Being sensitive to your child’s situation and choosing your words carefully helps kids stay calm and relaxed. Saying the wrong things – while unintentional – can make children feel added pressure.
Keep these do’s and don’ts in mind as you talk to your child on game day.
Before the game
Do: Say, “Have fun.”
Don’t: Talk about winning.
Your child already knows the object of the game is to win. Children need to know you’re in their court whether or not their team comes out on top.
Do: Tell them to play hard.
Don’t: Say things like “score a goal,” or “make all of your free throws.”
While a child may try their best to score a goal, ultimately it’s out of their control. On the other hand, reminding them to play hard is beneficial, positive, and something they can control.
Do: Joke with your child on the way to the game.
Don’t: Give advice about how to play.
Coaching your kid in the hours and minutes before a game increases the pressure, while trying to make your child laugh can ease anxious feelings and keep the game in perspective.
After the game
Do: Compliment your child, your child’s team, or even the opposing team.
Don’t: Criticize the officials, coaches, other team, or your child’s teammates.
Finding something good to say after a game – even after a loss or poor performance – keeps things positive. Blaming the officials or someone else is bad behavior you wouldn’t want your child to model.
Do: Be specific.
Don’t: Say “Good job.”
A generic, “Good job,” doesn’t point to what you liked about their performance. The phrase is overused and doesn’t seem genuine. Tell your child specifically about what they did well.
Do: Say, “I’m proud of you.”
Don’t: Compare your child with others on the team.
Your child may not be the tallest, strongest, or most talented player on the team. Let your child know that doesn’t matter. Telling them you’re proud of them, increases their confidence and self-esteem.
Do: Say, “I love watching you play.”
Don’t: Review the game play by play.
Many kids need time to decompress after a game. They don’t want to be reminded of things they did or didn’t do right. Keep in mind that the game, the sport, the team – it’s all theirs, not yours. Your job is to be a supportive fan. By offering encouraging words, you can ease the pressure and reassure them you’re on their side no matter what.