Age-appropriate football – Good Parenting


Welcome to Good Parenting, our weekly online series on parenting advice with Annapolis, Maryland, expert Dr. Deborah Wood.

Headshot2011Age-appropriate football – Good Parenting

Dear Dr. Debbie,

We had another family over to watch the football game this weekend. Our children are older, 10 and 12, and they’ll watch for a while, then go about their business and come back now and then. But the visiting family had a 2-year-old. He was glued to the screen for about an hour. What caught his attention was his dad and my husband screaming at the top of their lungs, “YES!” when their team won a touchdown. He look startled at first, but soon caught on that they were expressing joy from something happening on the screen. He soon was imitating their screams, looking for hands to slap, and throwing his arms up just like they did.

Do you think he could be learning that it’s okay for people to run into each other and fight over the ball? If you get my drift, my opinion is that he can’t understand why they’re doing these things, only that it gets people excited.

Cheer Quencher

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Dear Cheer Quencher,

Yes, I do. Until the age of 6, the brain is growing at a phenomenal pace, unquestioningly drinking in information, skills, language, beliefs, attitudes, values, and codes of behavior. All the experiences of early childhood become the foundation that person will take forward as he or she grows up. Sometimes we find we are no longer in agreement, or information has to be updated, or patterns of behavior have to be revised because some aspect of this foundation no longer supports who we are and what we want to do.

The trouble with a 2-year-old watching a football game is that he may just as easily imitate the ball grabbing and body slamming as the cheers. And he is likely to think that his aggressive behavior is worthy of at least a high five. This could pose difficulties when he is around other young children who topple to the floor when he lunges at them. Even school-age football players sometimes choose inappropriate times and places for tackling someone. In my opinion, football is a dangerous game best left to professionals with lots of protective padding — and a medic in the wings. Oh, and I agree the viewer rating should definitely be “Parental Guidance Advised.” As should be the rest of the media that has access to telling our children what to eat and how to treat others. If you watch what your children watch, you are able to interpret what is happening in a way they can make sense of — or decide to turn it off because there is no good way to interpret the message. Junk is junk. Violence is violent.

So, perhaps if you have this family over again at football time, have your children help you plan a more suitable activity for your young guest.

Dr. Debbie

Deborah Wood is a child development specialist in Annapolis. She holds a doctorate in Human Development from the University of Maryland at College Park and is founding director of the Chesapeake Children’s Museum. Long time fans and new readers can find many of her “Understanding Children” columns archived on the Chesapeake Family Magazine website. You can find her online at

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments or submit a question to Dr. Debbie at [email protected]