What My Son’s Hockey Coaches Taught Me About Parenting

My 10 year old son was throwing a fit on the hockey rink.

He was banging his stick on the ice. He was furious. The other team had scored while he was on his defensive shift.

The Mom in me was nauseous. This was, in my opinion, a major regression of behaviour I thought we had buried. He hadn’t acted this frustrated in months.

The other team scored again during his shift. His anger and outbursts were exponentially growing.

Then another goal and another. I stopped counting and wondered if I needed to intervene and rescue the coaches from my kids completely inappropriate behaviour.

It was the longest 45 minute game ever.

For those wondering why he was getting so upset, let me explain a bit.

My son LOVES hockey and he loves stats,  He loves to record his plus/minus, which is a statistic for players that tracks how many goals are scored while they’re on the ice.  He’s also a perfectionist with anxiety and he takes his job as a defensemen, VERY seriously.  What was happening in this game that hadn’t happened in a long time was the other team was scoring while he was on the ice.  He felt responsible, and it was impacting his stats.

I understood why he has upset, but I was definitely not happy with how he was handling it.

The coaches were great with him. They just let him be but kept him going. He tried to leave the ice once, but the coach got him back.

I was angry. I was sad. I was embarrassed.

I thought to myself, “I’m not letting this kid play hockey tomorrow this behaviour is ridiculous, he needs a consequence.”

I asked the guy beside me who was wearing a hockey coat if he was a coach. He said yes. I asked him if he would bench a player for behaviour like that. He said:

“At this age? No. You need to nurture that intensity.”

Wise advice. And I needed to hear it.

I cooled down.

The irony is, I’m clearly just as intense as he is. Don’t you love parenting? It’s pretty tough to watch our kids make the same mistakes we did and do.

I walked into the change room, I mouthed “Thank you” to his coach. He said to me, “Your boy puts way too much responsibility on himself. He blames himself for goals. He needs to stop bullying himself. He is the definition of a bully, only he’s the victim.

It was a profound moment for me. I had never thought of it like that.

He was right. This kid didn’t need discipline, he needed empathy, compassion and guidance on how to better channel that intensity.

We didn’t talk about the game for a few hours. We ate, I kept the mood upbeat and no one brought it up.

Related: Is Parenting Harder Now?

Finally he said to me, “That was the worst game of my life.” I said “Well, every hockey player has a ‘worst’ game, but losing your cool and making others around you feel uncomfortable is not a good way to deal with your feelings.”

I asked him how he thinks Carey Price (one of his favourite players) felt when he lost the other night 7-1. I said, “Do you ever see Price bang his stick, or lose his cool?”

He thought about that.

Then I said to him, “I want you to do me a favour. I want you to be nice to yourself. I want you to stop being mean to yourself.”

I watched him digest those words.

I’m truly grateful for those coaches. They gave my son exactly what he needed: empathy instead of discipline. They’re called coaches for a reason.

Thank you.

The journey of parenting continues to baffle me.

Trying to raise good decent humans is exhausting and amazing, and if anyone has tips on “nurturing that intensity” please share away!