Playing sports can be a tremendous experience for kids. I hope when you think back to when you played sports as a kid, you have wonderful memories of having fun and learning new skills.
Playing their sport, kids can get very emotional based on whether they win or lose a game or match. Unfortunately many well-intentioned parents say the wrong thing at the wrong time.
It is important to remember that after a game, it is a critical time when they are still recovering from the intensity of the game. They can be elated, upset, indifferent, or angry. Their emotions will run the gamut just like yours does.
Knowing what to say and how to say it will help you form a loving bond with your child, keep the doors of communication open and maybe provide an important model for other parents.
Seven tips for communicating in a positive manner with your child following a tough loss or an exciting win:
1. Be a positive source of support and encouragement. Save any evaluation for the coaches and just be an unconditional source of support.
2. Be an attentive listener. First step, ask your child if they want to talk about the game or something else or nothing at all. They will tell you the truth and wish adults would ask that question. If they do want to talk about the game, we all love to share our experiences, so allow them to talk about the game. Listen to understand first and then reply. Try not to get into the details of the game if they are still dealing with the emotions. They may just need time to get over it.
3. Avoid undermining the coaches, even if you think they were out to lunch. They are the leaders of the team. Second-guessing the coaches will confuse them and ultimately you may undermine the team chemistry and hurt their relationship with the coach.
4. Following tough losses or poor performances remind your child that their worth as a person is not related to their abilities as an athlete. Help them recognize that tomorrow is a new day and that with hard work they can overcome anything that is keeping them from their goals. Tell them in your own way that you believe in them!
5. Find specifics to tell them what they did well, but be honest and sincere. You can get yourself into trouble by saying “good game” or “you did your best”, if Billy does not think this is true. You may get a sneer or sarcastic remark back. Be supportive in your comments, but do not lie or exaggerate. Kids tend to focus on their mistakes and screw-ups. Just help them start to focus on what they did correctly.
6. Stick to your plans no matter the outcome of the game. If you planned to go to stop for ice cream after a win, do the same after a loss. Otherwise, your child might relate your willingness to do activities after the game with their winning and losing.
7. Avoid comparing the child to other children even as it relates to training methods or skills. It can create hurt feelings and pressure.
Ultimately, you want to have a plan of attack in your mind for post-game. Get your emotions under control and check your body language. Remind yourself of what matters so you can share that naturally with them – being a good sport and giving your best effort. Giving them a hug or a pat on the back and riding out the emotions until they subside goes a long way!
Guest post by, Wendy Lynne, the Director of Mental Toughness Academy. The Academy’s online Mental Toughness Training helps kids build confidence, focus, determination and the ability to bounce back from adversity – what they call Mental Toughness. Go here to get a free ebook “The 10 Commandments To Being A Great Sports Parent” and a free training for youth athletes “How To Master the Pressure.”