A young athlete’s teammates, siblings, coaches, and teachers can leave a lasting impression, but parents have the greatest impact on how a child feels about his or her performance in sport, says Joel Fish, PhD, sports psychologist and author of 101 Ways to Be a Terrific Sports Parent.
When you have two or more children in sports, it can be a challenge to give each one the same level of positive attention — especially when one seems to be winning all the time, while the other is struggling. Fish shares advice on how to find the right balance between celebrating success and prioritizing progress rather than just winning.
PRAISE EFFORT NOT RESULTS
It’s natural to be excited about a win, and there’s nothing wrong with celebrating it, says Fish. “But focus more on your core values versus results: make sure you’re praising other successes, like developing new skills or putting in a strong effort. You have a great opportunity to teach children multiple goals — there are other ways to define success that aren’t results-driven.”
This applies to both your winning child and the one who’s struggling in sport — it’s a great way to give both children equal amounts of praise and attention.
CHECK YOUR REACTION
Understanding how important your reaction is, and becoming aware of it, can go a long way towards promoting good behaviors on your part.
“You have an immediate emotional reaction when a child wins, or when one loses,” Fish says. “That’s the main issue — and if you can pay attention to how you’re feeling and reacting, what your reaction is to success or failure, then you’re better able to manage those feelings and give a more value-driven response.”