Golf is a sport that frustrates every player. Regardless of your age or skill at some point you will feel some level of anxiety. You may even use some colourful language to describe how you feel. With most adults the frustration and anger ends after each drive, chip or putt although that’s not always the case with younger golfers. Recently I was golfing with a friend and his two teenage children. This game reinforced for me the importance of staying regulated, or calm, in order to solve problems and reduce challenging behaviour in a sport situation.

The older child had played golf more often and so had some skill development yet he still had some frustrating moments. Unfortunately the younger child was less skilled and like the rest of us “shanked” a few drives, and left a number of divots on the tee and the fairway. He became more and more frustrated with each hole. He criticized himself saying he was “no good,” said he hated golf, he couldn’t do it and so on. His father encouraged him, affirmed the difficulty of golf and generally tried to be positive. Staying calm was very important. It was evident that the child’s ability to handle the frustrations and his over-generalizing statements about himself were causing the challenging behaviour (swearing, carelessly hitting balls and wandering off alone). This behaviour started on the first hole and continued. Although dad tried to stay regulated it was difficult and there were times he was upset. Disregulation is contagious so it did not help the child calm down.

Dad and I had discussed CPS in the past so I reminded him of the CPS philosophy, “Kids do well if they can” and the importance of staying calm. For the remainder of the game dad was calmer and continued to encourage his child, although less forcefully and, he ignored (Plan C) some of the challenges. Ideally it would be important for dad to follow up with a Plan B (problem solving) conversation at a time when both were calm.

I have had similar experiences with my kids and I know it can be really hard for some parents to stay regulated and not respond with anger or a raised voice. Remembering the philosophy and staying calm will help parents deal with the challenging situations in a positive manner.