Is that a question your child asks you? Unfortunately, I heard it many times by my kids as they grew up.
And my answer was that I was just being “realistic.”
Do you find yourself with that same default? If so, here are some tips that I’ve found to be helpful in breaking that nasty parental habit.
- Think about what you are going to say before you say it. You know your kids, you know your friends or family. You know what they are likely to be thinking as you give your “realistic” point of view. Will they see it as negative? Will they see you as a wet blanket? Sometimes rehearsing the words in your head and thinking of how they may sound to others will help you keep your mouth shut.
- Rephrase your dialogue. Changing a few words can take the negativity out of your statement. Instead of saying, “Man, you were really struggling with your shot tonight”, try “Hey, good job taking a lot of shots! You will get it.”
Another way to rephrase the point you are trying to make is to ask a question instead, one that forces them to come up with an honest and realistic answer.
There were many times as my kids played sports when I felt like the only “realistic” thing to say after a game was “Man, you sucked tonight.” Fortunately, I didn’t! Instead, I would often ask, “How do you feel about your game tonight?”
- Focus on the positive. As a sports parent for 21 years and a coach’s wife for 28, I’ve seen a lot of parental negativity in the sports world. And the problem is that many parents are focusing on the negative, not the positive. They are frustrated with their child’s lack of playing time or their child’s lack of aggression. They point out the mistakes made by the refs, coaches, and team mates.
I watched a girls’ softball game a while ago and overheard a parent say to his 11-year-old daughter, “You haven’t gotten one hit today, have you?” Even his lighthearted tone could not take away the sting from his comment. If he was looking for a way to motivate his daughter to hit better in the next game, he would have had more success with a positive, “Hey, nice swinging out there. I know you’ll get it next time.”
- Re-examine your expectations. Negativity stems from disappointment and disappointment comes from unmet expectations. Are you expecting too much from your child or husband? Are you allowing them room for mistakes and growth? Your kids will not always perform to the best of their ability. Every athlete has a bad game or a slump. Parental expectations need to make room for the ups and downs of life.
- It doesn’t always have to be your job to set things straight. I think this has been one of my biggest failings. It’s MY job, isn’t it, as a parent, to help my child see things as they really are? Well, yes, and no.
There will be appropriate times for those heart-to-heart conversations with your kids. There will be opportunities to be honest and open and let them hear your loving concerns. But there will be other times when life will dispense it’s own harsh realities to your child and you won’t need to say a word.
Parental negativity is an ugly habit. And one that is very hard to break. But with consistent practice and some major tongue-biting, it can be conquered.
Janis B. Meredith writes a sportsparenting blog, http://jbmthinks.com and is the author of the Sports Parenting Survival Guide Series. She’s been a sports mom for 21 years, and a coach’s wife for 28, and sees life from both sides of the bench.