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How Should I Handle This As A Peaceful Parent?

   By: Nancy Buck

My 12-year old daughter is an enthusiastic soccer player. She has played soccer for the last four years. This year things have changed. She is on a competitive travel team. Her new coach seems to have a very different attitude toward the game, practices and his approach than her previous coaches. He seems to spend a great deal of time yelling at the girls and berating them. When I ask my daughter about it, she says that's just his style. She believes that he sometimes gets carried away by his passion for the game and desire to win. I see it as a form of child abuse. I am tempted to take my daughter out of this team all together. But any time I mention this she becomes angry and upset. Is there a peaceful way that I can handle this problem?

Although I spend a great deal of time suggesting to parents that we avoid criticizing our children at all costs, I fear you are not going to like my answer to your question. Leave your daughter on this team. Believe her when she tells you that she does not feel abused or berated. Although that not be true from your point of view, what you don't know is what else is involved in your daughter's relationship with the coach. You observe the potentially hurtful and harmful behaviors. But there must be more going on than you know. Otherwise your daughter would not be able to overlook this coach's style and defend him.

This month's PEACEFUL PARENTING® PRIMER is all about the potential difficulties with unsolicited advice. However, when an expert that we respect offers us feedback, and we believe that this person has our best interest at heart. We hear their words as feedback and suggestions to help us improve in the arena of the relationship. In other words, your daughter sees this coach as a person who is interested in helping her and her team be the best that they can be. Because she believes this, she hears his words and the style of his delivering these words as feedback; information that she can use to improve her soccer skills and abilities.

I would also guess that there are other kinds of interactions and exchanges that this coach has with the girls on the team. If all the coach ever did was to criticize, berate, yell and belittle, no girls would want to be around him or do their best, including your daughter. The time the team spends together involves practices, drilling, strategic planning, after game discussions, pre-game talks just to name some. You are not privy to all of these interactions. Kind words and connections are probably in there, but out of your observations.

I understand your concern. No parent wants to watch as a person of influence and authority seemingly mistreats your child. But your daughter is telling you otherwise. To over rule her decision would be an injustice. Her self-evaluation is that this coach is not doing her harm

However, I do not suggest that you sit idly by hoping for the best or just take my word for it. Continue to talk to your daughter about her coach and soccer. Get curious. Find out why she likes this coach. What is she learning from him about herself? About soccer? Find out if and when the good times exist between this coach and the team. Stay involved. Then trust that your daughter is strong enough in her belief in herself and her soccer abilities that the style of this coach will not destroy her love for the sport and for play.


Nancy S. Buck, Ph.D. established Peaceful Parenting, Inc. in 2000 to bring her knowledge and experience with effective parenting to the greatest number of parents and other caretakers of children. She developed the Peaceful Parenting® program from her 25 years of experience as a developmental psychologist, trainer and educator with The William Glasser Institute and as the mother of twin sons. Her genuine, warm and authentic teaching style is clear and concise, helping learners move from the theoretical to real life situations.
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