9 March 2016
Being a parent is an incredibly challenging role and being a parent of an adolescent athlete throws in an extra degree of complexity. I meet many parents who are keen to help their adolescents perform at their best although they are often unsure what to do. Below are some tips on things parents can do to help their adolescents perform well and enjoy their sport.
Praise effort rather than outcome and ability- recent research suggests that praising and reinforcing the effort adolescents make to achieve a goal or good outcome motivates them to continue to put in effort and see difficult situations as challenges. When adolescents are praised for the outcome such as winning they begin to feel that they will only be appreciated if they win and therefore become fearful of losing which leads them to stop taking risks and performance decreases.
Discuss your adolescent’s goals- It is helpful when the adolescent and parent’s goals are compatible. If you are aware of your adolescent’s long term, short term and most importantly process goals you can help reinforce them and work together on realistic plans to help them achieve their goals.
Model positive body language at trainings and performances- Many adolescents without realising will immediately look at their parents on the sidelines whenever they make a mistake. They analyse their parent’s body language and facial expressions and make their own interpretation of what parents are thinking about them. What really helps an athlete in these situations is when they look over to parents and they see a parent showing support and encouragement.
Encourage adolescents to work through sporting difficulties on their own- sporting difficulties are opportunities for adolescents to develop resilience and practice problem solving skills. Parents who encourage adolescents to overcome sporting challenges without directly intervening help adolescents become independent and enhance their ability to cope in difficult situations.
By Stephen Rendall Maribyrnong Sports Academy Sport Psychologist
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