The car ride home after a competition can be a time of celebration or a challenge to find the right words to show support for your child. Naturally, every parent wants what’s best for their child, but oftentimes good intentions are overshadowed by poor execution. We’ve all experienced this at one point or another, sometimes even leading to the child lashing out or shutting down completely.
So, what’s the best way to address your child after a tough loss on the car ride home? It’s important to note that every athlete is different, so as a parent you’ll have to use your best judgment and recognize that much of this will be trial and error. Try out these tips, reflect on how they’re received, and adjust accordingly.
The Teenage Mind Is Still Developing
It seems like common sense, but far too often parents can forget that they’re speaking to a child or teenager. Even as adults, there are times in which we’re guilty of letting our emotions get the best of us, so it’s necessary to curb your expectations of a young mind still in the developmental stages. Simply put, some parts of their brains have matured, while others are gradually getting there. These imbalances can lead to mood swings, bursts of frustration, questionable reactions, and poor decision-making. Be mindful of this knowledge in your next conversation.
Listen More, Talk Less
Experience is life’s greatest teacher, right? Given that you’ve already gone through many of the hardships that your athlete is going through, it’s only natural to want to provide advice. While that’s a great approach, it’s more productive to first better understand how your athlete is feeling. Once you have this information in hand, you’ll be able to execute a more effective approach (i.e. your advice will be more applicable to your child’s current challenge). Avoid the temptation to assume that you know what’s going on without hearing it directly from your child.
Ask Open-Ended Questions
Expanding upon the above tip, open-ended questions are a great way to uncover details of how your child is feeling. Reminder: make it a point to attentively listen. So, what are effective examples of these questions?
- That was a tough loss - how do you think you played?
- And how does that make you feel?
- We all make mistakes, but what advice would you give a teammate if they made the same mistake?
- Let’s spin this in a positive direction - what can you learn from this experience?
- How can I better support you in achieving your goals?
This is a difficult one - especially when all you want to do is take away the heartache and make your child feel better. As always, that should be a priority, but it’s important to find a balance between being supportive and honest. There’s a tendency for parents to do everything in their power to protect their child from failure, even if that means being less than honest. It’s okay to hold them accountable and not make excuses because that’s part of their personal growth. Disappointing performances are inevitable in every athlete’s journey, and while your intentions are in the right place, you may risk holding your child back from seeing the big picture. Losing is a valuable learning experience and will ultimately serve a stepping stone towards reaching the goal. With the right attitude and support, your child will develop a growth mindset that will help them overcome adversity in sports, school, and in life.
Tell Your Child You Care
Another no-brainer, right? That’s not always the case. In fact, many children believe that their parents will love them more if they perform well or love them less if they don’t. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, particularly because an athlete’s level of confidence and identity is strongly influenced by their performance. Sure, they know you love them, but in those difficult moments sometimes a child’s emotions can cloud their thought patterns. The most important message that you can communicate to your child is that you care and that your love is unconditional.
If you’re a parent seeking to learn more about performance psychology and how you can better equip your child to handle adversity and perform at their best, download the Restoic App today. Our platform’s content is based on scientifically proven cognitive-behavioral methods to enhance performance and bridge the gap between knowledge and practice.