You give your young athletes fuel for their bodies, clean uniforms and rides to their practices and games. But there’s actually more that your children need as they learn to navigate the world of competition.
- They need you to watch and listen. Watch their games, listen to their complaints, their frustrations, their excitement, their joy. And listen without trying to teach or preach in between every one of their comments. If they want you to hit balls to them, that’s great, but resist the urge to coach, unless you are their coach or if they ask for your help.
- They need you to remain calm. Don’t freak out if they don’t get their minutes on the court or if the coach puts them at a different position or if a teammate gives them a hard time. Your calmness will help them remain calm, and it’s a lot easier to find solutions to the problems that are frustrating them when everybody is thinking rationally.
- They need to know that their performance doesn’t really matter. Well, of course it matters because everyone wants to succeed, but it shouldn’t affect how you treat them or love them. You should never be mad at your children because they didn’t have a good game.
I would never do that to my kid, you say. But the thing is, sometimes parents do it very subtly without even realizing it. Mom and Dad may get quiet on the ride home because they are displeased. Conversely, they may be happy when a child performs well and reward them for that. Celebrations are definitely in order after a great achievement, but be sure that the celebration focuses on their hard work, not their great stats.
- They need your support, not your pushiness. Parents can support their athletes by being positive, by being involved, and by just being there. If you fall into the hard-to-resist trap of being a pushy parent – which we are all tempted to do because we love our children and want the very best for them – you will most likely push them away from you rather than forward in their sport.
Let a coach, trainer, teacher or teammate be the pushy ones who kick them in the butt to get them to work harder. As a parent, your relationship will be healthier if you focus on support and encouragement that motivates.
Janis B. Meredith, sports mom and coach’s wife, writes a sports parenting blog called JBM Thinks. She authored the Sports Parenting Survival Guide Series and has recently launched a podcasting series for sports parents. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.