This Will Encourage Healthy Habits for Kids
How to Encourage Your Child to Do Well in Sports
Encouraging your child to work hard and perform at their best while keeping the process enjoyable is a balancing act. Leading by example, understanding your child’s strengths and weaknesses, and using constant positive reinforcement are all essential to helping them focus and practice enough to do well. Show them the value of hard work and healthy competition, but don’t put too much pressure on them to do well. Most importantly, remind them that whether they win or lose, or whether they do something well or not, you are proud of them just for trying.
Motivating Your Child to Practice and Play Hard
Have meaningful conversations and understand your child.Knowing how your child thinks and feels is key to offering them encouragement. Whether you’re motivating them to practice a sport or to do homework, it’s important to know their strengths, weaknesses, habits, and desires.
- Show your child that you respect how they think and what they want, and that you want to take the time to listen to how they feel.
- Ask them what, if any, sports they’d like to play and what expectations they have. Try to understand what they want to get out of any activity.
- Your child might say, “I want to be the best basketball player that ever played the game,” and your reaction should certainly be positive. While it’s best avoid knocking them down by telling them their goals are impossible, try to emphasize how working hard for something is a good thing in itself.
- Tell them that the effort they put in and the fun they have while doing so is valuable just for their own sake.
Understand the stresses and challenges of both team and individual sports.Team sports can involve unique social pressures, especially when just starting a sport or joining a new team. While some children enjoy being part of a team, having to do an activity in front of people, especially strangers, can be daunting or embarrassing for others.In individual sports, a child can often become their own worst critic, and can come to believe that their personal performance will determine what their parents or coach thinks of them.
- Getting to know your child will help you understand whether they’re more comfortable with team or individual activities.
- Understanding the specific pressures associated with each can help you turn negative stressors into positive motivations. For example, if your child is afraid of looking like they’re not good at something in front of their team, encourage them to work hard and practice to master that skill or ability.
- Whether the pressure involves impressive teammates or beating their own best time, challenge them to perform to their best ability, but remind them that sometimes you can work hard at something for a long time and still not master it.
Be a positive role model by being physically active.Being physically active yourself is the most direct way of encouraging your child to value practicing a sport and being active in general. You’re your child that everyone, from kids to adults, has to keep doing something over and over again in order to become successful. In addition to leading with your actions, explain how every muscle and every skill needs to be exercised.
Show your interest in the sport or sports your child plays.You don’t need to be a pro in order to help them stay motivated to develop their own skills. Practice together whenever you can. Spend time on the weekends together practicing, or schedule a few times during week.
- Go and see games together. Look for professional, college, high school, or whatever level of competition is available in your town.
Encourage your child to try out several different sports.Some coaches prefer that kids specialize in a sport early, but it’s best to let your child try out a number of different activities, even into their teenage years. If they enjoy being active, sampling a variety will help them get to know themselves, what they like, and what their best abilities are.
- In addition to finding out what they’re good at, trying out different sports is also healthier, typically exercises different muscle groups, and puts them at a lesser risk of injury.
- You might also try checking in regularly with your child to see if they still enjoy the sport. Try asking questions like, "How's basketball going?" "Do you still have fun at the games?" and "Do you still like your teammates and coach?" If your child says they are not enjoying the sport any more, then you might suggest trying something new once the season is over.
- Make sure that you also express acceptance if your child just doesn't like the sport. For example, you might say something like, "That's okay. There are some sports that I don't like too. You'll find your thing!"
Try not to overdo it or put on too much pressure.While it’s great to encourage your child to participate in several different sports and to spend a lot of time practicing, it’s important to remain balanced. Keep an eye on how much time they spend practicing or how much energy they put into one thing. Remember, school, homework, free time with friends, personal or down time at home, and quality time with family are just as important as practicing for a big game.
- Help your child balance their schedule and divide time properly, and remind them that practicing too hard can result in injury, becoming overtired, or losing interest in an activity.
- Avoid putting too much pressure on your child to practice. Keep them engaged with positive motivation, by setting a good example, by practicing with them, and by being a great cheerleader, but don’t treat any activity as a life or death situation. Avoid treating practice like it’s a chore.
Dealing with Success and Failure on the Field
Try to use the same language after a win or a loss.It’s certainly not a bad thing to be overjoyed if your child scores a winning goal. However, win or lose, there are certain things you should always say before and after a game.
- Before any game, tell your child, “Have fun, play hard, and I love you.”
- After any game, ask your child, “Did you have fun?” and say, “I’m proud of you and I love you.”
- Remind them how excited you every time you get a chance just to see them in uniform or in a huddle.
- Emphasize your child's effort, whether they won or lost. For example, you might say something like, "You did a great job of supporting your teammates out there today. I am really proud of how you played the game."
- Try to help your child reframe the situation when they experience a loss. For example, you might say, "I know it's disappointing not to win, but your passing was awesome! You've worked so hard on it and I can really see your improvement."
Prepare your child for losing or getting cut from the team.Even if your child works hard at something, they will face obstacles in any sport, whether they haven’t made the team or suffered a lopsided defeat. Prepare your child by reminding them that everyone has their time to shine, and it’s okay that today wasn’t their day.
- If your child is really interested in a sport but doesn’t make a team, try to keep them engaged. Continue to practice with them, look for an instructional or less competitive league, find a sports camp, and encourage them to try out next year.
- Remind them to keep things in perspective, and that not making a team doesn’t define who they are or how proud you are of them just for trying.
Don’t be the coach after a tough loss.Being critical and breaking down where the game went wrong isn’t generally helpful. Instead, try focusing on what your child did correctly, what skills you noticed while they were on the field, and on highlighting any especially fun moments you noticed. Concentrating on positivity and fun aspects of the game will help motivate your child to give it their all again next time, regardless of whether they win or lose.
- Whether it’s an individual or team sport, your child has a coach. Let them give the tough talk and be critical.
- Your child will need you to help them make the loss easier to handle. Kids often have trouble separating a negative event from their identity: they think the loss defines who they are.
- Make sure they know how proud you are of them win or lose, and give them affection and attention. It’s best not to let your child be alone after losing, and try to talk to them or keep them talking. Being silent might indicate that you’re mad at them, and too much alone time might cause them to dwell.
Encouraging Healthy Competition
Be the team’s biggest fan.When attending a team sporting event or practice, be a cheerleader for the entire team. Avoid encouraging negative competition among the players, and don’t undermine the coach’s instructions. You don’t want to make your child or other kids think it’s okay to treat each other with disrespect, or to undermine the coach’s authority.
- Whenever another child scores a goal or makes a great play, cheer for them just as you would your own child.
- Try to communicate with other parents about being a great support system for all the kids on the team: create a strong community and family atmosphere.
Teach your child what good competition is.Encouraging competition can be an effective way to motivate your child to do their best, as long as you define what healthy competition is. Explain to them how valuable it is to challenge themselves and to always try to exceed their personal best. Don’t focus on doing better than other kids, but place emphasis on reaching their own potential.
- When encouraging your child to compete against themselves, don’t define competition and success on winning and losing alone. Put the emphasis on acquiring and developing skills and abilities.
- Show respect for the differences between all kids’ skill levels and developmental stages. Avoid comparisons between kids of different ages and abilities.
Use competition as a means of building your child’s self-esteem and social skills.Remember that sports are for having fun, developing self-esteem, social skills, and a sense of community.Encourage your child to be competitive and want to work hard to improve abilities, but not for the outcome of winning alone. Help them to set and define goals for the purpose of developing their sense of self and helping them to take pride in their accomplishments. Help them understand that it’s wrong to use competitiveness or being great at something as a means of putting others down.
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