“Second-Goal” ParentingTM Method #2: Empowering Conversations With Your Children

Conversations are the glue between people, the essential element in a strong relationship. Many parents fall into the trap of thinking that in a conversation with their children, it is their job to talk and their children’s job to listen. Actually, it is both parents’ and children’s jobs to listen and talk in a conversation.

It is important that parents proactively seek conversations about the Little League experience with their players. Here are some suggestions for how to engage your child in a conversation about sports.

1.Establish Your Goal — A Conversation Among Equals

Conversation occurs between equals. Prepare yourself for conversations with your children by remembering baseball and softball is their thing, not yours. Support your children and let them know you’re on their side. Your goal in conversations is not to give advice on becoming a better player, but conversing about their Little League experiences.

2. Adopt a Tell-Me-More Attitude

Adopt the attitude that you want your children to say more (“I really want to hear what you have to say”), and then listen to them — even if you don’t agree and don’t like what you hear. Think of these conversations as an Olympic event with judges. A conversation that rates a 9 or a 10 is one in which the children talk more and the parents listen more.

3. Use Open-Ended Questions

Some questions lend themselves to one-word responses. “How was school today?” “Fine.” To get your children to talk at length, ask questions that elicit longer, more thoughtful responses.

  • “What was the most enjoyable part of today’s practice?”
  • “What worked well in your game?”
  • “What didn’t turn out so well?”
  • “What did you learn that can help you in the future?”
  • “What do you want to work on before the next game?”

4. Also Ask About Life-Lessons and Character Issues

“Any thoughts on what you learned in today’s game that might apply to other parts of your life?” Even if you saw the whole game, get your children’s perspectives.

5. Show You are Listening

Make it obvious that you are paying attention through nonverbal communication, such eye contact and nodding, and verbal “listening noises” (“uh-huh,” “hmmm,” “interesting,” etc.).

6. Let Your Child Set the Terms

Right after a game, when emotions may be riding high, consider waiting until your children show they are ready to talk, instead of forcing conversation. Boys may take longer than girls to show their readiness. If your children prefer briefer discussions, occasionally defer to their wishes. If they feel every conversation is going to be a long one, they’ll likely try to avoid them. Be comfortable with some silence. Stick with it and your children will open up.

7. Connect Through Activity

Sometimes the best way to spark conversation is through an activity your children enjoy. Board games or puzzles allow children the mental or emotional space to volunteer their ideas about the last ballgame. This especially is true for boys, who often resist a direct adult-style of conversation.

8. Enjoy

The most important reason why you should listen to your children with a tell-me-more attitude: Because they will want to talk to you, and as they (and you) grow older, you will find there is no greater gift than enjoying conversations with your children.

These approaches help ensure that parents and children share common values and expectations for what they want from the Little League experience. In turn, that means players are more likely to maintain their enthusiasm for baseball and softball and perform better on the field. Of course, parents and children alike benefit from generally strengthening their relationships.

This information is brought to you by Positive Coaching Alliance. To learn more, please visit positivecoach.org