Sports Parenting … Why Negativity and Criticism is dangerous. Very dangerous

“In our half-century of international research, we’ve not found any other … experience that has as strong and consistent effect on personality and personality development as does … REJECTION, especially by parents in childhood.”

Dr. Ronald Rohner of the University of Connecticut; international psychologist


Read that again please: (I’m paraphrasing here) …

“Nothing (my word) … has as strong and consistent effect on personality and personality development as does … REJECTION … “

For children who feel rejection from parents (and other adults) studies reveal that …

… the pain from rejection is often deeper than physical pain; especially in a ever evolving and more intimate civilization where we are all “connected” (via the internet) and “at risk” for constant rejection.  Our friends somehow don’t seem to recognize us at school or work  (what’s up?)  They don’t text back.  They don’t call; return calls.  They don’t respond to emails.  All people … not just children … need SOME PLACE where they feel approval and loved UNCONDITIONALLY.

Children who feel rejection from their parents react with feelings of anxiety and insecurity.

What does that mean?

The answer is pretty simple really.  It means that our children NEED our love and support as parents.  They need support, and encouragement, and approval.

Interestingly enough what rejection affects most powerfully is “self image” and “self worth” and the most damaging aspect of rejection is that it leads to  “SELF CRITICISM”

When a youth athlete makes a mistake on the field and that mistake is met with parental/adult rejection in the form of a criticism, a reprimand, or worse; yelling, beratement, THE NEGATIVITY IMMEDIATELY MULTIPLIES in the youngster’s mind.  Not only is he/she absorbing all the negative “noise” outside their consciousness from Mom/Dad/Coach but their OWN minds begin to beat up on them as well.

“I stink.  I’m no good.  I can’t believe I did that!!!  How did that happen?”  Etc., etc. etc.

Not exactly the best mind set for athletic peak performance or success.

I will never forget watching a young baseball player perform who was constantly berated and criticized by his father.  You would see them talking before and after the games; the youngster losing a couple inches in height as he visibly shrunk under his father’s criticism.  You could HEAR the father from the stands yelling encouragement but also sharp criticism.  The youngster would get into the field, take his position (second base) and literally shiver like a deer in the headlights on a winter evening.  Whenever he would make an error in the field or not produce in his at bat his eyes would turn IMMEDIATELY to his father; anticipating disapproval.  In the field he wouldn’t even chase after the missed ball.  He would stop and look to his father.

The boy’s play would spiral out of control.  If his first at bat was not productive you could count on him to go 0 for 4.  Whenever he made an error in the field; he was good for at least three more errors before the game was over.

So … if you want your child or a youth player that you coach to perform WORSE when they make a mistake; YELL at them!!!  Berate and criticize them.  Works like a charm.  You’ll DEFINITELY get a bad performance every time.

Does what I have talked about so far resonate with you?   Help your players be the best they can be by being the best sports parent you can be.    I have a great sports parent program that, through teaching parents to be great sports parents, helps their young athletes play to their potential.   It has worked for thousands of parents, players, and coaches all over the world and it  can work for you too.  Give me a call and  together we can get your athlete playing their best.


Let me repeat our lead point …

“Nothing (my word) … has as strong and consistent effect on personality and personality development as does … REJECTION … “

That’s a lot of long (as my dad would say;) “fifty cent words” but the bottom line is that somebody probably needs to figure out an appropriate version, write it out  and tack it up at the ballpark.

It might go something like …

“Love and support your children while they play.  They are children first; athletes second, and “competitors” lastly.

Don’t coach.  Teach.  Be generous with answers and praise.  Keep the criticism to yourself.  Be positive ALWAYS.

Don’t scream or yell or reprimand when they make mistakes.  This is not a parenting contest, it’s a ball game.

They’re not TRYING to make mistakes.  Find an APPROPRIATE (maybe about two full days after the game is over) moment and SHOW them how to do it right.

Your first words at the end of the game should be, “That was a blast.  I love to watch you play.  Now …

“Let’s go for ice cream.”

One of the most important principles is to show them that mistakes are a good thing.  They give us the information that helps us make adjustments and get better.

Allow and encourage them to grow and develop and LEARN how to compete.  Let them learn how to get “better” (the Japanese word is “KAIZEN” which means continuous improvement)  and eventually to learn how to MASTER a skill.  (THAT is where the real FUN is).

It is only a game but it is NOT “just” a game.  It’s also a life lesson for all of us involved; children AND parents.

The process works when we work the process.


Sometimes it is difficult to ask for help. 

All of us could improve something with our sports parenting skills.  Sometimes we need help but don’t know who to ask.  Contact me and I can explain my sports parenting program and you can learn how to help your athlete; ESPECIALLY if it is your own child.




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