To add to the growing minefield for sports parents we have to ask the question about the amount and type of praise you are giving your children. Does it have a positive or negative impact on their sporting performance?
There are a number of things that you need to think about.
How much praise is too much praise?
How often should you be praising your child?
Is some praise simply a waste of time?
Praise can take many different forms encompassing the following:
‘commend, express approval of, express admiration for, applaud, pay tribute to, speak highly of, eulogize, compliment, congratulate, celebrate, sing the praises of, praise to the skies, rave about, go into raptures about, heap praise on, wax lyrical about, say nice things about, make much of, pat on the back’
In any form of praise that we may consider giving our children we must use appropriate language. A skilful use of language can directly increase self esteem and develop confidence whilst careless use of language can lead to low self esteem and a drop in confidence.
Why do we need to give any praise? Well that is simple, praise can regulate and reinforce positive behaviour and character traits.
Praise must also be directional, ‘good work’ for example is a bit vague, meaningless and many children are not stupid and will often see phrases like this as just empty praise. Can your praise allow them to reflect, are you in a position to give them some useful advice on what went well and what may require some further work?
In this day and age many parents over praise their children, as they believe that if they are not going to do it then who will?
Children can see right through this and often know that their parents are saying that quite simply because they are their parents rather than being based on any fact or actions.
Now in many cases I would hope that your child’s coaches would be doing this part of the job for you with their praise and feedback, allowing you to play a predominantly supporting role but it is still good to be armed with some appropriate tools.
Learning to praise appropriately, is an important part of developing a child’s confidence and raising a high performer. Here are some helpful tips:
- It allows you to praise both failure and success.
- Focusing on the effort instead of the outcome keeps you present with the children in their struggle, holding their hand and even carrying them at times.
- It makes you a partner in the process and allows your children to give their attention to the journey and not the destination.
- Praising effort prevents us from being so focused on the prize that we forget what got our child there in the first place.
- Foremost, high performers are all about the process, and the process is all about effort.
BE CLEAR AND CONCISE IN YOUR PRAISE
- Your praise should come in the form of encouragement for your child and should be specific, clear, and focused on the process.
- “Good job today” is nice, but it’s not action, effort, or goal-specific
- On the other hand, “You’ve worked really hard in training on that piece of skill and it was great to see it used so well today. That is the first time it has really worked in a match situation. This encourages your child for his/her effort, perseverance, progress, and competence.
- It activates your child on multiple levels and sets the stage for further improvement, additional goal setting, and continued improvement.
- Avoid over-praising your child. We have all met the ‘over-praiser’, the parents who are afraid that their child’s self-esteem will suffer if they are not encouraged and praised for every outcome, however, this is not true.
- Over-praising your child can be a negative on two fronts. First, children can become apathetic to praise, since they hear it all the time. You will run out of superlatives and be unable to discern real achievement from the everyday norm.
- Second, kids are smart, and they soon catch on if everything they do is “fantastic” or “brilliant” or “awesome.” It’s not, and your kids eventually know a good performance from a bad one.
- They will grow cynical to your words if everything is incredible.
AVOID PRAISING BY COMPARISON
- Avoid “over-praising” your child by comparing him/her to others. You should not be comparing or making your child better by criticising team mates or opponents.
- This not only can cause a fixed mindset, but it is very destructive of team dynamics.
- Even if they are the best player on the team and you consistently tell them that, the world is a big place and these comparisons can have long term implications once the player pool changes and your child is no longer the best player.
BE CAREFUL OF SARCASTIC PRAISE
- Some players respond to sarcastic comments made at opportune times, but such comments are not appropriate before, during, or after an event or game.
- All sarcasm has a hint of truth, and young children are so emotional that it is very difficult to know if it will go over well.
- Sarcasm does not go down particularly well from parents. It is best to find other ways to encourage and motivate your children.
As we have said many times before on this site, sports parenting can be tough and does require some reflection and practise. Try some of the above, if you feel something that you have said has not had the desired effect or has indeed had a negative outcome then be brave enough to admit you may have got it wrong, think it through and then try a different approach the next time…..no one is perfect!