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My 10-year old started playing soccer about 6 months ago as the new kid in an existing team. His team gets along well for the most part and most the children know each other from school. As parents we all get along too.

During matches and sometimes even during training tempers will flare. Mostly this consists of mouthing off against a member the other team for pushing or standing too close to the player that is kicking the ball back in the field (I don't know how this soccerrule translates in English.) But generally they show good sportmanship.

There is one kid who is very mouthy very often. To the other team, to the referee and to his own teammates. His father is the team coach and he has to repeat the phrase 'Quiet now, Bobby!' very often. ('Bobby' is not his real name) The kid in question is among the better players, but certainly not the best. He playes in a forward position so he often scores, adding to his ego.

My child has a very hard time dealing with this boy. When my kid makes a mistake or when the other kid is annoyed by something, he just yells at my kid in passing that he is terribly bad at soccer. Which he is not, but he is among the not so good players in the team, he has way less experience and he is very selfconscious. The annoying kid will also misbehave against the really good players, but then everyone knows he is full of shit and the target will easily push back verbally and phsically. Yes there is pushing, from what I saw was mostly in jest but it looked as if it could escalate.

We talked about this recently with another teammember and his dad, and aparently the boy misbehaved more in previous years and was send off the field several times for it. It seems to me the coach (who is also the father of the annoying kid) is trying very hard to be a fair and levelled for the whole team. I want to help my child deal with the situation and I want to avoid doing something stupid that will make it worse for him.

Up to now I have not done anything but comfort my child.

I think there are many options for acting but I have a hard time deciding how to proceed:

  • comfort my child
  • give my child directions on how to handle this (but how should he handle it?)
  • talk to the coach
  • talk to the team
  • be the fitful mom and tell the kid off there and then, see what happens
  • ....
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  • Comforting your kiddo won't do anything to fix the problem.
    – Questor
    Mar 11 at 18:37
  • Coaches kid should be setting the example to the others kids on what being a good team player looks like... That he isn't says bad things about this coach.
    – Questor
    Mar 11 at 18:42

3 Answers 3

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+100

This is a great opportunity to talk about who we listen to and what words we take to heart.

A good question is to ask your son why he thinks this boy acts the way he does. Maybe he's having a hard time at home? or maybe he is feeling a lot of pressure to play really well? Maybe someone at home also shouts at him this way? How did he learn to shout and be rude like this?

This is an opportunity to help your son learn about the underlying reasons and motivations for why a person behaves the way they do.

Another potential discussion you can have is about your sons' own self-esteem and motivations. Just because Bobby says something, does it make it true? Where does a person's value come from? What other people think? or because they are inherently a person and people are inherently valuable (you can also add in whatever your world view is here, religious wise.).

Discussing the difference between opinions and fact can help your son separate himself from Bobby's words. What makes a good soccer player? The number of goals scored? Or being a good friend and team mate? What does that look like? Emphasising that someone can be an amazing soccer player, but a bad friend, does that make them someone you want to play with? What about someone who is not excellent, but is a good friend? Bobby is a great example of this.

Your son will encounter many people who say things that are not true, or have negative things to say about him, and these conversations can help your son think critically and objectively about their words and evaluate their importance to himself and his self esteem. This is about building emotional maturity, and while he's only 10, these kinds of discussions can start opening him up to the idea that not everything other people say can be taken to heart, and he can choose what he will listen to and what he will not.

See also the 10 cognitive distortions.

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I'd tell your kid to ignore the problem kid, reassure him that he isn't wrong to dislike the misbehaving kid, and that the adults should be stepping in to fix things; the game is supposed to be fun for everyone, and it's not fun if one kid is insulting other kids.

Are there other parents who feel like you do? I'd get some parents together and confront the coach. Tell him that the problem kid is ruining a fun experience for the other kids, and the coach needs to make sure that all his kids are behaving in a sportsmanlike manner. The fact that some kids are taking matters into their own hands verbally and physically doesn't not absolve the coach from being an adult and stepping in.

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  • So far we only talked about this with one other parent and teammate, unfortunately their opinion is: "Bobby's behavior was worse before and it's just the way he is".
    – Ivana
    Mar 12 at 8:56
  • 2
    Then you might have to go it alone. But it's not right for him to let his son insult the other kids. They are all there to have a good time, not there to be his child's emotional punching bag. And being "better" is not good enough.
    – swbarnes2
    Mar 13 at 19:33
  • Tbh, this depends on the type of insults this kid is throwing and to the extent it affects the OP's child. I am generally, personally, very much against adults interfering in the conflicts of children because it often turns much uglier, but this case seems to me to be an exception as the bully keeps the same behaviour even after being told not to by the coach. This is only bound to repeat, so perhaps it may not be so bad to confront the little bully yourself (Most preferably with a group of other parents). Mar 16 at 18:35
  • Though, once again, I am not sure what the exact extent of these "insults" are, and if they are something minor like calling names (Idiot, stupid, etc.) or actual bullying. The OP might need to analyze this properly and decide their next course of action. I am assuming from the fact that the coach has to tell the boy to quiet down, and the fact that the OP's child is disturbed of it to the point of this question getting authored, it is something severe, but not sure enough to write an answer. Mar 16 at 18:38
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I think a lot of parents are going to find a situation like this difficult. First thing you are going to want to do, is NOT GET INVOLVED IN ANY DIRECT WAY. The best thing that happens if you get directly involved is that the problem child is quiet when you're around and 100 times worse when you are not. And that's the best outcome. It's for more likely that you do something like embarrass your son to the point that he no longer asks for help.

So there are a few things you can do. All of them focus on giving your child the ability to handle the problem. If you find that you are handling the problem then you likely oversteped. The goal here is to prepair your child for the world, not to protect your child from the world Or if you prefer Finding Nemo - "Well, you can't never let anything happen to him. Then nothing would ever happen to him."

Work on self-esteem and self-worth

Back to the basics. What are you good at? What did you do right? What did you learn? Great job blocking. Great job clearing the goal. Great job working the field. (I don't know soccer at all) Just spend time making sure your child knows what they are good at.

Acknowledge shortcomings and put them into perspective

This is one we tend to overlook. I think we're moving out of the everyone gets a trophy phase until someone says, "Your kid doesn't get a trophy," then we tend to want to go back to it.

The point here is to acknowledge short commins in our self (or in this case for your child to acknowledge them, themselves), and to put them into place.

"I'm bad at kicking goals, I need to work on that. It's not that important cause I'm the goalie, so it's not going to come up much, but I should still practice it. "

That kind of thing. Take care that you're not "saying" that the problem child is right in their behavior. But if your child knows their own weak spots, they can focus on improving them. If your child thinks they are an awesome kicker and they are not, they will be hurt more.

Focus on personal goals

Why do they want to play soccer? Is that more important/worth dealing with this problem team mate? So they want to play soccer; what are their goals? Are they achieving them? How does your child measure success? When the problem child says, "You're a bad kicker, smelly head!" internally, your child can be ready with, "Well, this month I was working on being more agile and not getting winded when running around the field. And I did that. Go ME!"

Highlight how important it is to choose good friends

So, is the problem child a good friend? What do you do if someone is not a good friend? Do you need to hang out with them? Having good friends is essential, but choosing who you try to be friends with is more important.

Work on the "I words"

Teach your child to respond with "I words". It's corny to thing of it like that. But it helps. When your kid can respond with "I don't like being called a smelly head," and "I don't like when you say XYZ to me." It can help move along the dialog. Teaching your child to think about how something effects them, and then being able to verbalize that in a productive way can be very effective.

For you to go to the coach and say "I don't like how your child is treating my child," will have some effect. But a much stronger effect will be when your child goes to his coach and says "I don't like how your child is treating me."

Think and discuss the nuclear option

Don't forget about this one. It's how fights start. Kids starting puberty, with all that emotion and hormones, and they don't know what to do when they are frustrated past the point of making sense of it. Someone will throw a punch. Instead, talk about possible nuclear options that don't involve fighting.

  • Well if things don't get better, we can move you to another team.
  • If you are having that hard of a time is soccer the right sport for you?
  • Ok, you need to take a stand; if this keeps happening and you're not able to resolve it, just sit down in the field until the adults are ready to have a conversation with you.

None of these options are great, and maybe you two can come up with better ones, but the general idea is that you have talked about the "bad options," and none of them are "punching each other."

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