The Art of Motivating Your Child: 4 Truths You Must Know
By janis on Jul 22, 2013

Understanding how to motivate your young athlete is not exactly an exact science; it’s more like an art form.

It’s trial and error. Give and take. It’s a learning process for parents as much as it is for kids because every child is different and every child responds differently to motivational tactics. Maybe you’ve tried yelling, bribery, comparison, reverse psychology, threats and preaching. I’m guessing none of them produced long-lasting results.

No matter what your child’s personality is and no matter why type of parent you are, there are four foundational truths that should be used by all parents who are seeking to motivate their kids.

Believe in Your Child

To show that you believe in your child, you must strive to always look for the best. Look for the positive, talk about the positive, build up the good stuff you see in your kid. Believe in your child, and express that belief without conditions:You can do this! I love you and am proud of you–no ifs, ands, or buts. But you need to work harder, but you must be more aggressive.

Believing in your child also means not focusing on the past. I read somewhere that there are two days you should never worry about: yesterday and tomorrow. Because you can’t change either one. Don’t keep reminding your kids of their failures.

The final piece to believing in your child is that you remain their staunchest supporter through all the junk. When they look good, and when they don’t. When they persist, and when they quit. When they frustrate you to no end, and when they bring tears of joy to your eyes.

Keep sports in perspective

Be sure your child has a life outside of sports and has time to just be a kid. Encourage other interests.

Keeping sports in perspective also means that you keep it fun and positive. If your child struggles with staying motivated, he may need a gentle nudge from you:

  • Play a casual version of the sport at home or at the park so your child enjoys the process without the pressure of competition.
  • Take your child to some pro or college sporting events and let him see skilled players in action. That may just be the motivator he needs!
  • Find a sport you can enjoy with your child and take lessons together.

Point out the results of hard work

As you see positive results, remind your child that his hard work has paid off. This is where your child learns the very valuable lesson of discipline and persistence. It’s amazing how even small improvements can fuel motivation. Help your child see the small victories.

Gentle prodding, not pushing

Negativity or pushing only puts more pressure on your child. Remarks like“You’ve GOT to work harder!!!” may give him an immediate and short burst of motivation, but will not really address the longterm issue of self-motivation.

Gentle prodding can be done in these ways:

  • Offer opportunities for improvement. Offer to rebound when he shoots baskets in the driveway, take him to the weight room to work out, or sign her up for a volleyball camp or speed training class.
  • Encourage your child to not settle for the status quo. It’s easy for kids to resign themselves to situations because “that’s just the way it is.” But when an athlete chooses to keep fighting, amazing things can happen.

The heart of the matter is that your kid has to feel confident that he can succeed and know that hard work will result in that success. If he knows that, if he’s felt that, then chances are he will push himself when he needs to.

Let’s put away the parenting bandaids and give them the love treatment that will hopefully cure them and keep them motivated for life.


Janis B. Meredith writes a sportsparenting blog, She’s been a sports mom for 20 years, and a coach’s wife for 28, and sees life from both sides of the bench. You can also follow her on facebook and twitter.



photo credit: stevetulk via photopin cc