According to a new study by kinesiology Ph.D student Jay Goldstein of the University of Maryland School of Public Health, ego defensiveness, one of the triggers that ignites road rage, also kicks off parental "sideline rage," and that a parent with a control-oriented personality is more likely to react to that trigger by becoming angry and aggressive.
By surveying parents at youth soccer games in suburban Washington, D.C., Goldstein found that parents became angry when their ego got in the way. "When they perceived something that happened during the game to be personally directed at them or their child, they got angry," says Goldstein. "That's consistent with findings on road rage." Perhaps a telling example of this is how we experience the driver who cuts us off on the highway. We don’t say, "he cut my car off." Instead, we say, "he cut me off" and we feel it as a personal affront; even an attack. Worse, we might experience the event as one in which we were bested, defeated, or made to feel week and inadequate for allowing it to happen in the first place. Often, that response triggers a need for revenge or retaliation. Similarly, when a child performs poorly on the playing field, some parents see that moment as a reflection on them and become angry at the embarrassment or humiliation caused by that child. This is true, too, when a "bad" call by a game official feels like a personal attack on the child or the parent.