We can often look at parents thinking that they have all the answers. The truth is that many of us are facing situations for the first time ourselves and learning as we go along too.
Therefore, there is no shame in learning the language of children and finding better ways to communicate with them. Learning how to talk to children takes time to develop, least of all because every child is different, with individual needs and motivations.
Parents shouldn’t feel like they have to take on the role of a sports coach on top of everything else. However, it does help to find constructive ways to deal with certain situations, from setbacks to success.
The next time your kid plays sport and you’re unsure of what to say, refer to these top tips to help you through it:
Praise the process, not the outcome
This is a hard but important one to learn. It’s not just about being proud of your child’s success, but also their efforts and hard work too. When children play sport they often want to win, however teaching them that their contribution is just as important is a great way to introduce your child to sport.
Discuss good performances
All the best athletes have learnt from their predecessors. In sports psychology, we are reminded to reflect on our own personal achievements in order to build self-confidence. Equally so, it’s important to recognise others achievements too, reflecting on the lessons we can learn from good performances – ours and others.
Praise and encourage
Which are you – a cheerleader or pushy parent? Be honest.
There’s a fine balance to find here, but ensuring that your child is encouraged and mentored to achieve success may be one of the best ways to build self-confidence. Give your child praise where it’s due and encouragement to feel that they are able to take on any challenge.
Encourage positive thoughts
Talking to your child is not just about how you communicate, but how you internalise thoughts too. From training class to athletic training for kids, use the opportunity to teach your child how to have a positive mindset, for their own personal wellbeing and to enhance their performance too.
Say that you’re proud
Not to be overused, but when there are genuine moments of pride, be sure to tell your child. It’s important to show them how much you recognise their efforts and hard work, and by telling the how immensely proud you are (regardless of the outcome of their efforts), you are helping to build a well-rounded individual.
Don’t say ‘you can’t do this’
There should be no limitations on being a child, obviously within reason. Whether they want to run in fancy dress costumes, take on a sport that is slightly risky, never deter them from taking part. This is one of the crucial learnings that parents take away when learning how to talk to children.
Why? Because you never want to crush a child’s enthusiasm or make them doubt their own ability.
Don’t be a critic
If you want to build a trusting respectful relationship with your child, be sure to offer the regular support and feedback. But the operative word here is feedback, not criticism. Think about how you can offer useful valuable advice following a sporting performance.
Be aware of your own words and actions
Children can be more sensitive than we realise, furthermore our influence as a role model can really shape their views and values. As such, when talking to children keep in mind how much they absorb and are influenced by your words. Be aware of your language (verbal and non-verbal), and how this can influence their emotions and behaviours.
Don’t look embarrassed
Communicating with your child is more than just verbal communication – it’s everything that is unsaid too. As such, never look embarrassed by your child’s performance when you are watching them. This is crushing to their self-confidence and a big no-no.
Practice makes perfect
It’s likely that you grew up understanding the importance of ‘elbow grease’, and now is the time to pass that on to your child too. Give them the message that practice makes perfect. Mistakes don’t come from not trying hard enough, but instead from practice, practice and more practice.
Whether your child wins or loses in daily sport, be sure to treat them the same way. The focus should always be on their contribution and hard work, and not the outcome.
Don’t compare them to others
It goes without saying that children don’t respond well to comparisons. Therefore, never compare their abilities to other athletes or teammates, and likewise cull any talk if they do the same. For their own personal wellbeing, it’s important for children to feel that they are ‘enough, without the pressure of being as good as the kid next to them.
Listen to your child
Children talk a lot. So perhaps set aside some time to reflect on performance and truly listen to their feedback. In learning how to talk to your child, listening is one of the core skills that many people overlook.
It’s important to offer support and encouragement to your child in order to build their self-confidence. Of course, that’s not to say that you do the hard work for them, but instead offer them a gentle guiding hand.
Help them to learn from mistakes
In life, the best way to learn is from our mistakes. However, parents are all too quick to want to shelter their children from setbacks, it’s understandable. But take a step back and realise that learning from failure is no bad thing, and if you can teach your child to learn from setbacks, you’re half way there!
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