Keeping your player out of the penalty box
Dear Hockey Mom,
My son cannot seem to stay out of the penalty box – something that’s huge during the playoffs when one power-play goal can end a season. We have tried everything from bribes to threats, and nothing seems to work. The coaches on his team are frustrated, and so is he. I know he struggles with anger and it comes out through his hockey. I just wish he could channel it in a better way.
On the PK Mom
This is a tough one. I know coaches constantly struggle with players taking dumb and unnecessary penalties. As parents, we have to pick and choose our battles.
Perhaps you might try to get to the root of his anger. Often it’s covering up for another frustration, fear and/or hurt. Find out if something is affecting him in any of these areas. Is he frustrated with his performance or is he afraid of failing, on the ice or in school? Is he trying to reconcile his behavior with your rules and what his peers expect? It could be a number of things.
By narrowing it down and discussing it with him, you can sometimes bring it to the surface and thus allow him to deal with his anger. Enlisting the aid of a professional, like a school counselor, might help.
I would also be open with the coaches and let them know you are concerned and taking action. Coaches are often parents themselves and understand the struggles we all go through.
And I like any kind of bribe, if it works! Recently, I heard of a player who couldn’t stay out of the box, so his teammates bet him $5 each that he couldn’t go the whole weekend – four games – without a penalty. Before that, the longest span he had ever made it through unpenalized was one game.
Miraculously, he did it. Not only did he win some extra spending money, but now he has the confidence that he can do it. In fact, he got only one penalty in the next four games.
I am not advocating gambling. But, in this case, the team wanted to try something different – and it worked. You could also offer some sort of prize. Or remind him of the ultimate prize if he stays out of the box – a chance at a district and/or state championship.
Whatever approach you choose, remember to stick with the problem until it’s resolved. He’ll be happier both on and off the ice.