Dealing with Difficult Parents

Picture this. You’re sitting in the bleachers on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon. You’re surrounded by fellow parents who are enjoying the echoes of sticks crackling and skates scraping as you all watch your children having a blast playing a weekend hockey game together. Everyone’s having fun. Life is good. Then, just after a whistle, a father just a few seats over begins barking rudely at the refs because he’s convinced a penalty should have been called a moment ago. The barking turns to yelling - the yelling to insults - the insults to cruelty. Before you know it, he’s screaming directly at the child he feels did his son wrong. In no time, other parents partake. Some yell at the excited father, others take sides. The next thing you know, your fabulous afternoon has become an uncomfortable spectacle for all to see, including the kids.

Scenes like this happen all too often in youth sports. Let’s face it, some people are just jerks. However, even ordinary good-natured folks can sometimes let emotion get the better of them. The hard truth is that ALL parents are emotionally tied to their children and will not always act appropriately when attending their sporting events. Further, it only takes one bad decision by one adult to ruin what’s supposed to be a fun event for everyone. To try and avoid these instances, here are a few quick suggestions when dealing with difficult or disruptive parents.

Cool, Calm and Collected

You can’t control what other people do, only what you do. If you witness a parent behaving badly, it’s best to report them to the league director or rink management, rather than taking matters into your own hands. Remember, you want to stop the problem, not contribute to it. Getting involved directly often adds fuel to the fire and cause tensions to escalate. Once that happens, you’re no better than the jerk who started the mess.


As I stressed in my last blog, communication is the key to understanding. Whether you agree with what another parent is saying or doing, it’s important to be respectful of their position. No matter how trivial or ridiculous you think they’re being, it’s important to remember that they don’t see it that way. Allowing them a forum to explain their perspective not only opens the lines of communication, but also gives that person an outlet to express themselves, thus helping keep tempers under control. As they say, you catch more flies with honey.

A Helping Hand

Very often, disruptive parents really don’t realize they’re being disruptive. After all, they’re just looking out for the best interests of their child, and possibly yours' as well. You would do the same thing, right? That may be so, but again, there are good ways and bad ways to “help”. If a well-meaning parent is causing more problems than they’re solving, sometimes it’s best to offer them a “position” in which to focus their efforts. For instance, if a busy-body mom feels the team doesn’t have enough pucks to properly warm up before a game, one could suggest she organize some type of fundraiser like a bake sale in order to make money to buy more pucks. Obviously, this isn’t the most difficult of problems to solve. But it’s a good example to get you thinking outside the box. After all, not EVERY difficult parent actually means to be difficult. Most people mean well. So, it’s important to find productive ways to get everyone involved whenever possible.

Hi-Tech Temperament

Many people refrain from reporting disruptive people for fear of getting involved. You certainly can’t blame someone for avoiding possible confrontation. However, a program in Calgary has taken an interesting, hi-tech approach to the problem. They have devised a system which encourages parents who witness bad behavior to report it via text by simply sending a 4-digit code via phone. This anonymous system allows for officials to be notified of behavior infractions, thus allowing the reporting party to avoid dealing with the culprit(s) directly. To read more about this fantastic new approach, follow this link:


Remember, youth sports are supposed to be fun for everyone, including the adults. If at any time it doesn't feel that way, something is wrong. Never be afraid to address the problem. Just be sure to do it in a smart, productive way.

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