1. Maggie

    If he’s just doing silly jeers, I’d tune him out. But if we’re really talking about “vicious remarks” in ways that are unrelated to the game (e.g. cursing at her, calling her names, or insulting her appearance) I would absolutely say something to him. You might not waste your breath trying to teach him the nuances of sportsmanship, but you could certainly ask him to calm down and be respectful of your daughter. If your comment doesn’t stop him, don’t engage in a confrontation. Find an administrator or security guards at the game and ask him/her to speak to him or escort him out. As a rule, if a high school student couldn’t say it in gym class, the administration isn’t going to allow an adult to shout it from the stands.

  2. Jerry

    Yes, you may respond to a bully. It is every parent’s job to stand up for his child against attacks from others. Parents have an obligation to support their children (i.e., people under the age of majority) in all things, and to provide aid, comfort, and defense against any and all attacks by others. If you feel comfortable “confronting” the other parent, do it. You might do this by telling that parent that he is watching a high school game played by children. Or you might be more direct and tell the parent to lay off your daughter or you will ask security to intervene. If you don’t feel comfortable “confronting” the other parent, tell a referee or tell school security that a parent has gone way over the line. The one thing you cannot do is to let your daughter — a child — be or remain the victim of an unanswered attack from an adult.

    With all sincerity, EPI, what’s your issue with “confrontation”? Etiquette has tools that allow one to verbally defend oneself and ones family. There is absolutely no rule of etiquette that requires anyone to suffer abuse in silence; the proper analogy would be the law of self-defense to a physical attack. Just like you’re within your rights to stop a bully from physically assaulting your child, you are also within your rights to stop a bully from the functional verbal equivalent. To the extent that your asking a parent to stop attacking your child makes the people around you uncomfortable — too bad. Etiquette does not require you to sacrifice your comfort, or the comfort of your family, on the alter of “grin and bear it.” Further, much like martial arts can help one neutralize a physical attack with minimal damage to oneself or ones attacker, etiquette has tools that can help you “confront” a bully without escalating the situation.

    [I’m happy to work with EPI to the extent that your staff needs someone who can speak to verbal self-defense within the rules of etiquette.]

  3. I think EPI is more concerned that the sort of person who would berate a child at a sporting event is the same sort of person who would physically attack a parent who asked the person (however politely) to stop.

    • Elizabeth

      I agree with Jerry here. It seems quite cowardly to sacrifice the comfort one one’s children and the people around the abuser because of the hint of a threat that s/he may become violent. I would be less likely to say something if we were isolated, but on the sidelines of a sporting event where there are many other people, the likelihood of violence is very low. However, the likelihood that one’s child would no longer trust you to be in their corner because you as a parent allowed another adult to shout “vicious” remarks is high. (Again, I am only responding to the question. If the shouts and cheers were within the bounds of normal spectatorship, I definitely wouldn’t say anything. But “vicious” remarks should not be countenanced.) One doesn’t have to “fight fire with fire” but could very reasonably say “Hey Buddy, cool it with the yelling.” or something equally non-aggressive. If that didn’t work, or if it seemed to escalate, then the thing to do would be to get the coaches/administrators involved.

      What if you (not you=Laura, but you=anyone) and your child were in the supermarket and an adult said something mean to your child about their weight, looks or clothes? Would a response be appropriate then? Adults are always telling children to ‘ignore’ the bullies, but as someone who was bullied in junior high and early in my high school career, I found that nothing worked better than to give them a verbal thrashing, to put them in their place. Bullies are not known for recognizing boundaries and limits unless they are drawn determinedly by others.

      • Alicia

        Actually Verbal thrashings always made bullies worse in my case at least. The inner confidence to know that bullies are wrong and mean and likely insecure is the best way to getthem to pick on others and that involves a poker face and a slight dismisive shrug of the shoulders. The classy response of cheering for your team without putting down the others is the way to go. In high school I learnt this lesson very well due to a meet agaist our rivals. On the way into our field the other team had to go by signs we had put up that said go freshmen listing all the freshmen go sophmores go juniors go seniors ballons in our school colors ect. . On the way in they ripped down each and every sign, popped ballons, ect. Until they got to their locker room that had a big welcome sign and a very well done picture of their mascot and a few balloons in their school colors. Their coach was so humiliated that he made them go back and tape up the signs again. The phsycological advantage of being good sports had us beating them by more then we had won by in years vs this team. The classy way will always win out over time. Cheer your team on and actually go over and when that parents kid does somethingh good say so to the parent.

    • Jerry

      I don’t know how much EPI edits the questions that come in, but the call of the question as written asks whether and how one may tell an adult who is directing vicious statements at a child to cool it as opposed to a request for “Dear Abby” type advice. (And the advice to ignore someone attacking your family is just wrong.) Why is this an etiquette question?

      1. There is a general rule of etiquette that says you don’t point out rudeness in others; but
      2. Etiquette requires people to give aid and comfort (sometimes called charity) to people who cannot protect themselves; and
      3. Parents have a responsibility, above and beyond Rule 2, to give aid and comfort to their children.

      Most useful would be to explain how to navigate all three rules. For example, EPI could have stated that the specific rule generally trumps the general rule, and that a parent’s first responsibility is to his children. And EPI could have added a caveat that one should consider the potential that responding could lead to a physical confrontation. (Although, as Elizabeth pointed out, there is not likely to be physical violence at a high school sporting event with many other people around.) But instead, EPI’s response was incomplete at best, and could lead to fissures in the parent-child relationship.

  4. Vanna Keiler

    I agree with both Jerry and Laura. There are definitely occasions where one feels compelled to point out a “wrong” or “injustice” in this world, and depending on how excessive that is, a need to respond to that injustice should supercede our sense of etiquette. However, these are extreme situations and hopefully, few and far between for us all. If I was unsure of a person’s reaction to a confrontation, it would be in my best interest to err on the side of caution. As Laura put it, if someone has already transgressed bounds of decency and etiquette to an extreme, chastising them politely may further fuel their fire and the situation quickly escalate. In those situations, one has to weigh the pros and cons of a risky confrontation with an extremely hostile and rude individual, and proceed with caution regardless.

    I would also imagine that a son and daughter would be watching your reaction closely, and the abusive father’s children are probably mortified by the father’s outburst. That may be karma enough. :)

  5. scdeb

    I wouldn’t respond to the opposing team parent for fear that it could lead to more harrassment of a more brutal kind. Some parents are so wrapped up in their childrens sports careers that they become unreasonable & sometimes even violent. Coaches, referees, fans, parents have been attacked & even killed by some of these irate parents. Also, your daughter might suffer even more if this parent decides to ignore you & focus even more on your daughter afterward. There are too many ways for this to happen what with facebook, emails–bullies know no bounds.
    There are rules in place in school atheletics to keep this from becoming an issue. Most sports programs have rules prohibiting this type of behavior because it can lead to violence. If you do confront this bully you may be accused of becoming part of the problem. Instead approach the coaches, directors etc when you are calm & possibly on another day & find out why this behavior was allowed & why there isn’t someone in the program present during games to make sure that the offender is stopped or asked to leave.
    I have been at high school games where this type of behavior was stopped cold with a police escort for the parent who could not keep his mouth shut. In one incident the parent in question was banned from several games as punishment. His son was mortified as was the team. We, as parents, endured a lecture and were reminded of the promise we had signed at the beginning of the seaon to behave even though we had not been part of the incident. My son was very proud of us for doing the only type of cheering that should be done with children–go team, go & not break his leg. Later the man apologised to us all.

    • Zakafury

      I completely agree. If the conduct is truly out of line, let the high school staff know. There is always security, and almost always a police officer there.

  6. Camille

    I will say that it is high school basketball and people can be jerks sometimes. If I were the daughter, I would NOT want my parents to get involved with another parent regardless of what they were yelling. Perhaps the answer is to keep in mind the the daughter might not care if someone is yelling at her therefore why should the parent?

  7. Ashleigh

    I do think the parent should have intervened – however, I do not think they should do it directly. As polite as the parent may have intended to be towards the offender in their request, the situation could escalate very quickly and nasty words could be exchanged by both parties thereby creating more of a spectacle. I would immediately bring this to the attention of a security guard or athletic director to handle. Many schools have codes of conduct in place for sporting events and bullying would definitely be in violation.

    I am in agreement with Camille as well that I would not want my parents to directly confront the offender. As she mentioned, the daughter might not care, might not hear, etc. Also, if the situation does escalate (as previously mentioned) this could create a running problem in the future. The father could mention something to his daughter who could involve her friends and make future games against them unbearable for the daughter. If the warning comes from a neutral figure like a security guard, it might just appear that they (not necessarily the parent) heard the comments and decided to take action as that is their job.

  8. Robin

    I think it is really wrong to tell anyone not to deal with such abuse of a young woman. I think the mother should tell the man to stop right away then get a man or person in charge at the event to know right away what happened and to talk to the man. It is inconscionable for grown men to berate young women. To let that happen is shameful neglect of a young womans right to protection. I think the mothers instinct was right.

  9. Laura

    I think the key to this is defining where the line between an unsportsmanlike “jeer” and verbal harassment is. I don’t think EPI was suggesting that you allow your child to be a victim of harassment. I do agree that sometimes not getting involved might be the best course of action.

    However, there is no rule that states you have to be the one doing the confronting. If the opposing parent is being unruly you can always talk to a security guard and have them approach the parent. After all, security officers are there to maintain order. Besides, if they are harassing your child they are probably doing it to other children on their team so unless you say something there is no real way to know who turned the parent in.

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