Seasons are in full swing across the United States and, hopefully, you are finding positive ways to show up for your child during the post-game car ride home. We understand the challenge. As parents, our emotions are usually heightened as we watch our child and their team perform. Unfortunately, sometimes we watch with judgment, creating a to do list of what we wish our kids did differently, instead of watching with joy. If you’re a parent who lets that mental to do list sneak into your conversations at the wrong time - if you are still working to master the car ride home - then here are 6 ideas for you to consider:
Idea #1 - Let Your Child Lead
Sometimes your child will get in the car primed for a conversation and sometimes they won’t. This is an opportunity to let your child lead. It’s easier when they are feeling talkative, but how your child shows up in this moment is up to them. If they made a mistake or had a hard game, it’s perfectly understandable that they are not talkative. If they are game for a conversation, keep the conversation focused on their points. Ask follow-up questions. Let them lead. There will be time to go through your to do list later. For now, stay focused on your child’s thoughts and feelings.
Idea #2 - Laugh and Smile
If your child is ready for a conversation, keep it light! Be positive and optimistic and emphasize that you believe in your child. Tell them something positive they or a teammate did that you liked. Sport is supposed to be fun. This is your opportunity to reinforce that notion.
Idea #3 - Lower Your Expectations
Yes, you read that right. Lower your expectations for this conversation. Perhaps your child has specific areas of improvement or just experienced an overall poor performance. Maybe they struggled with their attitude. Whatever your criticisms, take note and save them for later. The car ride home is not the best place to have major moments of reflection. Instead, choose a time in the future when your child is not tired, hungry, sweaty, and full of emotion. Then, you can have any serious conversations you think need to happen.
Idea #4 – Listen Actively
Paired with Idea #1, this can be powerful. Be an active listener. If your child tells a story about the game, ask them some follow up questions. How did that feel? Why did they make certain decisions? What did they learn? It’s so easy to fall into post game wrap up show and share our thoughts. If we do that, though, we are likely missing a great opportunity to learn more about how our child sees the game, their teammates, and their individual performance.
Idea #5 - Latch onto the Positive
If you are that parent who is making the to do list for your child while watching them - (I know about these parents because I found myself making these lists as well!) - turn that “to do” list into a “did great” list. Fill it with positive moments in the game, and if the door is open to a car ride home conversation, share your top two or three things on the “did great” list with your child.
Idea #6 - Love
I mean, this goes without saying, right? At the end of the day our children need to know our love for them goes well beyond the playing field. I know a popular sentence many parents use with their child after a game is “I love to watch you play.” Personally, I don’t like saying this. I feel like it puts pressure on my children to play FOR me. Instead, my favorite way to show up and demonstrate love to my children on the car ride home is the question: “How do you feel?” It shows them I care more about their feelings than anything else.
World renowned sport psychologist Dr. Jerry Lynch, in his Soccer Parenting interview, talked about love too when he introduced his LUV acronym. Listened to, Understood, Validated. Regardless of their performance, the car should be a safe place where children feel listened to, understood, and validated.
Find Your Rhythm
You know your child. You love your child. And, you’ve made it to this point in the article, so you are focused on finding ways to be a better soccer parent. The car ride home can be a positive experience for both of you. It’s not a simple task to get it right, but it’s worth the effort. Work these ideas into your next car ride home and keep practicing. Find a rhythm that works for your child and you.
And, if you want to take the next step, we encourage you to check out the Soccer Parent Resource Center. Once inside, check out our interviews with Dan Abrahams, Stuart Singer and Dr. Jerry Lynch. These valuable conversations will provide additional expert perspectives to help you master the car ride home. In addition, within the Soccer Parent Resource Center you’ll find tons of content, organized coursework, and a growing community – all available to empower you on your journey to inspiring your youth soccer player.