Good Parenting Tips
for Raising Healthy Young Athletes

Are you like me? Always searching for good parenting tips?

We all want to raise happy, healthy, successful kids. But it's not easy.

Raising kids isn't for the faint of heart. And being a sports mom or dad is another challenge altogether.

Hopefully these bits of advice from the trenches of a basketball/ volleyball/ track/ soccer/ softball mom will help you be the parent your kids need.

Good Parenting Tips
1. Let your actions do the talking

Kids are little sponges with eyes.

Watching and learning, big things and little things.

Parents, there's not a better teacher for our kids than our behavior. Good or bad.

What we do means so much more than what we say.

Want to teach your youngster to work hard, respect her coaches, demonstrate good sportsmanship, or be a team player?

Show her what that looks like. How does she see you treat her coach? How does she see you act in the stands?

You get the picture. 

Good Parenting Tips
2. Love them no matter what

good parenting tips

All players make mistakes.

Everyone is embarrassed at some point by a poor shot, a bad pass, or a devastating loss.

I remember as a player wanting to melt into the floor and disappear when I shot an airball during a crucial possession in a big game. Or the time we got knocked out of the state playoffs, in part, because I couldn't hit a shot.

And I remember watching my young daughter experience her share of disappointments and shortcomings throughout her career. 

It's part of the game.

So, please don't forget:

No matter how important the game is.

No matter how good or bad your child's performance is.

When it's all said and done the only thing that matters is that he knows you love him.

Through the proud moments and the embarrassing ones. Unconditionally. Period.

Good Parenting Tips
3. Be an encourager

As much as I love sports, they can be brutal at times.

Injuries. Disappointments. Losses. Lack of playing time. Waning self-confidence...

Kids need their parents to be an anchor for them while they get knocked around on the playing court.

Providing a desperately needed word of encouragement at just the right time can make all the difference.

Be ready with a smile and a big hug.

Help them see all the things they've done well. Show them a ray of hope when things look bleak.

No doubt it will be challenging at times, but it's our job as parents to build our kids up. To focus on the positive.

A word of caution, though.

Kids are smart.

They'll see right through phony, sugar-coated praise that isn't founded on reality. So, keep it real. Make it a daily goal to offer an authentic, encouraging word.

Good Parenting Tips
4. Keep it in perspective

This is a biggie.

Kids are competing at younger and younger ages these days.

Their teams are travelling around the country competing in tournaments and having experiences that used to be reserved for high school or college-level players.

The stakes seem so high at times for these little ones.

I encourage you to keep it in perspective.

Let kids be kids.

Very few of our kids will play in high school or college. 

While they're young, expose them to a variety of sports. Encourage them to learn new skills and try new sports just for the fun of it.

Don't get so serious about one sport so early. It's easy to get caught up in the hype and push and push them to play year-round.

I can't tell you how many kids I've seen get pushed right out of wanting to play anymore. So many athletic careers cut short prematurely from burnout

I encourage you to step back and make sure the game keeps being fun.

Good Parenting Tips
5. Play with them

I know we're tired.

We work long hours. Our to-do list is never-ending.

But your kids are only little once. And they love when you play with them.

It doesn't matter if you're any good. It doesn't matter if you like the sport or not.

Find a way to participate with them. Play a little one-on-one. Help them with fun drills. Rebound or pass for them. What you do isn't important.

Just play.

You might get a little banged up or sore. That's OK. It'll be worth it.  

Good Parenting Tips
6. Savor the moments

positive parenting

I could cry right now thinking about how fast my daughter's childhood and athletic career lasted.

It was a blip on the radar. I'm grateful I savored the moments.

You may be tempted in your hurry to get everything done to rush by it all and miss it.

But let me encourage you to stop.

Slow down.

Don't miss a game.

Be there to share in the celebration of the highs and the heartbreak of the lows.

I've heard parents look back and lament missed opportunities due to work obligations or other commitments.

But I've never heard anyone regret being present. Be there and enjoy watching them play.

Before it's too late.

Good Parenting Tips
7. Be an active listener

We all want to be heard. Kids are no exception.

Be there with wide open ears, attentive eyes, and a quiet mouth.

Be still.

Listen as your child expresses her joys, successes, failures, and disappointments.

I've had to work hard at this. I blow it so often, thinking my daughter always wants a solution to her problem. So, I start trying to fix everything, and she gets frustrated.

All she wanted to do was vent and be heard.

Or she can't wait to tell me something exciting that happened. And I rush her through it or half-listen because I'm busy.

Don't make the same mistakes. Practice the art of active listening. Engage fully in the conversation by following up with a comment or a question or some other action to let her know she was heard.

Good Parenting Tips
8. Step out of the way

Sports provide a microcosm of life. I love that.

I can't think of many life lessons that can't be learned on the court.

For example, learning how to get up when you've been knocked down. How to attack challenges and overcome obstacles.

These are a part of life.

As hard as it is to watch, the best thing we can do for our young athletes is to step aside.

For them to develop important traits like resilience, perseverance, and self-confidence, we have to allow them to struggle...and fail...and stick with it through the difficult times.

It may mean dealing with a difficult coach. Or finishing out the season when the desire to play is gone. Or putting in a lot of extra time to gain the skills needed to get off the bench.

We can help our kids navigate through these difficult waters. But, it's not our job to charge ahead and do the work for them.

That's the worst thing we can do.

No, our job is to be there to provide guidance from the sideline.

Help them gather the words to speak to their coach. Teach them the importance of commitment. And pushing themselves. And standing up to adversity.

These are some of the greatest lessons an athlete can learn. 

Good Parenting Tips
9. Emphasize competing above winning

There's not a person around who loves winning more than I do.

Doesn't matter what it is, I want to come out on top.

I'd be lying if I said I was always a gracious sport on those occasions I came up short. In fact, I've had to learn how to deal with my share of losses.

The older and more skilled athletes become, the greater the competition, and the higher the stakes.

But when players are first starting out, winning cannot be the focus.

Players must first learn basic skills. Then they must learn how to put those skills together to compete. 

Focus on competing. On doing the little things right. On playing hard.

Everyone can't win. There's always a loser.

But if we can teach our kids to compete, leaving it all on the floor, we've taught them a valuable life skill. You can't ask anything more.

It sure is a lot more fun celebrating the winner, but don't overlook or neglect celebrating the competitor.

Good Parenting Tips
10. Be their fan, not their coach

Enjoy watching your kids play. Cheer them for a job well done. Be their #1 fan.

They've already got a coach. And unless you're one of them, save your coaching for a time outside of organized practices or games.

Kids can only take in so much information, and they should be focused on listening to their coaches' instructions, not comments from the stands.

Criticism and correction is tough for any athlete to take. And believe me, coaches will provide plenty of it.

So, your kids need you to be their voice of support.

I've watched players crumble inside at the barrage of comments hurled at them from their parents in the stands. It's a wonder they could play at all.

And one more word from experience. Don't feel the need to go over your child's mistakes with them right after their game.

I was guilty of this one.

It just seems like the perfect time when the game is fresh in everyone's mind to point out and correct errors on the spot.

But, trust me. Kids don't want to hear it then. Whether they're feeling high or low, the last thing they want to do at that moment is hash over their mistakes. 

Be their fan now, and find a time to provide coaching tips later.

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