Dear Your Teen:
How do I deal with a situation where the coach is a bully? Also, my teenager doesn’t want me to get involved because he is afraid that he will lose playing time if I do.
EXPERT | Jason Culp
It may depend on the severity of the situation, and how equipped your teenager is to deal with the situation. Sometimes kids need to learn to deal with “jerks,” like a rude coach. Throughout our lives, in high school, college and the workforce, bullies are still a part of the landscape. And the bully may even be the the person in charge.
Dealing With A Bullying Coach:
Discourage that behavior
Acknowledge to your child that you don’t like or support the behavior of the coach. Let your child know that you define the behavior as bullying. This alone may help the child know that you’re there for them. And it teaches them to know that this type of behavior is not acceptable for anyone. In addition, you can help your child use this as a lesson for the future in terms of choices. Sometimes, we have to tolerate inappropriate behavior by others (such as a boss) if we really love something we are involved in. It’s an unfortunate reality, but one that everyone has to endure at some point in their lives.
Decide When to End the Behavior
And, other times, not being exposed to the inappropriate behavior is more important and safer. So we might decide to stop playing the sport for that coach. Or, in the adult world, we might stop working for that company.
This empowers the child to know that he or she does not agree with what is going on, but is making a choice to stay engaged and cope with the adversity. This strategy applies as well with the student who does not want you to get involved. The student must make a choice between tolerating the inappropriate behavior or having you become engaged in the issue.
Without a doubt, bullying behavior on the part of a coach should be brought to the attention of the school principal or youth league director. You might decide to handle it through the principal, even if you don’t directly address the coach. This action should be taken even if the student doesn’t want you to become involved with the school. Many schools have explicit policies against this kind of behavior and will address it if they are notified.
Jason Culp is the Head of Upper School, at Lawrence School in Cleveland, Ohio.