When lectures don’t work

I witnessed a scenario on Saturday that I have seen many times before. Let me set the scene for you: A young boy aged probably 12-13 years gets run out while batting in his team’s cricket match. The boy is obviously furious. He storms off the field and throws his bat on the ground, before tossing his helmet in the air. A man I take to be his father comes rushing over and states in no uncertain terms that he will not tolerate such a display of bad sportsmanship. The boy’s head is hung in shame and the father’s embarrassment is clear for all to see.

What is wrong with this picture? Yes we would all agree that good sportsmanship is very important and good on the dad for wanting to instil this value in his son. But may I offer some words of advice to all those fathers and mothers reading this? Continually lecturing a child on bad sportsmanship won’t work. Our job is to find out what lies beneath that ugly behaviour.

If I was scripting such a scene, I’d love the dad to calmly walk over and acknowledge his son’s emotions. He could empathise with his frustration and anger. He could give the lad some time and space before asking his son why he reacted so strongly to his dismissal. Then he could address the issues that may come out.

The boy could have been so explosive because he didn’t think it was fair that he was run out. He may have had very high expectations of achieving a big score. He could be feeling the pressure of being in a high team or he may have been trying to prove himself capable of playing in a higher team. If these underlying thoughts and emotions are not uncovered and addressed, chances are the bat will be thrown again next week – lecture or no lecture.

The same can be said for so many situations that arise with our kids. Whenever our children act in a way that is contrary to the values we have been busy teaching them, we need to grab the opportunity to explore what’s going on. It’s in these moments of high emotion and bad behaviour when we can really start to see what makes them tick and we can teach them how to handle life’s hurdles.

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