Poor Parental Behavior Driven by Poor Positive Parenting

Over the last couple of years, as my daughter has progressed in soccer leagues, both rec and competitive, I have begun to notice a change in the behaviors of the parents and even some of the coaches.

Gone is anything around positivity and learning and developing. The parents I speak of yell at the referees for every infraction against their kid or their team while simultaneously believing everything should be being called non-stop on the other team.

This culminated in one of the last tournaments my daughter was at in that, objectively, the reffing was pretty bad in both directions.

The thing is though as parents we need to realize that the referees at this tournament and level are very much made up of a lot of the players from higher age groups and we look like petulant children in how we behave.

This is a horrible way to show them what the future holds for them, they are there typically in some part due to their love of soccer.

I came across some parents online speaking of ROOTS as an acronym for Rules, Opponents, Officials, Teammates, and Self. Below I will go into each segment but overall it is a concept around removing the win-at-all-costs mentality and to teach valuable principles to our children and hopefully others through our actions.

Yellow Carding a player for bad behavior on the field - parents behaving badly at youth sports


  • Rules – Responsible parents refuse to bend or break rules. Even if you believe you will definitely get away with it. This is very apparent in many attitudes and behaviors we see in older kids as they see their parents more often than not try to game the system in work or some other way and they model their behavior on you.
  • Opponents – Recognize that a worthy opponent brings out the best in our children and ourselves and brings a “fierce-yet-friendly” attitude into competition. Teach your children that when the whistle blows you help any downed opponents to their feet. After the game, win or lose, shake their hands, look them in the eye and congratulate them on a game well-played. As parents, consider emulating this principle yourself by shaking the hands of the parents of the opposing players. This will help in setting a great example for your kids!
  • Officials – Respect officials even when you disagree with them. It’s tempting to join the chorus of criticism for the officials, but stop and think: what good can really come from this. You may not realize it, but your kids have a special ear for your yelling in the stands and in some cases can find themselves humiliated or embarrassed by your yelling. Always remind yourself that the referees and officials are people too, trying to do the best they can and even they acknowledge that they can make mistakes.
  • Teammates – When you talk to your kids about the principle of ROOTS, teach them that they should never do anything to embarrass your league, coach, and team (on or off the field). Do what we can to lift teammates up and help them reach their potential. Being a good teammate means also being a good person.
  • Self – Live up to your own standards of honoring the game, even when others won’t or don’t. If the opposing players, coaches or parents act out or somehow disrespect the game, remind your athlete that they still must not.



  • Take a Deep Breath – This skill can help slow down rapid thoughts and allow time for a second for you to gain control
  • Engage In Self Talk – Remind yourself that you need to be a role model and that you are better than whatever is trying you and your patience.
  • Remind Yourself Of The Discipline Required the NOT React
  • Turn Away From The Action – Sometimes you just need to remove the constant stimulus so that you can let your self-control kick back in again.
  • Count to (number) – This varies by person and level of control needed, I would suggest starting at 10, if still not under control move to 20 and so on to find where it takes for you to get yourself under control
  • Enjoy The Game and Cheer – Enjoy the moment in the game and stop getting upset. Remember when they occurred though and use it to teach your children later how they should respond properly and develop their self-control.

I was upset with what occurred in that game with the referee and the calls made, but I controlled myself so that I don’t do anything stupid to dishonor the team and game. That is an important lesson for life that I want you to learn from soccer.


Develop your own version of or routine for maintaining self-control to make sure you don’t dishonor the team and game with a loss in your own self-control.


Think about when you watch professional sports and how you can get positive or negative examples. Then look to use these events as teachable moments.

When an incident occurs, whether something is covered by the media or something you and your children experience during their own games, let your kids know what you think about it.

An even more sounds strategy is to ask them to talk about it without offering your opinion. If our kids can come to the conclusion that something is or isn’t honoring the game and then be able to put it into their own words then they are more likely to retain what they have learned.

From a sports fight or verbal exchange to exemplary sportsmanship can serve to start a conversation with your child. If you ignore or don’t discuss any negative incidents with your child they may take it as an approval of the misbehavior. Always make your thoughts clear:

I know you look up to that athlete, but fighting on the field is not acceptable under any circumstances. I expect you to never be involved in anything like that.


There are some key things you can do during the game day to help build up your child. These things all can help make sure that they will respond appropriately to the stressors in the game and to ensure they will always honor the game.


  • Tell your child you are proud of them regardless of how the game ends
  • Tell them to play their hardest and to have fun
  • Remind them that being nervous is normal and typically unavoidable to some level
  • Commit to Honoring the Game no matter what others (teammates, coaches, parents) do


  • Let the coach, well, coach the game
  • Avoid instructing your child or other players as this is the coaches job
  • Fill your child and teammates emotional tanks through cheer and encouragement
  • Cheer the good plays and good efforts by both teams as they are all growing and learning the game. It isn’t the other team’s fault if they play better.


  • Thank the referees for doing a difficult job that many wouldn’t want or be able to do
  • Thank the coaches for their effort
  • Remind your child that you are proud of them, especially if the game didn’t go well!


This is about more than just “a game” it is about a life of honoring hard work, practice, and sacrifice. It is about teaching our kids that they need self-control through self-regulation.

They need to be able to control themselves when their anger gets the better of them. They also need to know they will not always win and that losses drive you to become even better.

But it won’t happen if you don’t have control to understand and evaluate what occurred, why it occurred and how you can stop it from occurring in the future.

Don’t be that parent that others on the team are embarrassed by, don’t think that the referee isn’t aware if they missed or blew a call. Don’t trash the other team and their kids because they are playing better and winning. Be the responsible adult you should be and work on building your kids up through honesty and helping them prepare themselves.