2020 has been a crazy year for all of us, filled with challenges as well as reflections and rest. 2021 is a chance to step into a new year with renewed strength and hope. As the leader of your family, you are such an important part of your child’s life and their greatest asset when it comes to helping them thrive in the sport they love. In the new year, you can lend your child a little bit of your strength so they can regain their passion and achieve their biggest goals. I want to share with you some impactful ways that you can encourage them to be the happiest and most successful, absolute best they can be.
Here are the top 5 Ways to Encourage Your Child in the New Year…
1. Check your expectations.
Expectations are the biggest source of pressure for athletes of all ages and they can start as early as elementary school. If you hear your child saying, “I should have [this skill] by now,” or “We have to win this weekend” or “I should be on a higher level or better team” … they have expectations. Expectations are unrealistic standards placed on performance that usually relate to having an outcome focus or what others expect.
As the parent, you have a HUGE impact on your child’s mindset related to their sport.
Do you ever encourage your athlete by talking about an upcoming win they will have? What about making comments related to your athlete performing at the level “they should” [or sometimes behind or ahead of where they should]?
When your child gets in the car after practice, do you ask them questions related to the results they achieved (how far did you hit, how many went X distance, did you throw this skill, etc)…
As parents, I know the only thing we want for our children is for them to do well, stay safe, and have fun. Sometimes, we unintentionally put pressure on our children when we are simply trying to encourage them most. A good check you can use is to consider if there is tension when you try to speak with your athlete about their sport. Do they show strong emotions with tears or anger after practices or competitions? If you can say yes to either question, it is very likely your child is feeling pressure in their sport from expectations.
Know that as the parent, it is possible that they could be feeling pressure from you to perform a certain way or to achieve certain results. Simply keep this in mind as you support your athlete and don’t be afraid to have an honest conversation with them if needed.
2. Don’t fix, teach.
When was the last conversation you had with your child about challenges they were facing at practice or a game/competition? What were the main takeaways or focus areas of the talk? If it had to do with someone else’s reaction, action, or making changes to an external source, I would like you to consider the following… When you are helping your child with a challenge, are you trying to “fix” a problem or teach them something that will help them “learn and grow”?
As parents, we are BUSY! There are always a million things to do and we are constantly running in multiple directions at once… especially if you are a multisport parent. Sometimes we become so consumed in the rush and hurry that we have trouble slowing down enough to reflect on the BEST solution to challenges. In school, the “fix” option when your child is struggling is to change classes or teachers or school. When your athlete is struggling in their performance, the “fix” option is to change gyms, coaches, or teams.
When a competition does not result in an outcome we believe our child/team deserves, this leads to blaming the judges, unfair practices of other teams, faulty venue equipment. I also see this in my mental block athletes by focusing on picking certain coaches to spot (work) with the athlete and certain equipment with certain people watching or not watching etc >>> “my child can’t perform well under pressure” … “they only tumble well when the gym is empty” … “she needs to meet on the weekend because she is too tired after school”… “coach Chris is too hard on her so she can only tumble with coach Sam”… sound familiar?
What if we shifted the focus to the idea of “how can I help them to see what is possible for them in this challenge?” The first and most impactful approach is to focus on what your athlete can control. Ask them, “Why do you think that?” “How does this impact you?” “What can you do to overcome this?” … so instead of focusing on how their coach is negatively impacting their performance, consider what your child can control and why they may be feeling pressure from their coach.
This teaches them how to focus on things they can actually control so they learn to understand their confidence and happiness is in their hands. As adults, we know this is a HUGE life lesson. They will be more emotionally stable and motivated to push through challenges when they know they always have options and can control their experiences. Consider how you can create amazing teaching moments with your child now as they safely remain in your loving hands.
3. Speak their language.
What is your child’s love language? The Five Love Languages of Children by Gary Chapman & Ross Campbell is an incredible resource, but I am not talking about this necessarily here. All I am suggesting with this is to connect with them and help them grow their passions in areas that are important to them.
I know I have a tendency to spend time with my 3-year-old son doing all of my favorite things for us to do. We cuddle and watch movies or he paints while I work beside him… If I remembered this in the moment, I would instead spend that time on the floor with him playing dinosaurs and racecars. This is not the fun option for me until I become fully present in the moment and look at his joyful face. I am showing him support and allowing him to be fully himself which is my absolute favorite…. this brings me joy.
For athletes, this often looks like spending time taking them from practice to practice while talking about practice and games. The busyness leaves little room for us to connect with them about their passions and life outside of their sport. What activities and hobbies are they into? Where can you show interest in their endeavors outside of achievement-related events and sports?
One challenge of competitive athletes is they struggle to separate their sports performance from who they are as a person. Their confidence and enjoyment of life are high when they perform well and low when they are struggling in their sport… it is important to remind them, they are a person first, and an athlete 2nd. This is done with our words and actions. There is nothing better than fully connecting with you child in their favorite ways!
4. Manage your feedback.
As a parent you are wearing multiple hats all at once … parent, coach, teacher, cheerleader, chauffeur, friend, nurse, caregiver, … and so much more. If you were an athlete growing up and ESPECIALLY if you are your child’s coach now, it is especially challenging to transition from coach to parent and back. Take a moment to consider how much of your time spent with your child involves attending games/practices and talking about sports? Consider how often you ask “how was practice” compared to asking “how are you?”
Many of my clients are open to the idea of replacing negative comments and pressure to perform with constructive feedback and support… what is more challenging to adopt is the idea of taking a break from feedback altogether. I challenge my client parents to take 1 week off from bringing up sports to their child in any way. They are tasked with replacing “how was practice” with “what was the best thing that happened to you today?” “what are you most proud of today?” “what are you excited about for tomorrow?” The feedback from this exercise is POWERFUL! It is hard to acknowledge how little time sports parents spend talking about things outside of sports. Again, this helps establish the idea that your child is a person first, athlete 2nd SO THAT they do not put all of their confidence and emotion on how well they perform.
Remember, positive feedback is still feedback.
5. Goal-set and support accordingly.
Are you a goal-setter? Do you teach your child how to goal-set? Goals are a very important part of being successful. People who set goals AND take time to write them out AND make a plan for achieving them are SO MUCH MORE LIKELY TO BE SUCCESSFUL! Many children do not know how to effectively goal-set. They hear superstar athletes share inspiring stories of how when they were young, they dreamed of becoming an all-star and it came true. This is extremely inspiring and encouraging to see but it does not actually help teach young athletes what it takes to be successful.
Once my clients have a full understanding of expectations, we cover S.M.A.R.T goal-setting. A new year is the absolute BEST time to introduce this topic to your child. This will encourage them with all the possibilities that exist for them in the coming year. It will also motivate them to commit to the actions they will prioritize in the new year before getting back into school and full sports practice. An easy place to start is to share with your child the things that you are working towards and how your everyday actions are helping you get closer to your goals.
Goal setting also teaches athletes how to measure progress and put in work that will add up to massive results. They learn how to trust the process and understand that consistent efforts towards something they desire is the way to be successful.
As you transition to a new year, and begin to reflect on 2020 and plan for 2021, take time to consider how your children can become involved in this process. What did this year look like for them and what is possible next year? These 5 tips will help you really encourage your child in the new year so they can be their absolute best. Get ready for less tension and more connection and joy!
To help you commit to really investing energy into your athlete’s growth in the new year, I have created a freebie for you. I truly believe when you set intensions towards change the best thing you can do is to make sure the message stays front of mind.
I have created a FREEBIE PRINTABLE OF THE 5 WAYS TO ENCOURAGE YOUR CHILD IN 2021. [download your freebie by clicking here]
Display this in the car, the kitchen, or anywhere that will help you remember to ENCOURAGE and support your athlete when they need it most. My recommendation would be in your car or the kitchen *or wherever you spend the most time connecting with your child.
I would love to support you and your athlete on the journey to being your absolute best in 2021. Reach out to me with your story and takeaways. I want to hear from you!