Top 3 Mistakes Parents Make with Their Child’s Sports Performance – Part 1
Pointing out your child’s performance mistakes to them rather than focusing on what they did right and the progress they are making.
Let me paint a picture for you. You’re working really hard at your job and doing the very best you can. Of course you’re not perfect, but every day you make a dent in your work projects and you certainly have forward momentum in your work.
But guess what? Your boss doesn’t notice your hard work or the slow but sure progress you make every day. Instead he’s only focused on what didn’t get done or what’s not perfect with the work you did do.
How does that make you feel? Angry, under appreciated, judged unfairly, criticized, unmotivated to work harder?
Here’s another scenario. At home you have a number of chores you do; even a number of little things that the family doesn’t realize you do. It’s a lot of daily work and what you do is taken for granted…it’s just part of being a mom or a dad.
But what if your spouse focuses on what you haven’t done – all the projects just sitting there that you haven’t gotten to yet? Your spouse just nags and complains about what you haven’t done or the way in which you do something.
How does that make you feel? Angry, frustrated, under appreciated, criticized, passive aggressive, unmotivated to do your chores or projects?
Now let’s imagine that your boss really understands how hard you work every day. He notices the daily progress you are making, and he praises, acknowledges, and compliments you on it! He even compliments you on the smallest wins and improvements you make and he’s constantly cheering you on.
How does that make you feel? Appreciated, understood, grateful, accomplished, confidant, excited?
Now let’s imagine your spouse notices all the little and big things you do at home for the family and thanks you for at least a couple of those things on a daily basis. Your spouse seems genuinely pleased with what you do for the family and tells you about it.
How does that make you feel? Happy, appreciated, respected, loved?
Notice the difference between being criticized, judged, and never acknowledged for the progress you are making (or have made) vs. being acknowledged, praised and appreciated for the hard work you’ve put into whatever you’re doing.
Your kids feel exactly the same way when you don’t acknowledge their progress, focus on what they’re doing right, and praise them for their hard work in their sport.
It is so defeating and discouraging to have someone constantly focus on what’s wrong with you and yet that’s what many parents do.
When you focus on what your child did wrong in their performance, it also releases all the emotional chemicals in their body that interfere with good performance – anger, frustration, sadness, embarrassment, shame, disappointment, defeat, hopelessness, “I’m not good enough for mom/dad and I never will be”.
When these negative emotional chemicals are released into your child’s body, their visceral organs stop doing their life-sustaining work of digestion, absorption, excretion and other functions that provide for the growth of the cells and the production of the body’s energy reserves.
All of their finely tuned motor skills decrease, the heart starts pumping more rapidly, muscles begin to tense up, vision decreases, and breathing becomes shallow. These chemicals also interfere with the ability to think clearly and they lose focus and their best judgment.
You think pointing out what your child is doing wrong or should have done differently is helping them, but I guarantee it’s having the opposite effect on them. You are creating more of the very problem you want them to solve.
When you praise, encourage, and focus on all the progress your child is making in their sport, their body releases all the emotional chemicals that support good performance.
Feelings of self-confidence, pride, excitement, hopefulness, joyfulness, being understood, and a sense of accomplishment all support their immune system, fine motor skills, improved breathing, lower heart rate, sharper vision, clearer thinking and better decision making skills.
In other words, when you focus on everything your child does right in their performance, including the smallest improvements, you will help them create improved performance.
Also, when anyone focuses on what we’re doing right and they notice the incremental progress we’re making, it creates a desire to try harder and do even better. We thrive on praise; we want to improve even more when we’re praised. Those positive feelings of self-worth support our body to perform more efficiently all the time.
And one more thing about this – your kids already know what they’re not doing right, what mistakes they made, what they should have done better, etc. By focusing on this, you’re not telling them anything new. They are already down on themselves for what happened, they don’t need you to remind them of it.
Instead you have a golden opportunity to lift them up by focusing on their improvement and successes, and in the process support them physiologically, emotionally, and mentally to perform their very best.
Point out their smallest improvements to them, “Wow, you did a great job keeping your eye on the ball tonight”; “I noticed you ran the bases really fast, good job”; “You seemed to hang in there mentally when things got tough, I’m proud of you for your mental toughness”. It’s very likely that your children aren’t noticing those improvements in themselves.
Children thrive on positive reinforcement…we all do.
(Stay tuned for Part 2 of this 3 Part series.)