Every parent knows that watching our children succeed and cheering them on when they’re winning is the easy part of parenting. The challenges—and arguably the most crucial learning experiences for both parent and child—come when we our children must grapple with the feelings of defeat that they inevitably encounter when learning a new skill or sport.
As adults, we know that the most meaningful personal growth comes from times of adversity, but it can be hard to help your child understand this when they’re discouraged. In these moments, your ability to give constructive feedback—to help your child identify what they’re doing wrong without being a critic—will be tested. We’ve compiled a few pointers to help you have a productive conversation from which your child walks away feeling ready to conquer whatever obstacle they’re facing.
Allow your child to explain to you what they feel they did wrong. Be a proactive listener—ask questions as they talk. Some children will naturally be more talkative and willing to share their insecurities than others, but if you can ask questions that help to more specifically identify what it is they’re struggling with, you’ll be more equipped to help identify a plan for tackling it.
If your child has just experienced a tough loss, isn’t improving as quickly as their peers or isn’t meeting their own goals as expected, they’ll probably resort to sweeping negative generalizations when characterizing they’re own performance. You’ll likely hear things like “I’m bad,” or “I’m never going to be good at tennis.” It’s your job to stay positive in these moments. Your child isn’t bad, they’re learning new skills that make them a better player every day. It’s not that they’ll never be good at tennis, it’s that meaningful improvement doesn’t happen overnight. Remind them that they have a support system behind them and of how far they’ve come since the first time they picked up a racket.
Have a conversation (not a lecture)
After you’ve listened to your child’s frustrations, initiative a conversation that works toward identifying a plan for improvement. Even if you’re a tennis pro who knows exactly what your child needs to change to perfect their backhand, your child will tune out if you lecture them. Ask them specifically what it is that they’re struggling with and what they can do both in and out of practice to help them improve.
Be conscious of body language and tone of voice
Both yours and theirs. If they’re tense, crossing their arms and turning away from you, it might be best to give them a few minutes or more before you unpack whatever is bothering them. Let them know you’re ready to talk when they are. Similarly, do your best to maintain neutral body language and an encouraging tone. Crossed arms, a raised voice and finger pointing will completely eclipse any type of productive feedback you’re trying to give and only lead to further frustration. You’re trying to have a conversation, not a confrontation.
Practice feedback before you deliver it
Go over your key talking points and questions in your head before you deliver them. You may even want to find time to review your child’s performance with a coach, ask any questions on specific techniques and get a few suggestions to inform your feedback.
It’s true that ROGace is a high-performance youth tennis program. That means your child will be exposed to tough competition. They’ll be challenged to do things they won’t be good at right away. There may be bumps along the way, but we believe those learning experiences are crucial to development. That’s why positive, constructive feedback is so important to keeping children engaged in and enthusiastic about the sport. It’s our role as parents to nurture their interest, not put unnecessary pressure on them while they’re still learning.
If this kind of training environment resonates with you and feels like a good fit for your young athlete, feel free to reach out with any questions or request an evaluation. All abilities are welcome.