I am always struck by the crazy things I hear parents screaming at their kids while the kids are playing sports. It doesn’t matter whether I am watching my own boys play basketball or my nephews play hockey. I am always surprised—and usually frustrated—at what I hear.
I stumbled across a great article by student-leadership-development expert Tim Elmore. In it he discusses recent psychological research on what parents can say, both before and after a game, to encourage their kids effectively, without making everything about performance (either positively or negatively). Elmore suggests that the three healthiest statements moms and dads can make as their kids perform are:
Before the competition:
- Have fun.
- Play hard.
- I love you.
After the competition:
- Did you have fun?
- I’m proud of you.
- I love you.
And researchers Bruce Brown and Rob Miller asked college athletes what their parents said that made them feel great and brought them joy when they played sports. The most common answer was:
“I love to watch you play.”
That’s it. Nothing aggrandizing like “You’re an all-star,” and nothing discouraging like “Here are a couple things I noticed that you can work on.” Just “I love to watch you play.”
As I gear up to watch my two older boys compete in the Ontario Basketball Championships, and as I anticipate every other sporting event I’ll be watching my three kids play in this year, I’m internalizing these six words. I’m sure I’ll say other things, some that are helpful and some that aren’t. But I’m going to do my best to make sure I say these six words over and over again.
Read more about the Brown & Miller study here.
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Stephanie uses easy-to-understand principles—simple, relevant, practical solutions for dealing with mediocrity at work, at home and on the athletic field—without quick fix schemes.