Are you the parent who immediately volunteers for a leadership position? Or do you wait and see what holes are left after the dust settles? Please don’t tell me you’re the one who spends all their time criticizing the folks who have volunteered. Or the one who doesn’t even keep track of practices, games, performances, or meetings and just expects someone else to ferry your kid around all the time without you ever reciprocating. Because let me tell you, everyone falls into one of these four categories.
Y’all know I’m a boy mom, so my personal experiences all have to do with T-ball, baseball, basketball, soccer, Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, band, chorus, and drama productions. But I have friends and family who have told me stories of their daughters and their experiences with field hockey, cheerleading, dance team, color guard, and Girl Scouts. We all want our kids to have a good experience, right? And we want to get through it without needing therapy or rehab ourselves, right? So here are the rules:
Do not criticize the leader unless you are willing to take over their job. They are volunteering huge amounts of their time. If you really think they are doing a crappy job go to them privately and volunteer to help. Be specific about what responsibilities you are willing to take over and then do it. Do not gossip about them with other parents or be passive-aggressive in your interactions.
If you are the leader make it clear up-front what is expected of the parents. What are the total fees and when are they due? When are meetings, practices, games, competitions? Who is responsible for snacks? In Cub Scouts, for example, each family is responsible for hosting a den meeting during the year. That meeting should involve activities that earn a badge for everyone that attends and participates. “Let’s meet at Gattiland!” doesn’t cut it.
Leaders: Start and end things on time. Waiting fifteen minutes for “everyone to show up” is rewarding bad behavior (late-comers) and punishing those who arrived on time. Do this enough and no one will arrive on time because they will expect you to start late. It’s a self-defeating cycle. And make sure all kids have been picked up before you leave. I’ve many times taken a kid home because he’d been waiting fifteen minutes for his mom to show up, the group leader was long gone, and he’d be standing alone, outside, in the dark if I hadn’t.
Fund-raisers suck. We all agree on this, right? Some are required, like Girl Scouts selling cookies (YUM!) and Boy Scouts selling that nasty popcorn (UGH!), but most are optional. If you have a great fund-raising idea volunteer to take charge of it. “Great fund-raising idea” in my book is selling something that everyone is probably already going to buy anyway and will be thrilled to buy from a deserving group of kids (i.e. pumpkins at Halloween, wreaths at Christmas, cookie dough anytime, mulch in the Spring, or plants in the Spring).
If you have volunteered to be responsible for a project do not feel compelled to run every single decision by the group leader. If they had wanted to micro-manage that particular project they wouldn’t have let you volunteer to do it. Conversely, if you are the group leader check in periodically to make sure those responsible for projects aren’t in over their head, but don’t hover, and don’t second-guess them unless what they have planned is completely inappropriate.
Leaders, make it clear how you want to be contacted. I suggest email, which you can check at your convenience. Parents, if the group leader has asked that they be contacted by email do not text or call them unless it’s truly urgent. When I was getting up at 3am for work every morning I did not appreciate 10pm calls asking about nut allergies because someone was planning snacks for a meeting a week later. While we’re on the topic – just assume everyone has nut allergies. There are too many adults and children affected and the reactions can be too severe to chance this one. Oh, and phone trees don’t work. Ever. Trust me on this one.
Parents: follow the rules. A closed practice or rehearsal means just that. This usually doesn’t come up until kids are older (high school) and should be able to behave without having a parent present. If you trust the coach/ leader enough to allow your child to be involved trust them enough to respect their request for a closed practice. 99% of closed practices are the result of parents acting like idiots and being disruptive. Carpool assignments, dress codes, pretty much all rules are in place because someone did something stupid and the leader is trying to keep it from being repeated.
On the other hand, if parents are “encouraged to attend” please do so if at all possible. Leaders encourage parents to attend for one of two reasons: Either the kids are working hard and could use the positive encouragement having a parent there provides or the kids are out of control and the leader needs help keeping them safe. If your child is more difficult to control or less likely to listen than other kids their age please go to every activity with them. My youngest was a “wild child” and I knew I’d have to go to every single activity anyway, so I was his Den Leader all through Cub Scouts and worked backstage for plays until he finally grew calmer.
Remember your manners. Thank people who have taken time out of their own busy schedules to do something nice for your kids. Thank the mom who let everyone come to her house when they lost their practice space at the last minute. Thank the dad who took a week’s vacation time to teach a hundred little boys to shoot BB guns. Thank everyone who took on a project, no matter how small, and completed it – they’ll remember that and take on a larger one next time. Clean up whatever space you used and any equipment you borrowed.
— 10 —
Be a grown-up. Forming cliques, gossiping, tattle-taleing, bullying, and making disparaging remarks about kids, parents, or leaders is never acceptable. Sound carries rather well in the bleachers. I’ve never watched the series Dance Moms because it gives me Pinewood Derby flashbacks. And believe me, there is no surer way to find out what your own kid has been up to than to insult another parent’s child. And suddenly “borrowing eyeshadow without permission” doesn’t really sound like much next to “has been telling you all year practice started an hour earlier than it really does so she can make out with her boyfriend beforehand”. Just sayin’
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