Motivated by the desire to encourage, parents often resort to tactics that tend to be pushy and controlling. You want so much to see your athlete have success that you may say or do anything to see that happen.
Even pushy-ness that is subtle, such as comparing your child to other athletes or sign-ing your child up for a personal trainer when they didn’t request it, is still pushy. Your child feels pushed and the more that happens, the less likely they are to respond in the way you’d hoped—by working hard to reach their potential.
But there are ways to encourage and facilitate your athlete’s growth without trying to push and ultimately take control of the process.
Next time you feel the urge to encourage in sports, try this approach instead of push-ing.
- Encourage by actively listening. Really listening to your child is a way to show them that you love and support them.
- Encourage by asking questions. Not prying questions (unless you suspect something that needs to be addressed), but questions that show interest. What was the best part of practice today? Tell me something new you learned.
- Encourage by being involved. When you help out your child’s team, you are showing them that their team and their sport are important to you too.
- Encourage by praising their progress. Your child cannot control the end result, but they do have control over steps in the process. Focus on that and the end results will take care of themselves.
- Encourage by being the parent before and after the game, not the coach. Even if you are your child’s coach, be the parent away from practices or games. They don’t need a coach 24/7; they need a parent to unconditionally love and support them.
- Encourage by showing love, no matter how they perform. You may not intentionally communicate disapproval to your child if they lost, but sometimes the way you say something, or even your body language says that they just didn’t measure up. After a tough game, the loudest thing your child needs to hear is your support and love. They will learn to correct their mistakes in time.
- Encourage by being present. Sometimes just being there—at the game, listening in the car—is all your child needs to be encouraged to keep trying.
- Encourage by just giving a hug instead of always trying to fix with words. I’m a words person and often felt the need to fix my kids with my words. I soon learned that how I made them feel was more important than the words I said. Sometimes a hug is all they need.
- Encourage by letting your child learn how to push themselves. Believe it or not, your child will be encouraged when they learn to work hard on their own and when they see the results of that effort. The best thing you can do in this process and stand back, watch, and applaud.
- Encourage your child’s choices, not yours. The bottom line is this: it’s youth sports, and your child should decide if they want to play, and what sport they want to play. Whether you like the choice or not, let your child learn the lesson of living with the decisions they make.
Each one of these steps in and of themselves is simple. But don’t under-estimate their power to encourage your child to work hard and achieve success.
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