6 ways for sports parents to better know their children

By Janis Meredith | Posted 1/6/2016

Do you really know your young athlete?

I once heard a story about a pro basketball player who one day was talking with a friend as they sat and watched their kids play. It was then that he found out that his son, who was playing basketball like his dad, really preferred baseball.

The friend knew that. The dad didn’t.

It was an eye-opening moment for the pro basketball player because he had no idea that his son felt that way. It was then that he decided on early retirement because he wanted to be around to really know his kid.

Perhaps you would like to deepen your understanding of your child and what he’s thinking. If so, here are some suggestions to give you a start.

  • Learn to ask good questions. Whether it’s in the context of a game or to spur conversation in the car, the right question can tell you a lot.
  • Pay attention. Are you watching what they read, listen to, watch on TV or Netflix? Do you know what they do with their friends? See how well you know your child by answering these questions.
  • Let your child choose. Whenever you can, whenever it is feasible and safe and wise, let your child choose … the movies, the food, the event, the music. Their choices will tell you a lot about them.
  • Just hang out with them. Yes, I know that kids need structure, but they get that a lot in sports and at school. Schedule some unstructured time with them. Just sit around hanging out and watch what unfolds. You don’t always have to be steering the ship.
  • Eavesdrop. Did I really suggest that? Heck, yeah. I don’t mean this in a creepy, stalker kind of way, but in a subtle, pay attention kind of way. When your kids have friends over, listen to them while they talk and play, or as they sit and play video games or watch TV. Listen to your kids when they argue in their rooms – and they think Mom and Dad can’t hear – or when they do chores together. But be prepared to control your reaction if you hear something you don’t like.
  • Enter his world. As much as you can, enter into your child’s domain. Whether it’s sporting events or classroom volunteering – wherever your child’s world is – get a feel for who he knows and what he faces daily.

We take time to get to know co-workers, friends, clients and new family members, asking questions and expressing interest in them. Remember, your children are people too.

Take the time to know your young athlete beyond what they eat, when they go to bed, how they do their chores and how they perform in their games. That is a huge gift both to your child and to yourself.

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.