This post is sponsored by Shannon McDougall, author of Beginning Mental Training Skills, a program that trains athletes to deal with anxiety and disappointment in youth sports.
It’s not fun to watch your child get discouraged when playing sports. Unfortunately, we can’t give our kids “bounce back” pills, like we give him tylenol or advil for his aches. However, there are ways you can help him overcome discouragement.
Respect the Process
It is most likely every parent’s first instinct to rescue a child when there is a hint of difficulty. But next time your young athlete faces a problem, swallow that urge just for a few minutes, and ask your child what he thinks he should do about the situation. Let him think through the struggle and try to find a solution.
This doesn’t mean that you clam up, it means that you encourage him to think for himself and ask him questions to spur his thinking.
If your athlete persists, he will eventually return to his A-game, and be stronger because he went through the process. Recognize that we can’t make everything better or control our kids’ circumstances. We have to let them learn from the hard knocks and bounce back on their own.
Applaud The Process
In a recent study, Dr. Elizabeth Gunderson says that parents should praise their kids on their strategies, jobs they did well, and their effort. Her team calls this “process praise” and concluded that the more process praise kids get during early childhood, the more likely they would become resilient.
Focus on strategies: I like how you read the defense and saw where to pass the ball.
Focus on a job well-done: That pass was right on target!
Focus on effort: Your hard work is really starting to pay off; you’re much quicker on the court!
Refrain from negativity or pushing. It only puts more pressure on your child, and that prolongs the recovery. Remarks like “Aren’t you afraid you will lose your starting spot?” or “You’ve GOT to work harder!!!” add another stress to his mind: the worry of not pleasing you.
Push Through the Slump
Help your child realize that even pros go through slumps. Just ask LeBron James or Peyton Manning. Going through a slump is no reflection of your child’s skills and abilities. It happens to everyone. No one can stay on top 100% of the time. A real athlete understands that and learns to push through the slump.
As your child pushes, it’s your job to show love and support. Believe in your child, and express that belief without conditions. You will bounce back. I love you and am proud of you. No ifs, ands, or buts—but you need to work harder or but you must be more aggressive. The most important thing for your child to learn in the slump is that she can work her way out of it.
The most important thing for your child to learn in the slump is that she can work her way out of it, and your unconditional love support will help her do just that.
Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping-stones to success.
Parents, remember that discouragement is not fatal. Your child can recover and be stronger because of it. It is probably going to be harder on you watching them struggle through the process than it will be on them going through it.
Check out Shannon McDougall’s resources and learn how you can help your child develop mental skills to help him or her in the game.