Shaken, Not Stirred: Keep your opinions to yourself, part 1.

July 31, 2016
Jim Bond

Jim Bond


Shaken, Not Stirred. A blog by Jim Bond.

No, the title of this blog is not self admonition. It’s to interruptive, disruptive parents.

We’re all enjoying summer. The season of children’s baseball games, community theatre, dance lessons, martial arts, piano instruction, and a variety of other activities designed to keep youngsters active during their summer vacation. This is not the only season of extra-curricular activities, of course. Soon, it’ll be some of the above-mentioned, augmented by soccer, football, basketball, etc.

One thing is universal though, the small percentage of parents/grandparents, et al who sabotage the benefits of these activities by openly expressing opinions contrary to the coach/teacher/director. It’s a disservice to all involved, especially the children. Once your child walks onto the field (stage/class/studio, etc.) their activities and instruction are the sole responsibility of the coach (director/teacher/instructor, etc.)

It’s laudable to be involved in your child’s activity. It’s called parenting.

It’s inexcusable to interfere. Sometimes it’s an attempt to “help”. Sometimes it’s living vicariously to compensate for your own failures.

It’s always a bad idea.

As parents, you have selected a coach/teacher/director, based on their perceived expertise, or you possess a degree of faith in the organization they represent.

Shut up and let them do their job. You’re not helping, you’re undermining their efforts. There might be a specific reason the coach doesn’t want your daughter swinging against that particular pitcher. The director of the play may feel it’s funnier (from an artistic point of view) if your child is peeking from being a tree on stage instead of downstage center.

Don’t argue. If you’re dissatisfied, perhaps next year you can be in charge.

Obviously, if there is something illegal or immoral going on, it needs intervention. Like, um, now. (A miniscule percentage).

It’s wonderful, essential even, maybe actually an art form – for parents to be involved and observe.

There’s even a difference between group and private instruction. My seven year-old son began piano lessons this summer. While I want to be there and observe, his grandparents bring him to the lesson and sit quietly in the back of the room. An additional person might further change the dynamic between teacher/pupil.

My eldest son Thomas is a teacher in New York.

“A parent onlooker is a bit like one’s first driving test, in which the child and the teacher are both driving and the parent is ready at their clipboard. When a parent sits in, the focus shifts from an emphasis on growth to one of performance and impressing. For the helicopter parents, I guarantee the class will be more meaningful to your child AND the teacher if you get involved only by asking meaningful questions later. Classroom time isn’t showtime; classroom time is growing time. It is rare that a plant can ever do much growing if you’re standing in its sun.”

Thomas adds: “I’d also be remiss to leave out the two piano lessons my mother watched in second grade.” (Let me point out that Thomas’ mother is an accomplished pianist in her own right; who saw the wisdom of delegating that unique responsibility). Thomas went on to study piano for over a decade and it’s still integral to his life.

In a group class activity, assume the instructor is aware your child is chattering and distracting others. He or she doesn’t need your input from the gallery. Imagine the anarchy if all the parents are doing the same. It compromises the integrity of the teacher and the learning experience. Talk to your child or the instructor (in private) afterward if you must.  

One of the principal goals of these activities is to build independence in your children. Part of that maturation process also involves letting go. I’m no psychologist or expert on parenting, but are you comfortable that your six year-old has such ‘separation anxiety’ that your dropping him or her off results in what my son Thomas refers to as a “…grandiose, bon voyage, Titanic’s-leaving goodbye”? We’ve all seen it, the moment when someone drops off their child, resulting in so much angst it makes the farewell between Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio look downright stoic.

Next week I’ll offer my opinion (are you surprised?) on what I feel is the end result of this sort of subversion. It’ll even include some commentary by Mason County Press colleague Dan Vargas.

In the meantime, what are your thoughts about this? Agree? Disagree? Post your comments here.



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