Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Children Want to Please Their Parents

My 30+ years of coaching children has led me to believe there is one absolute in the world of youth sports. Children want to please their parents. Yes parents, it’s true, and not just in the sports world. Although little Johnny may never clean his room, puts off his homework until the last minute, and “forgets” to take his dishes from the table to the dishwasher at least 5 times a week, when it comes to performance, whether little league, music, academics, or acting, little Johnny, more than anything else, wants to please his parents. I believe this is an innate trait in children.

You can throw other adults into the mix as well, just not with the same importance as a parent. Children want coaches, Grandparents, teachers, and other significant adults to see them excel.

When adults understand this and make a conscious effort to see how it affects children, they can use children’s activities to build or strengthen relationships and to teach important life lessons. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying use this knowledge to manipulate your child or athlete. I’m saying an understanding that children want to please the adults in their lives will help you create opportunities to share some love and to teach some important life lessons.

What kind of feedback do you want from the person whose opinion means the most to you? Although that person saw the good and the bad in your performance, what would you prefer to hear from them? Remember, more than anything else, children want to please their parents and other significant adults in their lives. Adults’ initial feedback following a competition or practice should focus on the positive happenings. Children should first hear about the things they did well. They should feel your pleasure in their performance from your feedback. And, that may be enough.

If your child brings up mistakes and errors, listen to what they say without being judgmental. Watch for an opportunity to reinforce an important lesson, such as persistence. “Maybe you didn’t turn a double play today, but if you keep working on it, they’ll happen soon. Your move at second base is getting better.” Or, goal setting, “you know the pro’s don’t shoot 80% from three point range, maybe that’s a little too much to expect from yourself, how ‘bout 30% in games and 40% during open shooting time?”

It’s critical that everyone knows their role in these matters. Coaches should coach and parents should parent. With children, approval from parents will most always trump input from coaches. If the coach tells Suzy her arms should be up at the end of a cartwheel, but Mom (without even thinking of giving coaching advice) says “I really like the way Jane puts her arms down at the end of her cartwheel,” guess what Suzy will do on her next cartwheel. You got it! The arms will be down.

Youth sports are filled with many wonderful things. The opportunity for children and parents to share some love and joy is one of the best. Your children are waiting for it, they want it, they’ll accept it, no questions asked. So, give it to them.

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