Apr 6, 2011

Modeling good behavior

Kids will copy what they see. It's worse if you then talk about it in front of them. Here are some rink behaviors to avoid.

The behavior: Disrespecting the coaching staff. If there is constant public questioning of the knowledge, authority and motives of the coaching staff, the skaters will learn that they do not need to respect the coaches. This is not the same thing as legitimate questions about rink management issues such as scheduling, special favors, inappropriate behavior, etc. This is about going to a different coach if your skater doesn't pass the class coach, or fighting with coaches in the lobby, or telling all and sundry gossip about the coaches, or stating that if you don't get your way, you'll just go to a different rink (if you threaten this, please follow through).
The lesson to the kids: there's no difference between legitimate questioning of authority and simple rudeness.

The behavior: Showing up late. Parents, here's a clue. You don't have to sign up for classes and lessons that you're going to be chronically late for. Find a time that works. If there isn't a time that works, tell the coach the problem and see what accommodations they can make. If the coach can't or won't extend the lesson, that's not their fault, don't complain about it. And don't expect the coach to suddenly back track and start a group lesson from scratch. Coaches, here's a clue for you. Parents don't care that your pay and benefits suck. They expect you on the ice at the start of class, participating in the teaching. And hey, how about actually teaching the class, even if it isn't full of your students? A word of two or praise every couple of weeks will not ruin the child's technique, either.
The lesson to the kids: my needs are more important than anyone else's.

The behavior: Ignoring the rules. Except for your skaters. It's okay for them to make it up as they go along, because they're the top group. Make sure they understand this, so they can lord it over the other skaters.
The lesson to the kids: see "showing up late."

The behavior: Encouraging cliques. This is not the same as friendships, or tight knit groups of friends. These are exclusive, based on exterior measures like who your coach is or how expensive your car is or what skating pants you wear. You can tell it's a clique if they girls (it's almost always girls) refuse to make friends with someone they might ordinarily actually have a lot in common with (like, um, everyone in the rink). The best way to encourage cliques is to put all the girls in the clique in hard-to-find matching outfits, to talk about parties that only they are invited to (or better yet, to hold the parties at the rink, but make it clear that it's exclusive) and to only talk to the coaches and parents in that group. (I see both coaches and parents encouraging this most destructive of all destructive rink behaviors).
The lesson to the kids: some people are better than others. It is okay to treat the lesser people badly.

The behavior: Never volunteering. Public institutions like schools, sports clubs and programs, and other youth activities survive on the efforts of the participants. In case you hadn't noticed, we do not live in a society neither government (because it can't afford it because people think taxes are a waste of money) nor private owners (because it undermines profits) provide enough resources. The wonderful American character of giving makes up for this. It is your obligation to participate.
The lesson to the kids: I don't have to give back; I get what I want without any more effort than is easy for me to provide. See also "showing up late."

Staying at a rink that you apparently hate. Vote with your feet, folks. After you've brought legitimate complaints to the coaches and management that can do something about it, you have to make a decision. If you can live with it, shut up; continuing complaints just make the kids think it's alright to be angry and disruptive. If you can't live with it, you're going to have to find another rink. If you can't find another rink, you're going to have to live with it.
The lesson to the kids: we are powerless to make change, and we have to participate no matter how unhappy we are.

The behavior (management side): Never responding to legitimate complaints. If you keep hearing the same complaint over and over, there's probably something to it. It's your duty to weed out the crackpots and whiners and actually listen to what's being said, and then either take steps to correct it, or communicate reasons that you can't, or at the very least acknowledge that the complaint has been heard.
The lesson to the kids: we can do whatever we want, because the people in authority don't care about us. They have favorites, and it's not us, so screw them.

As adults, sadly in some cases, we are in charge. The kids, for all their eye rolling and complaining, copy us. Let's make sure they're copying the things worth passing on.


  1. Logic and good parenting? This will never catch on.

  2. (overheard last night) "Oh, don't worry about it, honey, the coaches flunk everybody mid-session. You're fine. You'll pass when it counts."

    If the mid-session tests don't count, why do they bother doing them? Yeesh.

    (Overheard by a late running mom to kid) "It's okay, it's okay. You just missed warm-up. No one cares about that anyway. Just go do your lesson."

    But... But....