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The 'Car Ride Home' Conversations With Your Kid

By Respect Group, 02/16/23, 10:15AM EST


Connecting as a Positive Sport Parent presented by Respect Group

The game of hockey should be a source of fun and enjoyment for a child. However, some well-meaning parents actually place a great deal of pressure on their children without even being fully aware of the impact of their actions.

The Car Ride Home can be one of the most critical aspects of the connection between parent and the player. A simple question meant to encourage your own child, can be interpreted as an outburst on a coach, teammate or the player’s own performance. Most kids know when they have a bad game and hearing from their parents how much it costs to have them in hockey and “playing like that” can create added stressors and build negative connotations towards the game.

“It is strongly suggested that Parents give it 24 hours, and if they still feel the need to have a discussion with their kids about their motivation, behavior, performance etc., do it after having had the chance to 'sleep on it,'” said Mark Allen, Ontario Director of Respect Group Inc. “It is far more likely there will be a meaningful discussion, rather than hurt feelings, kids shutting down, or a full blown argument. It may well be that there needs to be a ‘heart to heart’, but the time and place is very important, and the Car Ride Home is not the place.”

The only exception to the above ‘Ride Home’ rule is when your child engages in behaviour that you would not accept at home, such as spitting, cursing, assaulting an opponent, or disrespecting a coach or authority figure.

“In these cases you should initiate the conversation, not as a parent to an athlete, but as a parent to a child. Even then you must be careful and considerate of the emotions of the match, and choose your words wisely. Deal with the issue, and then put it to bed; do not use it as a segue to a discussion of the entire game,” said John O’Sullivan, author of Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High-Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.

No one is suggesting that the drive home be silent, or there not be any mention of the game or practice on the drive home. Just as kids sometimes need space to cool down and reflect, so do the adults. If you as a parent are feeling angry or frustrated, then perhaps try a simple “how do you feel about the game today” and see where that goes, is sufficient until such time as you are in a better place to have the more meaningful in-depth discussion. As a parent, you want to show interest in what your child is passionate about however it can be best to sometimes let them bring up the topic.

Focus on the positives after a game. Your child may not have scored a goal but maybe they had a great scoring opportunity or were able to pull off the skill you’ve seen them practicing every night in the basement. Even if your child seeks feedback about areas of improvement it is important to hold a balance between criticism and encouragement.

The Car Ride Home can serve as a safe space for children to talk about how they feel about the team, coaches and their performance with an adult that they trust. In a carpool setting, players can focus more on things the team and did well and not be worried about being singled out. Remember, for some players hockey is about spending time together with friends at the rink and not to make the next level, and that's okay.

Hockey is supposed to be fun, and a great opportunity to engage kids in sport for life. Parents have significant influence in a child’s hockey experience. Fortunately, most parents are great with the kids, their biggest fan and supporter. That’s the way it should, through the good days and the bad.

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Respect Group was incorporated to pursue the prevention of bullying, abuse, harassment and discrimination (BAHD). Respect Group is made up of a team of 30 talented individuals whose passion is to create a global culture of Respect.

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