TL;DR My nephew becomes upset when playing football with family. How can I encourage him to have a healthier relationship with the game?

Before the football (soccer) world cup, my 6 year old nephew hated football. He didn't support a team, his family aren't too keen on the sport and he wasn't too interested in playing it at school.

Now he's seen it on TV and he says he 'loves' the game. He wants to play all the time, collect football stickers etc. Obviously we're fine with a genuine interest in a sport and we would like to encourage him to be active and explore new activities.

However, when we actually start playing, my nephew gets very emotional, namely:

  • A lot of rolling on the floor and crying foul (picked up from TV of course)
  • Making up rules because he doesn't really know them (his official rulebook are the kids in the next class)
  • Accusations that we adults are playing unfairly

I want to reach a state where we can just play football without having it end in tears and my nephew being sent to the thinking step.

My approach so far has been:

  • Giving him some coaching to improve his game, with the aim of addressing the point about adults playing unfairly. When he takes the advice, his game genuinely improves, but he often doesn't want to do this. It's not complicated advice either, e.g. standing a few paces in front of the goal line if he's in net
  • Recognising his mood changes and trying to pack the game up before the point of no return, but he doesn't want to comply and the other adults don't spot the signs either

My question is, how can I encourage my nephew to develop a healthier relationship to playing football with his family?

1 Answer 1


6 year olds do this. Sign him up for a kids team and let him get out and kick the ball around with other kids and a coach. Where I live in the USA, we have a soccer program geared to that age called "Happy feet".

When you watch 6 year olds play soccer, it's clear that all most of them understand is that it's fun to get out and run around a field chasing a ball. You might see the goal tender and forward from opposing team sitting down making sand castles while everyone else is off chasing the ball. Don't expect much more than that, and have fun,

  • I sent both my son and daughter to "Soccer-Tots" for many years. They never got very good at it, nor did they get interested enough to continue once they started school, but it was a great experience for them. They got great practice in coordination, gamesmanship, teamwork and, most especially, were in a situation where they were expected to follow orders given by someone who wasn't a parent or relative, and therefore not vulnerable to emotional outbursts. My role was just to reinforce the idea that they needed to listen to and obey the coach. Aug 6, 2018 at 18:40

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