How to Win at Sports Parenting

Do you wonder how you can:

  • increase the fun in our children’s sports activities
  • diffuse the fear of failure
  • eliminate confusion between roles and expectations
  • relieve the tension we feel as we drive up to the athletic complex

Sports are the perfect place to grow the relationship between yourself and your child which is always a “win.” Here are some strategies which work.

  • Establish a framework of positive interaction. Refrain from correcting and criticizing right after the game or on the ride home. Focus on what the child did well, what they learned, what they thought was the most fun.
  • Guide and interpret what happened. If the sports experience was disappointing, help them see the positive, the growth opportunity, the other persons’ point of view.
  • Reflect feelings, provide encouragement, offer comfort. Listen and offer loving, honest support. There is nothing wrong with silence. The issues of concern will come up for discussion at a more appropriate time.
  • Be aware that even when we are well-meaning and good hearted, we can get caught up with our own performance as adults and how this seems to be reflected in our child’s play. These feelings trickle down to the kids. Let the game belong to the kids.

Sports involve and incite emotions. Too often fun yields to pressure and tension. Here are some ways to do a pressure check: ” Are winning and losing overshadowing relationship? “When work is play there is all the time in the world to do it.” If your child doesn’t “find time” to practice and makes excuses about going to practice, be sure the sports experience is serving the child well.

  • Is the dream coming only from Mom or Dad?
  • Have the parents learned to let go?

To teach your child winning attitudes, let them hear these coming from you regularly.

  • “You and I will be just fine whether or not we win this game.”
  • “You and I may have dreams and goals that differ; those that spring from your heart are beautiful and worthy in my eyes.”
  • “You and I can relax into the fun of sports. Let’s be thankful for the miracle of muscles, sweat, blue sky, grass, a pumping heart, and sunshine. Isn’t physical fitness great?”

Take home lesson:

“Your child comes packaged with a natural design built in by the Creator. Your job, inasmuch as you’re able, is to help your children recognize their own design and calling and then let them develop it.”

It is indeed ironic that so many parents say their child is unique and then try to mold them into something they think they should be.

How to Win at Sports Parenting, Maximizing the Sports Experience for You and Your Child, Jim and Janet Sundberg, Water Brook Press, 2000.

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