How would you like to know precisely what’s going on inside your child’s mind? Of course you would! You would have the power to know exactly what to do to best help them be happy and succeed in their sport!

I have successfully guided hundreds of young athletes and performers one-on-one in my office and thousands more online worldwide.

You are about to benefit from my first-hand experience!

So…what do you need to know about building confidence in your kids?

If you truly want to give your kids a boost to success, the first thing you need to do is stop doing these three things that hurt your kids’ confidence:

1. Awarding your kid encouragement and praise ONLY when they do well out there.

Most of us adults have forgotten what it’s like to be a kid. If I didn’t see them for years now, I would have too. Here’s what you need to understand:

  • When the young performer does well and you cheer and praise, you are giving your approval of what they have just done
  • When the kid does not do well and looks over at the bench at you and sees your disappointed face and body posture, the child gets the message of disapproval and disappointment
  • As sports fans and audiences, we are conditioned to cheer when things go right and go “Awww” when they go wrong for our team. Now, this is totally fine when you’re watching your favorite pro sports team. Those players are not your children and they can take it. However, your kids consider it, literally, as a form of rejection. There is nothing worse for a kid’s self-esteem and confidence than getting that from their parent!

The correct approach:

  • be passionately positive even when nothing exciting is happening but especially when the child has a poor performance of any kind. You do not want your child coming away from a game, meet, or match with the idea that your approval is dependent on their performance.

You may just be showing your disappointment in empathy for them but that’s not how they are taking it. This is a huge confidence killer.

2. Telling your kid how they could have done better on the car ride home.

In other words, giving unsolicited advice at any time right after a poor performance or a loss. Most often, the best thing you can do as a sports parent is nothing.

If your kid ASKS for advice and help on what they could have done better then yes of course, give it. Do your best to be objective about what you observed in delivering your advice and avoid any judgement. Judgement is ultimately the confidence killer. Constructive criticism is the best option.

If you have ever observed little kids playing in a sandbox together when one of them upsets the other. Typically, there’s crying and finger pointing for a few minutes and then after a short time, the kids are right back in the sandbox playing again like nothing happened.

Kids have a much greater natural ability to let go of difficult events faster than us adults. We tend to hold on to things as we get older because we have all this complex thinking that requires full mental resolution.

Kids don’t establish this until later in life and thus possess a greater resiliency when faced with difficult events, if allowed to. That’s what we should want for them for their participation in sports, life skills like resilience.

Here’s a more constructive approach:

  • kids often need space and freedom to express, if they want to, and then process the difficulty in their own way. Let them.
  • if a kid is holding on to the loss or poor performance and it’s effects for more than a day, then you can jump in and ask if he or she would like to talk or would like some help with their game to improve on the problem.
  • stop jumping in and saving your kid or teaching them how to do it right next time at the worst time, right after the event. That’s what we have coaches for. Resilience is the foundation for confidence.

3. Stop delivering typical sports cliches and trite sayings that mean nothing to a kid like:

“You just have to believe in yourself”
“When you’re out there, you have to be focused”
“Stop overthinking”
“Just go out there and have fun”

This is my personal pet peeve having worked in this area for so long, Typically, youth coaches are the worst offenders! Think about this: can you explain to a kid HOW to believe in themselves?

Can you give them the instructions to just “Stop overthinking things!” How about the ol’ adage “Get your head in the game?”

Obviously they don’t have a clue how to be inspired or instructed by phrases like these. Do you even know yourself?

And now the consequences…

This non-advice just creates confusion, uncertainty, and lost confidence. This will ultimately disappoint the adults giving them the advice – not to mention the kids playing the game!

So, instead of the kid just playing in the present moment with their body – something they do naturally and don’t have to be told HOW to. We naively try motivating them with these meaningless sports cliches which get into their heads and provoke negative and damaging fear-based thoughts.

Also…you might think that telling them to “Just go out there and have fun!” is good advice. It CAN be but it is a risky move and can backfire.

Here’s why:

The whole culture of youth sports is organized around winning and how well the kids perform. There is no doubt about that. Coaches, parents in the stands cheering good play and being disappointed in poor play like I already mentioned and other messages constantly coming at them like:

Did you win?
How did you do?
Did you start today?
Did you score?
How many points? etc.

If that isn’t enough, kids develop their identities and even friendships on whether or not they make team rosters, get play time, and get to the next level.

These messages are constant and everywhere.

They you tell them: “Just go out there and have fun.” They hear that and at best, they forget it after 2 minutes and slip back into the whole performance-centered mentality they’ve been overwhelmed with. And at worst subconsciously destroy their confidence in advice from you because of the conflicting messages.

The irony of the whole situation:

Giving “so-called” positive encouragement can be confusing and ultimately negative to the children’s sports performance.

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Welcome to the Winner’s Circle!

Craig Sigl, The Mental Toughness Trainer and Youth Sports Specialist