Activities & Sports: Do’s & Don’ts

As parents, we sign up our children for programs and activities to expand their horizons. Here is a quick list of do’s and don’ts to make your child’s extra-curricular experiences awesome.


What to do!

Do provide time for unstructured play time. “Kids have very little time to interact with peers without it being orchestrated,” says Dr. Vicki Panaccione, founder of Better Parenting Institute and known as the Parenting Professor. Kids need to get outside, ride their bikes, play ball, invite friends over to play and pretend. Dr. Panaccione believes kids are running from activity to activity and they don’t have to make any decisions or navigate friendships on their own. 

Do allow a 24 hour cooling off period.  If you have an issue with the coach, always give yourself 24 hours before talking to the coach or calling him recommends one former hockey coach. That time period offers the opportunity for you to form concise statements and will allow you to keep your emotions out of it.

Do involve grandparents. If grandparents live nearby, they can take some of the pressure off of busy parents, suggests Dr. Panaccione. In addition to attending concerts, recitals or games, grandparents can help drive the kids to practice, provide cupcakes for the bake sale or volunteer at the ticket booth.


What Not to Do!

Never criticize your child’s performance. Instead, give your child an opportunity to tell you how he feels about his performance. If after a boxing match, your child says, “I thought I had a good jab, but I should’ve counter punched more with the right.” You can get your “teaching” in by saying, “Yes, I agree. Your left hook is great and you could utilize that more.” 

Never reward performance with inanimate objects. Do not offer to pay five bucks to your child for a basket made or goal scored warns one coach. A child’s chosen sport is a privilege in itself. Sports are integral and things accomplished correctly, such as scoring, are done so for the team because that’s the way it should be, not for payoff. 

Never yell the calls from the sidelines. You see and hear the foul as your child is making a lay up. “Foul,” you yell loud enough for the fans, players and referee to hear you. Your “call” brings unwanted attention to your child, making him the focus for the opposition, the opposition’s fans and the referee. More than likely, your call is a distraction to your child, too.


As one parent and coach says, “Enjoy whatever activity or sport your children are doing as they’ll only be doing it for a short period of time. If you spend your time criticizing or expecting too much of them, then you lose out on what’s in front of you.”  And that’s your child’s enjoyment.


Mary Jo Rulnick is a freelance writer and author from Pittsburgh.