Monday, February 20, 2012

To Be a Parent is a Privilege

Every day on my facebook page I post something that stood out for me on that day, whether it be positive or negative. You can find them under the photo labelled Most Memorable Part of My Day. Sometimes it's personal and other times it's work related. Then there are those moments when, for good or ill, you just stand there with your jaw agape and it's the talking point for you for days to come at least.

I didn't witness this incident, but after hearing countless recounts from numerous people, each adding a little extra to the story, I was appalled that this happened at all. So I've kept you hanging long enough. It's time to share this disturbing story with you.

Over the weekend I officiated at a children's athletics championships. Late in the afternoon of the first day of competition the final of the under 9 girls 400 metres race was being run. One of the competitors had earlier run out of her lane in the heats and had therefore been disqualified. I don't know the reasons why, but the girl was reinstated and allowed to compete in the final. During the race the girl once again ran out of her lane, this time interfering with another competitor.

The mother of the competitor who was interfered with approached the official involved and blamed them for allowing the other girl to race into the final. This girls' father then launched a tirade into the mother. This in turn led to her husband coming in to defend his wife and daughter, which led to the father of the disqualified/reinstated girl king hit the other dad.

A full on brawl ensued in from of several hundred children aged between 7 and 17, their parents, siblings, families, friends and officials. The police were called and took both men away. This was very distressing for all who witnessed it, in particular the children. One child wouldn't even compete the next day because they were so upset.

Now that you know the story I come to the point of this post. Any of us who are parents have a responsibility to ourselves, our children, our partners, the rest of our families and friends, and the wider community. Not only did these parents disgrace themselves, they demonstrated irresponsible and immature behaviour in front of their own children and numerous others. I include the mother in this too as the way she verbally abused the officials, also in front off children, was just as reprehensible.

We as early childhood professionals spend our time teaching children that violence is not the way to solve our problems, yet all that hard work can be in vain if the message at home, whether it be implicit or explicit, is that brute force triumphs over negotiation and rational thinking. As parents we need to be mindful of the examples we are setting for our children. In both roles we should be ensuring a smooth transition between home and school life.

I'm glad I didn't witness this incident. If I had been close at hand I'm unsure of whether I would have been able to hold my tongue, which would most likely have inflamed matters. Unfortunately I feel very passionate about such matters, which has, and will in all liklihood will, get me in trouble.


  1. I love your title of this post and wish I had known it to use on the weekend at a child's party where many of the parents were complaining about being parents and the limitations it puts on their lives. I was in shock and, for once, silent!
    I've also been involved with kid's soccer for many years so know what your talkinh about (unfortunately)

  2. You're right, being a parent IS a privilege, but many don't realize it! I'm so sorry for all those poor kids witnessing it, but I'll bet many of them walked away knowing how wrong those parents were. I've seen parents act like total oafs at children's sporting events, too. Maybe a sportsmanship lesson/test should be given to parents before allowing children to sign up! ;)

  3. Lesley, the sad fact is this sort of thing happens across so many sports. In many cases I think it's the parents trying to relive their childhood successes or make up for their lack of achievement as a child, through their children.

    Ayn, if only it were that simple. First they would need an aptitude test for soon-to-be parents, but that will never happen.

  4. Ah, parents living through their children... you're so right. And it's nauseating. In my days teaching high school music at a very selective school I had the joy of being verbally assaulted by parents like these (and sometimes it verged on the physical, though I was never king hit). This is yet another reason why I dislike the Tiger Mother syndrome.