I Love To Watch You Play

Posted on June 7, 2019

So much of parenting revolves around watching your children learn new things. There is nothing more wonderful than seeing that little click in their eyes as they understand a new concept or seeing the joy on their faces as they master a new skill. We encourage them, praise them, coach them, and commiserate with them when they struggle. But with all this praise and encouragement, could we be unintentionally teaching them that they must earn our love?

There are lots of good reasons parents enroll children in sports and dance classes: perseverance, teamwork, good sportsmanship, healthy activity, etc. But very often, we lose sight of that and focus too much on winning or making our child into a star athlete. As Tim Elmore of  Growing Leaders attests, the problem of overly involved parents can continue even as the child reaches college. It is completely understandable for a parent to still be concerned with a child’s success (after all, they are always our babies!), but at what cost? If the student-athletes are making complaints like, “I love my mom, but when she does this, I get the feeling she doesn’t trust me” or “I feel like I’m never quite good enough; I can never fully please my parents.”, how is the parent helping either the student’s performance on the field or the parent-child relationship?

So what can a parent do before it reaches this stage? How can parents continue to support and encourage their children without becoming yet another person the child has to perform for? Six simple words that mean much, much more than “Good job!” or “Great work!” Instead, simply say, “I love to watch you play.” And isn’t it true? Watching your child play—whether it’s soccer or piano—is a source of such intense joy that often goes unspoken.

So let the coach be the coach. You be the parent and tell your child how much joy they bring you. They don’t need to earn your love by running a 6-minute mile or hitting a home run. You love them for who they are, not what they do.

For more encouraging words to say before and after sports, check out this article from the Fuller Youth Institute.

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