Coaching a Difficult Child: How to Do it Properly

As a children’s coach, you will have to spend additional time learning and preparing how to work with the young ones. And as we all know, working with children is a lot different than working with adults – and it can actually be quite challenging at times. Getting to the core of the techniques of the sport, practicing, workouts, and playing strategies is not all that it takes to be a good kids’ coach, especially when dealing with rebellious kids. 

So, how do you take care of such situations and make the coach-trainee relationship work out in the long run? First of all, you will need to understand the causes of potentially problematic behavior. 

Problematic Behaviour Causes in Children

What coaches need to take into consideration when working with kids is that millions of US children have been diagnosed with ADHD. Or in other words, almost 10% of kids have some sort of an attention disorder. In addition, almost 17 million kids in the US have had a mental disorder. Moreover, 7.4% of children are known to have or have had a behavioral problem, while 7% of US kids are suffering from anxiety. Add to that the 3,5% of children who are diagnosed with depression. 

Thus, when coaching children, one must be aware of these statistics and the fact that you can be faced with a kid who is struggling with some of these issues. These could come with a variety of behavioral problems such as aggression, sadness, substance abuse, mood swings, inability to concentrate, and more.

Guidelines for Dealing With Difficult Children

The first thing that you need to do is to try and access the child from an objective point of view, or even consult a professional on what to do about it. Working with neurodivergent children can be quite different from working with neurotypical ones. This is why the coach needs to be in tune with the child’s needs in order to be able to make some improvement in communication. 

In order to achieve this, you will need to follow these guidelines:

  • Set some limits
  • Pay attention to the kids’ needs
  • Reinforce certain behaviors
  • Focus on what they are good at

Setting firm limits can be really effective in coaching difficult children, but you need to prepare your practices in advance and leave little room for improvisation. Consistency might be one of the most effective ways to reinforce certain training styles, atmospheres, and certain types of behaviour. You can try the IYCA principles in programming the athletes by giving them a five-minute intro to address the rules. 

Observing the children will tell you a lot about their needs. Recognizing different issues will help you achieve your goal faster. After all, once you notice these needs you can always consult a psychiatrist or a therapist, or even do a consultation with the kid’s parents. Sometimes just listening and paying attention will help you solve a problem on your own, so it is worth trying. 

Kids usually crave attention, regardless of the type and they sometimes fail to understand their emotions. This is why you will see problematic behavior in children that might be misunderstood, and neglected. This is when reinforcing positive behavior comes in handy. You will be giving them the attention they need through reinforcing socially acceptable behaviors.

Coaches don’t have to always focus on the problematic behavior, they can also try to direct the attention towards the kid’s strengths.

First, one must identify what the child is good at, and then try to focus their energy on strengthening that skill even more. This can also help in building greater self-esteem for the children who might be lacking it.