actually being an All Black-quality parent.

For a start, You are there! Your presence on the side-line is incredibly important to your child. Admittedly, they will not be spending much time reflecting on it, and they might not get around to thanking you for it until your funeral, but just being there is shouting something good into your kid’s heart.   Children believe they are what a parent tells them they are, and your presence tells them that you think they are worth turning up for.  Kids can rise to achieve in life from any background and with almost any level of adversity, but the road to success is most often travelled by kids with supportive parents in the background.  But a word of caution: there are ways of being absent even when your body is present at the game. Even a boy totally absorbed in his game will glimpse across at his mum and dad occasionally and can tell in an instant whether they are watching him or staring at their phone, or turned away locked in a conversation. If you are going to be there, be completely there. What if you cannot be present at the game? Show a real interest later on, ask lots of questions about the game and express your hope to get to one of his games soon.

Tone carries further than words. There might not be anything wrong with what you are yelling from the side line, in fact the bits of coaching advice you are bellowing could be absolute game winners, but your boy might not actually be able to hear the words because they are being drowned out by your tone.   Just like turning up the volume on those nasty little computer speakers distorts the audio, yelling at your kids can often sound angry and critical even if that was not your intention.  The tip: anything that sounds like anger doesn’t work! So listen to your tone, or just go for those packets of words that are guaranteed to carry encouragement: “Well done!”, “Good on you!”, “Yes!”, “Yay!” etc. When in doubt, clap. 


About John

John has been with The Parenting Place ( for seventeen years as their senior writer and presenter.  He had various roles working with youth and families prior to that but actually started his working life as a scientist in neurophysiology at Auckland Hospital.  As well as writing and speaking, John is frequently on radio and television.

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