My seven year old daughter plays on a soccer team. She loves soccer. She is not the best player and not the worst. She is however, the team crybaby. She finds some reason to cry every single game and practice. She fakes injuries, gets frustrated and cries in front of everyone when she doesn't score a goal, and is the first one to say, "We're never going to beat the other team."

Personally, I always HATED that kid on my team, and now I'm that kid's mom. She does love to play and has fun when things are going her way. She's getting too old for this babyish behavior, and quite frankly, it is embarrassing when 10 other girls and their parents are staring at us because she's being a baby about missing a shot, or because she's too hot. I mean, who cries because they are too hot? No one else's kid does. I am not a negative parent.

I tell always encourage her and always tell her when I'm proud of her. I don't say anything to her when she is acting like a baby. I just tell her very calmly to take a deep breath, take a look at the situation, and go from there...sometimes this works and she catches herself, most of the time she doesn't. In every other aspect of her life, she is pleasant, a team player, and a leader. Just not on the soccer field....any ideas on how to stop her from being the team crybaby and to stop being the negative Nellie on the field?

  • 3
    +1 for not being the "my kid is perfect" kind of mom! I don't have an answer that can be backed up, but it could be simply a way to try and grab attention. Did you try to explain to her that the only correct way to get attention on a sports team is to contribute more to team winning? Or the risks that in the future, when things are more voluntary, people would simply refuse to play with someone like her?
    – user3143
    Jun 7, 2014 at 20:46
  • Thank you! I have tried to have her look at it from the other player's perspective. "Look at Sally, she missed her shot and she just keeps on going. You can do that too. Did you see how hard Nancy got kicked? She really shook that one off." Also given her the talk about being team player and how her efforts at defense help the team win and it isn't about scoring goals, etc.
    – Whitney
    Jun 9, 2014 at 15:02
  • 2
    @Whitney any chance for an update? How is your daughter doing?
    – Dariusz
    Jun 30, 2015 at 8:34
  • Sounds like a future pro soccer player to me. Get her acting lessons so her dives are even more convincing.
    – Jack M.
    Jan 22, 2021 at 20:47

9 Answers 9


The problem here is finding a positive non-crying reinforcement strategy. Statements like "other girls don't cry" or "don't humiliate yourself" are unlikely to work, since they're rather negative. You have to make her want not to cry.

Have you tried a small bribery? Keep it positive, like "if you are strong and brave the whole game I'll get you the football you've always wanted". Or you can start with ice-cream, or watching a good movie.

You can also try watching some games with her and pointing out (not too strongly, so that she doesn't realize what you're trying to do) players which have done something badly, like: "this shot was absolutely terrible, he must feel really bad about himself; he does try harder though, see how fast he is running now?". You can also record a game and watch it (or at least check the score) and point out players which have made something really terribly, only to later show that they have scored a magnificent goal.

  • 1
    Thanks for your response! I don't compare her to the other girls. I do allow her to be herself...believe me, I am definitely trying to maker her not want to cry. I send her thumbs ups and big smiles even when she's pouting on the field. I'm not comfortable bribing her for behavior she should be displaying anyway. I'm trying to think of ways that she can understand being a team player and not having it be about her and her needs all the time. I think I will video her next time and let her see what she looks like, along with the other players. Thanks!
    – Whitney
    Jun 9, 2014 at 15:05
  • I never claimed you compare her or be "not nice" to her. I think the contrary, you want to be as supportive as possible, and that's great! Though I don't know smiling all the time is the answer. Maybe do the "heck! dammit!" fist/hand swing when she does something badly, she'll see that you're just as engaged in the game as she is.
    – Dariusz
    Jun 9, 2014 at 17:29

That was my daughter as well - a crybaby in general, and at soccer games crying, malingering, being "injured" on the sideline. FIFA may have approved, but I sure didn't. (Ha!)

I mentioned this in an answer to How to respond to shame as well, but I'll unpack it more here. Nothing I tried worked. I tried encouragement, rewards, using other kids as examples, and I'll be honest, sometimes it made me mad and I told her off for doing it. But I tried a variety of strategies and couldn't get her through it with any of them. None of her coaches were of any help, either. This went on for years. (It wasn't that she disliked soccer, I gave her a choice of things to do and even though she wasn't super jazzed about team sports, it's the one she picked.)

Eventually she got into a kung fu class/after school care program in fourth grade, and the master there saw it was a problem and through encouragement and discipline largely got her cured of it. I learned a lot from his technique. He encouraged them and really showed that he cared about the kids, but also was firm and uncompromising about the rules.

"Try again." "But waaaah!" "Ten pushups. Then you can try again after another couple kids go." All the usual "hug it out" parenting advice may work in some cases, but in this case tougher love was required. Over the course of the year she improved greatly. Sifu was continually giving me reports on it. "She's a great kid, but she gets discouraged easily," he said to me a couple weeks after she started - I didn't actually initiate this process, he saw she was overly nancy and told me it was a problem.

My daughter is twelve now, and a lot less tentative and more tenacious. When she is asked to reflect on her kung fu year, even she can see the improvement that he helped her achieve. (I sometimes bring that time up when we see him or pass by the place, just to bring the lessons to mind and hear her thoughts.)

I've let that inspire me to be more strict about things like that. For example, we have the rule of "no quitting." If you start a season of softball, or a week long class or camp, or whatever, if you decide you don't like it that's fine, and you don't have to sign up next time - but you will stick the season out, no discussion. I believe that's helped her focus on doing better instead of "maybe I shouldn't do this." I listen to her and all, but I don't tell her things are good if they're not, and I challenge her to do better and to stick with it. Seems to be working.

  • 1
    Like a breath of fresh air! +1! Kids need at least a modicum of discipline and just to be told sometimes! I feel so sorry for all these indulged kids going out in the world, they'll have no perspective nor internal fortitude when things get tough. It's terrifying.
    – Williams
    Jun 26, 2015 at 4:23

The way we dealt with it was to validate the feelings and say "It's ok to be cross at missing it, " and then quickly focus back on the task in hand "Now get back out there and have another go" and no more attention. Unless they are actually hurt; we learned to tell the difference between the two forms of crying fairly quickly. In our case, it helped to let ours know that their feelings were valid but that it was important to deal with them smartly. We haven't got it completely right by any means but it's a journey. Sounds like you've tried some good ideas already.

One thing we did was when ours cried and cried during a party and the above failed, we let him to it. Then, after it passed, we made him aware of the fact that he's just missed out on loads of fun because he didn't win. They have slightly more of an awareness of the situation now; for us it was all about actually trying to get them to be aware of stuff outside their own world. My understanding from the therapy world is that kids between 5-7/8 are actually just realizing that there's a world outside them where other people get affected by things too, and that things are still going on around them. The quickest times when our one has had a stress have been the times when we can quickly and with minimal words (otherwise it can become a long process of negative attention) get them to recognise that stuff outside them is happening.

This may not work for you. Lots of children are different and some are crying for different reasons when they fail (fear of parental disappointment, disappointing friends, not being the best etc) and sometimes as I'm sure you know they don't have the words to express what they are feeling so you may have to help them.


Maybe she really doesn't like playing soccer. Would the team be ok if she missed a month of practice? Then if she wants to start playing again the ground rule would be no tears. Maybe time away from the field could provide some emotional distance. I realize we are dealing with a 7 year old here.

  • 1
    I dislike the idea. I think that discouraging her from playing is unlikely to encourage her for both playing and not-crying in the long run.
    – Dariusz
    Jun 8, 2014 at 9:52
  • 2
    Time outs can bring perspective, and are not necessarily discouraging. It is better to set boundaries for appropriate behavior, than outright bribery. Jun 8, 2014 at 9:59

"We're never going to beat the other team."

Never? Absolutely never? Are you sure? Here I'd question the language she uses. The language we use out loud is often the same language we use in our thoughts. And the language we use in our thoughts tends to shape our thoughts and emotions.

For advice on how to question/reframe such thoughts, I'd recommend you listen to some of the Audiobooks/videos made by Byron Katie. You should be able to find some samples of Byron Katie's work on Youtube.

If you want something more technical, but still interesting, you may want to read books on Cognitive Behaviorial Therapy. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) utilizes a very similar questioning strategy to Byron Katie's method.

As to the crying, I believe that's an emotional response that's also an outgrowth of our thoughts and beliefs. So the next time you're alone with her after such a game, it might be useful to ask her what she's thinking when she starts crying. But also, I wouldn't make too big deal out of it, because the added pressure from you might inadvertently stress her out even more the next time it happens.


Lots of good advice already. Perhaps you can get the team or the coach in on this. The coach could, during one training, - tongue in cheek - 'forbid' all negativity during a training. So it's 'forbidden' to say "Oh I missed the goal"; instead one can say "Wow, I hit the goalpost - do you know how much harder that is?". And the team itself must come up with a punishment if anyone does show any negativity. Something like pushups, run to the goal and back, or getting water for everyone. Nothing too seriously and definitely for the whole team - no-one is singled out, not even the coach.

Only training, he stresses. Only for this training.

Since there is less pressure at the training it won't be so serious. If it works, the team will take this up as their own inside joke. And then it becomes possible that your daughter will take this attitude from training to the game, and break her pattern. Once that happens, do reflect with her, on how well she did that.


Subtlety is called for. Telling her to stop won't work, trying to get her to think in the heat of an emotional moment won't work. She needs to be in a different emotional state out on the field, and that's going to take something different, something positive to focus on.

My daughter's coach has different goals each week, things other than scoring, like touches on the ball. Perhaps you could count touches one week, then reward her with frozen yogurt if she can meet or beat her previous record.


Have had a simular problem with my son, not so much crying but angry outbursts. I think they came from being frustrated at something and not knowing how to change it. He used to get really angry at losing, which isn't a bad thing in itself IMO, but I managed to redirect his frustrations into trying to improve so that he doesn't lose next time.

So if your daughter is crying about something try telling her that if she is upset crying will not change or fix whatever is upsetting her. Tell her she needs to take action for herself to change her situation, but you can help if requested, and try to give her examples where she or other people have done so in the past.

  • Thank you! I was just thinking about what you said about her taking action for herself. She does need to "own" her behavior better. I'll work on encouraging her to find something positive to focus on when she's feeling emotional. Easier said than done, but I shall persevere!
    – Whitney
    Jun 9, 2014 at 15:08

My daughter (also 7) acts the same way with her marching band. She plays the trumpet. I know she's not being bullied (in fact, most of them are very nice) and her coaches are wonderful. I asked her many times if she wants to quit but refuses to do so. She's even excited to go. That's why it was so confusing for me why she keeps insisting on sticking with it if it makes her unhappy.

She has a hard time articulating her feelings so took me a while to figure out what was wrong. It turns out she was really insecure about the fact that she's not as good as some of the kids in class. I explained to her that everyone starts out as a beginner. And if she wanted to be as good as her bandmates, all she needed to do was practice more and ask her coach and friends for help if she needs it.

It seemed to work. She has stopped crying in class and has started practicing more. And when I shared with her coach about her insecurity, he paired her up with an older kid who also plays the trumpet to be her band "buddy". They practice together and my daughter won't stop talking about how her "big sister" is helping her get better at the trumpet.

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