There’s a common theme when I open up my email every morning. A storm of emails has normally flooded my inbox from worried parents, concerned about the confidence of their up and coming David Beckham, Sidney Crosby or Lebron James.
And my response is often the same.
“I hope you’re not showing this sign of worry around your son or daughter. Because when you make it a big deal – they make it a big deal.”
The other day was no different, I received this frantic email from a friend of mine (see if you can relate):
“Todd, as I was undressing a tearful 5 year old after her first soccer game (she was frustrated that her teammates were taking the ball away from her), I felt a little uncertain how to respond. I could always give her the ‘everything will be okay’ Mommy talk, but I’m sure there’s a better way to encourage her. I don’t want her to start hating soccer or any sport for that matter – just because of a bad experience.
Any advice for a ‘Soccer Mom’ on how to encourage her kid and make sports fun again?”
If you can relate – than here are 3 things you can do to help make sport a positive experience for your little demon in cleats.
1) Take the focus off winning and losing.
2) Support the concepts of learning and growing.
3) Give specific feedback.
I can hear the hardcore sports fanatics booing me already. “Whatdya mean take the focus off winning! I’m not teaching my kid to be a pansie.”
If that’s you… You need to definitely read this.
Winning and losing are outcomes, and always focusing attention on outcomes causes stress. There are just too many other factors at play, so you outcomes can’t be controlled.
When we’re just getting a youngster involved in sport – or any activity really – it’s important to frame the experience properly. And, there’s no better person like Mom or Dad to help make that happen.
What do I mean?
Sport, like most activities a person is trying out, is all about learning, discovery and growth.
So all of your conversations with your soccer star should be revolving around those three topics.
Instead of asking them, “Did you score any goals today?” (which is an outcome and something they really can’t control). Ask them, “Did you learn anything new in todays game?” Or, “I noticed your getting much better with your passing out there! When you kicked it over to Timmy it was just in the right spot. Good job!”
Remember, your son or daughter is looking to you for approval. And when you ask questions like winning or losing, scoring goals or earning a medal, you’re teaching them that unless I get one of those things Mommy doesn’t love me. Or, Daddy doesn’t think I’m any good.
After working with thousands of pro and Olympic athletes around the world – this is one of the biggest things that still ‘chaps their behinds’.
You’ll notice in the, “When you kicked it over to Timmy…” compliment, it was specific.
Don’t just hand out a “Good work.” or “You played well.”, those just fall flat and have zero impact. Pick out a few things that relate to them developing their skills and they’ll continue to want to improve. SPECIFICS MATTER!
Soooo… if that was my little 5 year old tearing up over a stolen ball, this is what I’d say:
“That’s right they did take the ball from you, they’re just learning how to play soccer like you though and they’ll learn that it’s not the right thing to do. BUT, remember when you went into that pile of players and everyone was battling for the ball, and you came out with it! That was such a good play and your Daddy (try to use other parent in this compliment) was so proud of you. What else do you think you did today that was good?”
There are 3 key points in that parenting moment:
1) You agreed with her. You said, “That’s right”, it immediately disarms the argument factor in the mind.
2) I re-framed to a positive performance moment in the game, and was specific.
3) I said how someone else was proud. This is more powerful than saying, “I was so proud.” Because they know you’re there to cheer them up (kids ain’t dumb 🙂 ) – but if there’s a third party compliment, they start to use their imagination about how and when that compliment could have happened. (Shhhh… it’s a big persuasion secret!)
3.5) I than asked “What else”, now they get to choose something they’re proud of – really powerful!
Do that and you’ll unleash a motivated little achiever developing strong positive thinking habits. And, you’ll find very little reason to worry about a youngster with low self-esteem.
Here’s the audio version of today’s post:
Todd Herman is a Peak Performance Coach to Professional and Olympic athletes. And has worked with Hollywood actors and business professionals on the inner game of success. He’s also a Root-Beer fanatic and probably needs counselling! You can find out more at: http://thepeakathlete.com or http://thechampionshcallenge.com