Teach your child to solve youth sports problems by himself

By Janis Meredith | Posted 2/15/2016

Are you a fix-it parent? The urge to fix things for my kids has been and continues to be a constant inner battle.

When they played sports, it was a huge temptation. I hated to see my kids struggle, and I often felt it would just be easier if I fixed their problems myself.

I would also consider going to the coach about playing time or by trying to find a team where my child could be the shining star. Perhaps you struggle with this, too.

If so, resist the temptation to be a fix-it parent. Problem solving is one of the most valuable skills you can teach your kids, and it’s better to start when they are young.

Here are six ways to teach problem solving.

  • Encourage critical thinking. Critical thinking is the ability to break down a problem into parts and analyze them. Ask open-ended questions such as: “How can you improve so you can get on the coach’s radar?”
  • You don’t always have to have an answer. When your child comes to you with, “What should I do? Why am I not playing much?” you don’t have to immediately respond with an answer. Let him express his own thoughts and ideas. He just may end up answering his own questions.
  • Model problem-solving skills to your child. When dinner burns in the oven, do you get mad or panic? Or do you say, “Well, now let’s think of a Plan B.”
  • Sometimes you just have to keep your hands off. It’s easier to jump in and show your child the “right” way to do something, but that may stifle his creative thinking and communicate that you don’t think he can handle it.
  • Make home a non-judgement zone. Make sure your family is a safe “laboratory” where your child knows he can ask questions and solve problems without criticism and constant correction.
  • Quit trying to model perfection. Your kids need to see that you make mistakes, too. There may even be times when you can ask them to help you solve the problem. Not only does this make them feel important, it also teaches them problem-solving skills.

Problem solving involves learning to use two important skills: logical thinking and creative thinking.

In reality, this means more work for you. You can’t go through your day on parental auto-pilot. It requires you to think, observe and ask good questions.

When it comes to youth sports, you must exercise self-control and keep from jumping in to make things work out for your child.

It’s time consuming and exhausting, but investing in this process now when your kids are young will pay huge dividends as they grow up and you see them work through problems in their young adult lives.

Janis B. Meredith, sports mom and coach's wife, writes a sports parenting blog called JBM Thinks. She authored the Sports Parenting Survival Guide Series and has a podcasting series for sports parents. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.