Do you know how your child wants to be treated after playing sports? Do they know and believe they are loved whether they win or lose? Do they know that a bad performance in a game will not result in your displeasure and disappointment?
Most parents say they love their children no matter what, and they sincerely mean it, but that unconditional love may not be what a young athlete hears, because sports parents often let their actions speak louder than their words, whether it’s in the car on the way home, at home, or the next day.
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What does unconditional love from sports parents look like?
Tell your child, “I love you” and “I’m proud of you for giving your all.” Don’t assume they know. Your young athlete needs to hear those words a lot.
Don’t give your child the silent treatment after a game because you are frustrated or disappointed.
Keep conversation in the car on the ride home from becoming a critiquing and coaching session.
Refrain from being obsessed or overly concerned with how many touchdowns, tackles, catches or blocks your child got.
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Sit down in the stands and watch the game. If you pace the sidelines, you will be tempted to express your frustration in your body language — kicking the dirt, throwing up your hands. Even though you truly love your child, your body language is saying that your approval is based solely on your child’s performance. It may not be what you feel, but that’s what your child is perceiving.
Don’t only reward your child for a win or for good stats. In fact, it’s best to reward effort, not results. And on those days when your child doesn’t seem to be trying hard, and doesn’t even seem to care, make an extra effort to communicate that your love is not dependent even on the effort, but solely on the fact that this is your child.
This post is adapted from my book, 11 Habits of Happy and Positive Sports Parents.
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Janis B. Meredith is a life coach for parents. She provides resources to help parents raise champions. Learn more about how she can help parents Raise Champions.