They can hurt, heal and empower.
If you are a mom or dad of athletes, your words can also have a powerful effect on your child’s performance and enjoyment of competition.
When playing sports, your child needs to hear:
“Tell me about it.”
This opens the door for your young athlete to talk about practice or the game as he wishes, without feeling he is being interrogated.
“Tell me about your dreams.”
Allow your child to dream, set goals, and think big. Show him that you support and believe in those dreams. If you don’t, life has a way of re-shaping them without your help.
“I love watching you play.”
Not “I enjoy watching you score” or “I love it when you have a good game.” Those are conditional and can leave your child wondering if you enjoy watching him even when he has a bad game.
“I believe in you.”
Your child will stand taller knowing that you believe he can succeed.
“I’m proud of you.”
This goes beyond the scope of sports, but your child needs to know that you are proud of him, not his stats sheet or his trophy shelf.
“You got this.”
All athletes suffer from slumps, but the real test of their strength is learning to push through until they get it right. Every athlete struggles with something—even college athletes and pros. If sports were an easy road, there’d be no pleasure in the achievements. Let your kid know that the struggle doesn’t have to beat him.
“Celebrate the small victories.”
When seasons were tough for our kids, we found this practice very empowering. Helping your young athlete see the small victories in a game instead of the huge achievements gives them a sense of victory even when things are hard.
Sorry you feel bad about your performance. Sorry you don’t like your team. Sorry you aren’t happy with your playing time. Recognizing your child’s feelings is okay. It lets him know you support and love him.
“How can I help?”
When your child is having a hard time, he may just need to know that you are there to offer him support.
When your child takes huge steps, when he learns a new skill, how to be a leader, or a team player, acknowledge his achievement.
Although these phrases can motivate and help your child, remember that sometimes the most important communication we give is not in our words. It is who we are to our kids that really empowers them for life.
How do you empower your children in sports?
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.