You want every minute of your child’s of Little League® experience to be rich with the fun and enjoyment of competing in baseball or softball, which includes making friends and learning all the life lessons the sports have to offer. A key to making that happen are quality conversations with your children. Here are some tips on how to see that these talks come naturally.
Establish Your Goal — A Conversation Among 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 helping them process and benefit from their Little League experiences.
Adopt a Tell-Me-More Attitude
If you want your children to say more, listen to them — even if you don’t agree, and don’t like what you hear. The more you push back, the more they will pull away. The conversation may end soon and may not resume.
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 did you like best about practice?”
- “What did you learn that can help you in the future?”
- “What do you want to work on before the next game?”
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.
Let Your Child Set the Terms
Right after a game, when emotions may be hot, 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. Be comfortable with some silence. Stick with it, and your children will open up.
Connect Through Activity
Sometimes the best way to spark conversation is through an activity your children enjoy. Board games, for example, give 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. And there is nothing like the conversations that can happen when you are playing catch.
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.
Additional free resources from PCA are available at www.devzone.positivecoach.org. For more insight on sports parenting, subscribe to PCA’s Sports Parent Conversation Starters, a weekly e-mail series with advice on talking to your children about their youth sports experiences. You can access a free, quick online Second-Goal Parent course at http://www.littleleague.org/pca.htm.
Story submitted by David Jacobson, Positive Coaching Alliance