Dear Amy: My 15-year-old son plays in a local baseball league. Recently his team has been short players so they've asked a younger player, "Benjamin," to "play up." Ben is 11, and a very good player.

I've been sitting with this child's parents during the game. Every time Ben does something good, he comes over to his parents and they make some kind of disparaging remark.

For example, the last game, Ben hit a solid single. The next player hit a home run and both kids scored. What does the dad say? "You almost got called out because you ran so slow that your teammate almost passed you." (Not true, Ben has wheels.)

Should I say something to these parents? They talk about how Ben's baseball could be better if he had more confidence, and then they insult him whenever he does something good.

Amy says: An 11-year-old "playing up" with teenagers is facing many challenges — not just athletically, but socially. These parents should be nurturing and supportive. If they criticize his triumphs, I can only imagine what they are like when he makes mistakes (as every person does).

I read the results of a survey that claims to have interviewed hundreds of college athletes over a 30-year period. According to the survey, athletes' No. 1 complaint from their own experience in youth sports was the post-game ride home with their parents. These former youth athletes said they wanted to hear only one thing from their parents: "I love to watch you play." That's it.

Because your own athlete is older than this boy, you might use your own experience to offer feedback to this couple: "I hope I can share my perspective as someone with an older child — your Ben is such a talented player. I know it really shakes my son's confidence when I criticize his play on the field. He wants support from me; I let the coach critique him." But be prepared: These thoughtless parents might ignore or bully you. But you would have stood up for this child.

I believe this is also a coaching matter, and you should reach out to the coach and let him know what you see on the sidelines regarding this very young player. The coach might be able to help this family adjust their attitude.

A meddling boss

Dear Amy: My boyfriend and I are planning to get engaged in the next month or so. We're both ready for this next step, and we have been for quite some time. Our engagement was delayed due to the death of my boyfriend's mother last fall, which was very hard on both of us, but it made our bond stronger.

My boyfriend's boss confronted him the other day about his plans. He asked him if he was really ready to be engaged, or if this was happening because his mother died and it forced us to "rush into things."

Never having met this man, I thought it was incredibly rude and out of line. His boss has a history of being a womanizer and making comments about how great it is to be a bachelor. He also has admitted to purposely putting the "prettiest" new hires next to my boyfriend (I don't know the reason).

I trust my boyfriend completely, but I am extremely offended that his boss would think it's OK to say this to him. Should I confront him, or should we exclude him from all festivities? My guy and I disagree because they are very close. But I don't feel comfortable having someone like him around.

Amy says: I agree with you that this man's comment was out of line. I can't imagine you confronting him, however. He is your guy's boss, and you've never met him.

You should let your boyfriend handle this. You perceive this man to be specifically and personally hostile toward your relationship; to me, he just sounds like a jerk.

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