Courtesy of Elizabeth Wickham
On the car ride home, do your kids love to share lots of details about practice or meets? Or do they stay quiet or give you only one-word answers? In a recent webinar by parenting expert David Benzel, from Growing Champions for Life, he offered several tips for having better conversations with our kids about their sports. Benzel works with many sports organizations including USA Swimming.
Here are six tips about how to get your children to open up to you after they swim:
Quality over quantity.
“The quality of our conversations dictate the quality of our relationships.”
This quote from Benzel explains that how our kids will look back on our parent-child relationships will be directly linked to how honest and deep our conversations have been.
Avoid conversations about “How.”
When kids reach middle school, they want independence and autonomy and will resent being told how to do most things—like train, execute or win. It’s tempting for us to tell them how they should do it, but try not to have that conversation. According to Benzel, it only works when they ask for that help.
Five little words.
“I love watching you swim” is what to tell your child on the way home from practice or a meet. According to Benzel and many top coaches, this shows your child respect and your interest. After that say nothing more than, “Are you hungry or thirsty and where do you want to go?”
Wait until they open up.
Once you say the five little words, be quiet and wait. It may take 15 minutes to an hour, or even another day, but your child may surprise you and invite you into the exact conversation you were dying to have in the first place. Once the door is open you can have a meaningful conversation with your child, because they are welcoming your input.
Don’t judge but learn.
If we are jumping to conclusions, firing off answers, or rushing to solve problems, then we most likely are acting judgmental. We should try a different tactic instead, such as learning more information about the situation. We need to suspend our judgment and ask questions, listen and clarify.
The golden words.
“Tell me more” are what Benzel calls the golden words. Once your child opens up, ask good questions like “What was your thought process?” Let them talk and give you more information in their conversations.
What do you ask your kids after practice or a race and how does it work out?
Elizabeth Wickham volunteered for 14 years on her kids’ club team as board member, fundraiser, newsletter editor and “Mrs. meet manager.” She’s a writer with a bachelor of arts degree in editorial journalism from the University of Washington with a long career in public relations, marketing and advertising. Her stories have appeared in newspapers and magazines including the Los Angeles Times, Orange County Parenting and Ladybug. You can read more parenting tips on her blog.