10 signs that you are nagging your athlete

By Janis Meredith | Posted 9/14/2015

Parents yell and cheer from the stands at sporting events across the nation. Most is positive reinforcement that adds to the atmosphere, but while negative encouragement is evident to everyone around, rarely does it seem that way to the individual calling out.

You may think you are reassuring your child, maybe pushing a bit, but to your child, the behavior is nagging.

There is a fine line parents sometimes cross in their desire to motivate their children. That line is the difference between nagging – a tactic that kids will start to tune out – and encouraging – a tactic children desperately need.

How do you know when you’ve crossed that nagging line?

  • Nothing but a blank stare. When you’ve been “encouraging” your child but notice that he is simply staring at you or holding a lost-in-space look on his face. He’s tuned you out. He isn’t listening, because your “encouragement” has morphed into nagging.
  • Turn and walk away. He can’t even muster the will to “listen,” because he’s fed up with the drippy faucet parenting approach.
  • All over again. You have constant deja vu moments from repeating yourself so much because the repetition is going in your child’s one ear and out the other.
  • That sinking feeling. Your child’s motivation – if that’s what you are trying to “encourage” – continues to sink.
  • The silent treatment. Your child clams up about practice, the game or anything else to do with sports. He knows what you are going to say and doesn’t want to hear it. He may not seem angry, but he is not communicative either.
  • Do as I say. When you notice that your “encouraging” focuses more on what your child should be doing, rather than on the positive that has happened.
  • Who is this about? When it seems that you are motivated for your child to improve and succeed more than your child is. Your motivation is not going to seep into your child. He must come up with his own.
  • High price of success. When you have to constantly bribe your child to get him to work harder. I’m all for positive reinforcement, but there comes a point when your child should work hard out of his own desire, not for reward.
  • Loss for words. When you feel frustrated that you can’t think of anything to say that will help, but you keep talking anyway. If you feel at a loss for meaningful words that will help, it’s probably a good time to stop “encouraging” and start listening and loving.
  • Sounds cliché. When you keep thinking of good points or profound motivational wisdom to share with your child, even though they haven’t asked. One or two is okay, but a constant barrage can be perceived as definite overkill.

Do any of these sound familiar to you? I admit that I crossed the line from nagging to encouragement many times in 21 years of sports parenting.  I know these 10 indicators well. Fortunately, I caught myself before too much damage was done.

If you see yourself in any of these over-the-line behaviors, it’s not too late to pull back from nagging and focus on true encouragement.

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.