Make home (and the car) a SAFE place to be
Let your children know that win or lose, scared or brave; you love them, appreciate their efforts, and are never disappointed in them.
Try your best to be completely honest with yourself about your child’s ability and capability to improve, their competitive attitude, sportsmanship and actual skill level.
Encourage them to look after their own kit and equipment as soon as they can. They can clean their boots, make sure they pack their kit and pads and put their dirty kit in the wash. Start as you mean to go on.
Be helpful and supportive but don’t coach them on the way to the match or on the way back or at the breakfast table. It is hard not to, but it is a lot harder for the child to be inundated with a constant stream of advice, pep talks and often critical instruction.
You don’t have to go to every match and training session. Even if you don’t have other kids to look after and support. You and the non-footballers in your family need a life and your footballer doesn’t need you to always be there. Work out a programme with other parents so that you and they don’t always have to go.
Try not to shout, coach or give instructions from the sidelines. Allow your child to play their game their way. Teach them to enjoy the thrill of competition, to be ‘out there’ trying to do their best, to be working to improve their skills and attitudes.
Try not to relive your football career through your children in a way that creates pressure. Remember you missed goals, you were frightened, you backed off at times, and you were not always brave. Don’t pressure them because of your lost pride.
Let the coach do their job as they see it. If they become too much of an authority figure, it will run from enchantment to disenchantment soon enough for your child.
Recognise that in victory your child will be elated and in defeat disappointed but try not to dwell on either too long (they won’t if you don’t). After all tomorrow is another day. So well done; or hard luck now lets move on.
Model good adult behaviour. Try not to shout at the referee and recognise good play by the opposition. Encourage your child to do the same and shake hands after the match is over with team mates and the opposition whether things have gone well or not.
Don’t overtly compare the skill, courage or attributes of your children with other team members. It is only natural for you and your kid to spot differences but shoving it in your kids face is not helpful.
Get to know the coach so that you can be assured that the philosophy, attitudes, ethics and knowledge are such that you are happy to have your child under their leadership and influence.
Always remember that children tend to exaggerate both when praised and criticised. Temper your reaction and investigation before over reacting.
Make a point of understanding courage, and the fact that it is relative. Pain barriers are different. Some of us can climb mountains but be afraid to fight. Some of us will fight but turn to jelly if a bee approaches. Everyone is frightened by something in their life. Explain that courage is not the absence of fear but a means of doing something despite that feeling of discomfort or butterflies in the stomach. Even the best get scared sometimes.
The job of football parent is a tough one and it takes a lot of effort to do it well. It is worth making all the effort when you hear your youngster say ‘I was lucky my mum and dad really helped’.