Your kid’s not the only one with a playbook to follow. Listen up, sports parents! Keep your little athletes happy, motivated and in the game with these expert tips. (You can read the whole story, “How to raise the next Sidney Crosby,” here.)
1. Empower them
Child psychologist and motivational coach Joe Flanders says it’s totally within bounds to expect your kid to participate in sports—but let her choose which one. “For a reluctant child, tell her, ‘Let’s give it a shot and see what happens.’ Approach it as an exploration, a curiosity.”
2. Focus on the experience
Rather than discussing outcomes (which team won, who scored), Flanders suggests asking your sport kid questions like, “How did it feel to move so fast? Did you have fun?”
3. Never talk about ability
“Telling your kids, ‘You’re so talented, you’re gifted’ is a bad idea,” says Jim Taylor, a San Francisco—based psychologist and author. “Research shows that when parents compliment kids about ability, they lose motivation and aren’t able to recover from failure.” Instead, focus on effort which is not always reflected in the final score.
4. Lay off the 20 questions
Post-game, we’re all tempted to recap, going over the finer details of every play, but as Flanders puts it, “Don’t put pressure on your kid to come up with a news brief on what the experience was like. It should be fluid and natural,” he says. “Ask open-ended questions without an agenda in mind.”
5. Go for pizza
When doubles tennis players and Olympic gold medallists Bob and Mike Bryan would come off the court, Taylor says, their dad, Wayne, would simply ask them, “Where do you want to eat?” As Taylor explains, “Do you say ‘Good job?’ Well, it may not have been a good job. When Wayne asks where they want to eat, he’s showing that results are not important.”
This article was originally published in our November 2014 issue with the headline, “How to raise the next Sidney Crosby: What you say (or don’t say) to kid athletes can make all the difference,” p. 88-90.
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