Over the last few months, my daughter has begun repeating everything she hears. It could be a new word from a PBS program or a swear from her old man when he stubs his toe. If she hears it, then she’s saying it. Admittedly, she parrots me more often than Elmo.

With this new development manifesting itself in places such as the library and my in-laws’ house, my wife and I have tried to pay better attention to our language. She’s better than me, but I’m improving. I have to. The last thing I want is for the kid to drop the F-bomb when she starts preschool.

This new habit of imitation is a reminder of how much kids learn from their parents. With her being a toddler, I recognize I have a long way to go before I’m a seasoned veteran of fatherhood. Still, I hope this reminder sticks with me as she gets older, particularly if she decides to play sports.

See, many of my fellow sports writers throughout the state have been writing about unruly fans at high school games. I wrestled with the idea of adding my two cents to the conversation. After all, Valencia County sports fans are far from the worst offenders I’ve seen, and my peers have already addressed many of the negative aspects of fan misbehavior.

However, there is one thing I haven’t seen addressed — who are the leaders in the misbehavior?

It’s been my experience that the most unruly, profane fans are parents. Sure, a student may get kicked out of a game for using a foghorn or something like that, but students are rarely the ones shown the door. More often than not, it’s a parent cursing out or threatening a referee from the bleachers. Just a head up, threatening someone with violence is worse than swearing at them.

That disgusts me. A teenager whose brain is still developing is more likely to behave better than an adult in their late 30s or 40s, many of whom bring elementary-age kids. What kind of example does such behavior set for an impressionable child? It can’t be a good one.

Again, I want to be clear that this issue isn’t as big of a problem in Valencia County as it is in other areas. The worst fans I’ve seen are usually from unnamed schools visiting the area. I wish those folks will read this piece, but they likely won’t.

Still, it does happen in Valencia County and it needs to stop. New Mexico already has a shortage of referees for high school sports as many are leaving the profession. Harassment from parents in the crowd isn’t going to help with retention.

But the lack of referees isn’t what concerns me. It’s the example set for the kids. My daughter isn’t the only child who mimics their parents. All kids, especially the youngest ones, are impressionable. If they see rude behavior from their folks, they’re going to be rude as well. It’s that simple.

So I’ll stop swearing in front of my daughter so she doesn’t mimic me in untimely situations. I hope other parents do the same.

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