Because we want to see our children succeed, pushing becomes an inadvertent behavior. And sometimes, without meaning to, we push just a bit too hard.
There are ways to motivate your child without being pushy. It takes a little more restraint, and a bit more work, but it will help you maintain a positive relationship with your young athlete.
Here’s how it’s done:
Ask the right question after practice or games.
"How did practice go?" Or, "how did you feel about your game tonight?"
It’s a good idea to keep it to one question; that shows your interest and gives them a chance to say as much or little as they want. It also indicates that you care. On the other hand, too many questions can make them feel like you are pressuring them.
Offer opportunities for them to work outside of practice.
Make sure you are offering, not demanding.
"Iʼll drive you to the gym if youʼd like to work out."
"Would you like to go to a speed training camp?"
"Iʼll be glad to check out traveling teams if youʼd like to play."
If your child says no, then drop it, and maybe bring it up again at another time when they say they want to improve their skills.
Be at as many games as you possibly can.
It’s not likely that you’ll be able to attend every game, but the more you are, the more you communicate your support. Your presence may push them to work harder and play their best.
Notice the hard work.
Praise in moderation is always a good way to deal with teen athletes. If your praise is too effusive, they may be embarrassed or annoyed. If he or she in those contrary years, they may figure that if they’re pleasing you too much, then maybe they shouldn’t work so hard.
A simple, "hey, nice job tonight!" or "I really liked the way you played aggressively this afternoon," or "I can definitely see that youʼve been working hard at practice," will communicate your support and interest without sounding like your love and approval is attached to his or her performance.
Let them enjoy the victories.
Reinforce the fact that he or she worked hard and it paid off. When kids see that their hard work does pay off, they are more likely to push themselves, with very little help from you.
There is no magical age when a kid starts really pushing themselves. It varies with each athlete. Iʼve seen 10-year-olds with amazing drive and seniors in high school that finally peaked in their desire.
Being a self-motivator is a valuable life lesson for your child to learn; it comes in handy later in life. If you help motivate your child without being pushy, he or she will feel responsible for their own success.
Janis B. Meredith, sports mom and coach’s wife, writes a sports parenting blog called jbmthinks.com. Her new book 11 Habits for Happy and Positive Sports Parents is on Amazon.