| How to talk to your young sailors after the
races: A guide for Opti parents to young sailors.
When we think
about what makes people friends with each other, a number of things come
to mind. For example, our friends like us and enjoy spending time with
us, as we enjoy them. And what is it we mostly do when we are together
with our friends? Mostly we talk and listen to each other.
Conversations are the glue between people, the essential element in a
strong relationship. Relationships wither without communication, and the
very best form of communication is the conversation. Many parents fall
into the trap of thinking that it is their job to talk and their child's
to listen. Actually that's only half-right. It is also our job to listen
and the child's job to talk. It's a wonderful thing when a parent and
child can really talk to and hear each other.
It is important that parents intentionally seek out conversations about
sports with their athletes. Here are some suggestions for how to engage
your child in a conversation about sports.
Establish Your Goal—A
Conversation Among Equals: A conversation is something between
equals. Kings didn't have conversations with their subjects. They
told them what to do. Prepare yourself for a conversation with your
child by reminding yourself that sports is her thing, not yours.
Remember that you want to support her, to let her know that you are
on her side. Your goal is not to give advice on how to become a
better athlete. It should be to engage your child in a conversation
among equals, one of whom (you!) is on the side of the other (her!).
Adopt a Tell-Me-More Attitude:
Brenda Ueland penned one of the most important essays on
relationships ever written, Tell Me More: "When we are listened to,
it creates us, makes us unfold and expand. Ideas actually begin to
grow within us and come to life."
Adopt the attitude that you want your child to tell-you-more ("I
really want to hear what you have to say."), and then listen to what
he has to say—even if you don't agree with it or like it—and you
will begin to tap into what Ueland calls the "little creative
fountain" in your child.
"If you are very tired, strained…this little fountain is muddied
over and covered with a lot of debris…it is when people really
listen to us, with quiet fascinated attention, that the little
fountain begins to work again, to accelerate in the most surprising
Think of your conversation with your child as an Olympic event with
judges. A conversation that rates a 9 or a 10 is one in which the
child does more talking and the parent more listening. Set your goal
before you start, and go for it.
Listen! In many instances you
may know exactly what your child can do to improve. However, this is
a conversation, remember? Your goal is to get your child to talk
about her sports experience, so ask rather than tell. Save your
tellings for another time.
Use Open-Ended Questions: Some
questions lend themselves to one-word responses. "How was school
today?" "Fine." Your goal is to get your child to talk at length, so
ask questions that will tend to elicit longer, more thoughtful
"What was the most enjoyable part
of today's practice/game?"
"What worked well?"
"What didn't turn out so well?"
"What did you learn that can help
you in the future?"
"Any thoughts on what you'd like
to work on before the next game?"
Also ask about life-lesson and
character issues: "Any thoughts on what you've learned in
practice this week that might help you with other parts of your
life?" Even if you saw the entire game, the goal is to get your
child to talk about the game the way she saw it, not for you to tell
her what she could have done better.
Show You Are Listening. Make it
obvious to your child that you are paying attention through use of
nonverbal actions such as making eye contact as he talks, nodding
your head and making "listening noises" ("uh-huh," "hmmm,"
Listening is one of the greatest gifts you can give your child!
"Who are the people, for example, to whom you go for advice? Not to
the hard, practical ones who can tell you exactly what to do, but to
the listeners; that is, the kindest, least censorious, least bossy
people that you know. It is because by pouring out your problem to
them, you then know what to do about it yourself."
Let Your Child Set the Terms:
William Pollack, MD, author of Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons from the
Myths of Boyhood, notes that children have different "emotional
schedules" that determine when they are ready to talk about an
experience. Forcing a conversation right after a competition (when
there may be a lot of emotion) is often less successful than waiting
until the child gives an indication that he is ready to talk. Boys
may take longer than girls to talk about an experience, so look for
prompts that a child is ready. And conversations don't have to be
lengthy to be effective. If your child wants a brief discussion,
defer to his wishes. If he feels like every discussion about sports
is going to be long, he'll likely begin to avoid them. And don't be
afraid of silence. Stick with it and your child will open up to you.
Connect through activity.
Sometimes the best way to spark a conversation is through an
activity that your child enjoys. Playing a board game or putting a
puzzle together can allow space for a child to volunteer thoughts
and feelings about the game and how he performed. This is especially
important for boys, who often resist a direct adult-style of
Enjoy: The most important
reason why you should listen to your child with a tell-me-more
attitude: Because then she will want to talk to you, and as she (and
you) get older, you will find there is no greater gift than a child
who enjoys conversations with you.
From Positive Coaching Alliance website:
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Champion Boatbuilder For Over 40 Years.