November 23, 2004
Purdue expert advises parents on how to react to heroes behaving badly
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. The brawl involving athletes and fans during a recent Indiana Pacers-Detroit Pistons basketball game underscores the fact that parents need to help their children understand that while sport heroes are worth admiring, they are not always worth emulating, says a Purdue University expert.
At the Nov. 19 game, Indiana Pacers forward Ron Artest bolted into the stands after being hit with a cup thrown by a fan. Artest's action precipitated a fight in which players exchanged punches with fans, who also threw drinks, popcorn, a chair and other debris at the Pacers.
"Parents need to find out what the child is thinking and what he or she knows about what happened," says Judith A. Myers-Walls, associate professor and Extension specialist in child development and family studies. "Some children might be frightened and feel vulnerable. Others might be excited and think it is cool. Others may be angry and disillusioned with their 'heroes.' Find out enough to see if they need reassurance, calming down, perspective or a way to take action."
Children need to understand that athletes, such as basketball players, might be much better at controlling a ball than they are at controlling their anger and frustration, Myers-Walls says.
Myers-Walls suggests that parents might want to talk with their children about what other options are available to people when they get angry. It is important to point out that nonviolent solutions also are "human nature" and are available as choices in difficult situations.
"It would also be important to talk with children about how fans can act and what choices are available to them," she says. "Talk about being good sports when winning and losing, and talk about focusing on the fact that sports are supposed to be about having fun."
It also might be helpful to talk with children about what they should do when fans or players around them are getting out of control. Help them learn ways to defuse conflict by distracting angry acquaintances, getting help, and getting out of the way if someone has reached the point of no return.
"Also teach them not to laugh at other people's misbehavior or to dare anyone to do anything inappropriate," Myers-Walls says.
Writer: Maggie Morris, (765) 494-2432, firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: Judith Myers-Walls, (765) 494-2959, email@example.com
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; firstname.lastname@example.org
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