As I watch my son play sports or perform in the theater I notice that I listen, cheer, and sometimes instruct from the sideline. However, I started to wonder over time what do my children need to hear or want to hear from me to keep them feeling good about what they are doing? As I started to step back I began to notice other parents shouting over the coach’s direction or yelling at the umpire, referee and coach. Kids look confused, or annoyed at their parents and need to make a choice. Do I listen to my parents or do I listen to my coach?
As my son gets ready to stand at the plate, I find myself noticing that I want to shout out ways he could hold the bat better or stand closer to the plate. Does he need me to give him feedback, and guidance or does he need encouragement? When I step back and watch, I see the coaches are instructing, correcting and teaching. So what is my role I wonder again?
But, what should we say to our kids so they feel good about participating in sports, recitals or shows? Remember when you were teaching your child to walk. You held their hand, maybe even moved their legs, encouraged them to grab onto things, they took some steps then grabbed on to you and then you let go. They did it, they walked, and they fell, and eventually started running. You cheered and were excited. You probably didn’t shout out multiple instructions, “heel first, then toe,” or “left foot out, then right,” or even “get up, get up, hurry,” if they fell. There is a pressure that begins to build onto our kids when they are constantly given critical feedback from every adult they face. I am pretty sure they don’t want to make an error or play the wrong note at their recital.
There is no greater love than what a parent has for their child and the success you want them to experience in life. But there has to be a balance in feedback both positive and negative. Overexcitement puts pressure on a child similar to critical feedback. It’s important to be encouraging, positive and present.
In an article written by Tim Elmore, he says that the “3 healthiest statements that moms and dads can say to their student-athletes are”:
Before the Competition:
Bruce Brown and Rob Miller of Proactive coaching did an informal survey of college athletes over decades. “ They asked the athletes what did their parents say that made them feel great and overwhelming response was I love to watch you play.” Wow, that’s it. “Six simple words,” that made such an impact.
As you sit on the sideline know that just saying these simple words is more likely to keep your child’s passion going. As I teared up after watching my son’s performance, knowing how hard he worked and how nervous he was I found myself saying aloud to him when it was over, “I love to watch you perform.” He looked up at me, smiled, hugged me super tight and said, “Thanks mom.”
ROSE LAPIERE, LPC, RPT-S, ACS