What kind of parent are you? Are you the sort that gives your child plenty of freedom to explore the world around them without limitations, or are you so hands-off that they could do with a bit more support?
Perhaps you’re the polar opposite, a “helicopter” parent that likes to be in control and makes decisions on their behalf. Or maybe you are somewhere in-between; hands off when you need to be and hands-on at other times?
Whatever your approach, you will certainly have a personal style when it comes to giving praise. Often times, this is tied in to your overall approach to parenting.
So, when it comes to sport – it’s important to consider how to praise your child. Because sport is more than just physical exercise, it’s an important way to build social skills, interpersonal skills, as well as developing problem solving skills and working in a team.
To get the best out of your child, here’s six helpful strategies for parents when giving praise:
Don’t shower them in praise
Too much of anything in life takes away its impact – this is also true of praise. You’ll want to strike the right balance therefore. Key to this is not over-praising your child. Least of all because children instinctively know when parents are being genuine or not, and this can do more damage than good. Insincere comments can undermine their self-confidence, so keep this in mind.
Avoid praising your child if you don’t genuinely mean it. The quality of your words extends way beyond the amount of times you tell them you’re proud. In situations where other parents are showering their children with praise, don’t feel you have to do the same, it doesn’t make you any better or worse. Keep your feedback for times that you genuinely feel they deserve recognition – but make sure it’s enough to keep them motivated.
Keep praise meaningful to performance
As highlighted above, it really is about the quality of your comments, over the quantity of them. As such, make your praise meaningful and constructive.
For instance, rather than giving a generic ‘well done’ or ‘I’m so proud of you’ explain the reason why behind this. The biggest takeout you want your child to have, is that their efforts are recognised.
So, for instance in athlete training for kids, a sports coach might praise a child for being the first person to attend training practice on time, or for giving their 100% attention throughout the game, versus the person who ‘came first’. Since it’s not possible to win all of the time, we have a duty to help children understand that their contribution is every bit as important as the outcome.
Recognising hard work
There can be nothing more you ask of your child than their full and undivided attention and contribution. Giving 100% is all you can ask.
Motivation is the key behind most of our efforts, so to keep your child fully engaged and interested, it’s important to give them positive feedback as they progress.
When you notice that your child is working hard to achieve a goal, this is an opportune time to give praise and acknowledge their contribution. Often, all your child wants is to make you proud, so recognising their hard work is an important way of building their sense of self-worth and in building resilience.
Praise the process
In the world of sports coaching, we encourage athletes to reach their potential, rather than reaching ‘first place’. Winning is important, but it’s not everything.
In keeping with this thought, praise should positively reinforce your child’s actions. Specifically, this means praising the process and not the result. If your child gave their all in a swimming race, working harder than ever before but didn’t win, the outcome here is the amount of effort they put in.
The importance of hard-work
Children are growing up in a world where they don’t always see the hard work that goes in to success. From reality TV shows to parents indulging their children’s every want. Because of this, we have to go the extra mile to show children important values such as hard-work.
If you want to teach your child that hard-work pays off, then make sure you give praise for the effort they put in. Their performance is down to their hard work, so praise them for the hours of training they put in beforehand, for their unrivalled dedication, and for never giving up. These all contribute to where they are today, showing that hard work pays off.
Sure, you can try and motivate your child with rewards such as sweets, toys and money – but you’ll see that these are short-lived. To equip your child with life-long skills and to teach them the importance of motivation, be sure to give praise at the right time. Studies show that children who receive process praise are more intrinsically motivated.
To summarise, one professional study by Stanford University in America found that: “Provided that praise is perceived as sincere, it is particularly beneficial to motivation…”
It’s important to keep praise to moments of genuine pride in order for your child to benefit from your comments the most. Since praise is a great motivator, keep in mind that there’s an important balance to strike between giving enough praise and being sincere. Children’s are acutely aware of our behaviours and will recognise insincere comments, so do your best to give praise in the right way and at the right time, and you’ll soon see it pay off.
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