3 Parenting Habits That Nurture Self-Confidence In Your Athlete

Kids are smart.

They can quickly decipher when you honestly believe in their abilities, or when you’re merely trying to make them feel better in the moment.

Nurturing your athlete’s self-confidence doesn’t have to be difficult—but it DOES have to be REAL.

What does that look like?

It’s definitely intentional. And it appears in the day-to-day as much as in the challenging moments. It involves finding small wins in the face of mistakes, and it never relies on false hype.

Here are 3 parenting habits that will help build self-confidence in your kids—whether they are on or off the field.

1) Spot Strengths and Talk About Them

Have you ever had another adult say, “wow, your kid is really good at such-and-such,” and YOU thought, yeah, I guess I don’t always notice that?

It’s something many parents are guilty of. We miss the qualities our kids excel in—unless they are super obvious—because we fixate on the areas we want to change.

Good parenting DOES include correction and helping your child to grow in their weaknesses. However, spotting the strengths and talking about them goes a LOT further in building their self-confidence.

A “strength” is an area where your child seems to have natural ability or potential. Here are some pro-tips:

  • Be purposeful about LOOKING for strengths daily
  • Remember there are different types of strengths—physical, mental, and social—and they are equally valuable
  • Talk to your athlete about their strengths and ways they benefit the team
  • Recognize that areas of strength provide fertile ground for the most significant amount of growth
2) Encourage Specifically and More Often

 Which compliment would you rather receive from a boss?

  • You’re a good worker, and we’re happy to have you
  • Your productivity is off the charts, and you bring an upbeat presence to our team

Most people would get more excited to hear the 2nd one because it tells them WHY they are valued. Our kids are no different and greatly benefit from SPECIFIC encouragement.

Additionally, self-confident kids probably hear encouragement more often than criticism.

A Harvard study that looked at an ideal praise-to-criticism ratio found that we benefit most when we hear approximately 6 praises for every 1 critique.

Although it might not be realistic to encourage your child with 6 specific—and authentic—remarks every day, it IS realistic to make sure you are encouraging MORE often than you are critiquing.

Pro-tips:
  • ALWAYS encourage your athlete when you notice good behavior or a positive attitude in the face of disappointment because you can be sure it required effort on their part
  • Remember, it is more impactful to say specific things like, “I’ve noticed you have been working hard on your backswing all this week, and today your form was so much stronger,” rather than, “You played tennis well today.”
  • Make sure you give many more praises than criticisms
  • Don’t negate praise by saying, “That was really good EXCEPT when you made that error.”

3) Equip Your Child To Be Good At Something They Enjoy

Giving your child the tools to get good at something they love is one of the most tangible ways to grow their self-confidence.

And let’s face it; if they happen to choose a sport that YOU love, then doing everything you can to ensure their success is like having your cake and eating it too.

But what happens when they need the tools to be good at an activity “you just don’t get?” Perhaps you were a swimmer, but your son is passionate about wrestling. What then?

If nurturing self-confidence is important to you than you will want to value what interests them.

Although helping your child become competent at their favorite activity might involve personal coaching, there are many ways to equip them without breaking the bank:

  • Spend one-on-one time with them practicing specific skills
  • Learn everything you can about their passion—it will enable you to know how best to help them improve
  • Be genuinely interested in what they love and LISTEN to them when they talk about it
  • Seek out an older athlete as a mentor to give them the “inside scoop”
SEE Your Kids

Self-confidence has a LOT to do with how a person sees himself. And since kids always take cues from home first, nurturing confidence has to start with how PARENTS perceive them.

As you intentionally work on building self-confidence remember this acronym:

Spot your child’s strengths and verbalize them regularly.
Encourage them with specific comments, several times more than you critique.
Equip them to get competent at something they love.
Now It’s Our Turn

If you are reading this then we believe you are already ahead of most parents—that’s a definite strength.

It’s great that you have an appetite to learn how to better nurture your athlete—that’s your specific encouragement.

Keep coming back to Growing Champions For Life because our goal is to always equip you on your parenting journey.

Leave us a comment. We love hearing from our families.

Michelle is a wife to one and a mom to six, with 20 plus years of experience at both. With a love for being active in sports, she took her passion for competitive training to the world of triathlons where she rocked the elite age group level for several years. In an effort to share her enthusiasm for a balanced and healthy life she inspires others through personal training and freelance writing.

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