Bullying Awareness week is in full swing Nov 17-23, 2013 and it’s not just for the kids, it’s for adults too.
My daughters both play in recreational and competitive sports. They are also on their school teams and as parents we are expected to lead by example when we are spectating (i.e. Good sportsmanship behaviour etc). I myself am quite engaged when my kids are playing sports and I can admit to getting a little boisterous (and I use this term lightly haha) at a few games but I can honestly say that I have never bullied my child from the sidelines.
A couple of weeks ago I went to watch my daughter’s volleyball game at her school, she’s in junior high so the girls are aged 11-12. I recognized a couple of the girls on the opposing team from her competitive soccer league. I happened to be sitting beside the father to one girl I’ll call ‘Lizzy’. In soccer Lizzy was one of the most skilled players, very talented so it was no surprise that she was in other sports as she seemed to love it.
As Lizzy was playing volleyball she would constantly look over at her dad for what seemed like approval for every action she took. He was focused only on her and didn’t really smile or cheer on the team. Then it happened, she missed her first bump, and she looked over at him almost scared. He then muttered loud enough for me to hear “ugh, useless”. I couldn’t believe what I heard! I thought to myself, no, I didn’t hear that, perhaps he was mistaken because how could he say that to his daughter!
The game continued and she missed a volley and I clearly heard him say “what a waste”! Excuse me? What? Did he really just say this to his tween daughter?!?
So I start to get upset but instead I start to shout out “great shot Lizzy” or “way to go Lizzy” as I cheered for my own daughter. All in the hopes that I could drown out her dads poor attitude and what I consider the worst type of bullying. I was hoping to be an example to him, but it didn’t matter, each play missed was a similar demeaning comment towards this little girl who was clearly oblivious to the fact that what her dad was doing was wrong!
What could I do? Well I posted this to FB:
I really wanted to react in a negative way to this man but what would that make me?
Here’s what a few of my friends had to say on my post:
“That’s sad…you could nicely tell him off or at least inform him that his actions are only going to lead to self esteem issues, depression or rebellion.”
“In the end…the love you give is equal to the love you get…he’ll be a lonely old man.”
“Can you cheer so big that you “accidentally” knock him off the bench? GRRRR”
“Not all ‘deadbeat’ dads are absentees. Douche.”
“The damage that he is doing will be worse than the damage that was done to him…”
At the end of the game I approached the coaching staff to address the situation. The coach was a teen herself and didn’t seem overly concerned. I didn’t get the feeling that she would have a discussion directly with that parent. I told her that as a parent we are always reminded of our accepted behaviour at games towards the other teams children but what about our own?? I didn’t confront him but I pointed out the fact that I experienced it and her first priority should be to reiterate that fact with her teams parents before their next game.
Was that enough? Should I have done more? Could I have done more? It all happened so quickly and within minutes my daughter was by my side ready to head home and Lizzy and her father were gone. On the car ride home I told my daughter about it and she was in shock, she couldn’t believe that someone did that to their own kid, and she was thankful that I’m not the same.
Personally, I’ve even experienced bullying at work, and I’m in HR! As we prepare to discuss bullying with the young people in our lives, let’s also remember that bullying doesn’t discriminate based on age, it’s happening with adults too, we need to stand up for each other!