November 20th, 2018

Courtesy: Elizabeth WickhamDear Swim Mom:My 13-year-old daughter doesn’t always respond well or appreciate what I say to her after she races. Do you have any suggestions about offering praise or making comments about swims? How could I better approach this?—Perplexed Swim Parent

Dear Perplexed,

Many of us have praised our kids, wanting to make them feel good about their races, only to have them let us know that we literally know nothing. It’s not a pleasant feeling, but they may not be happy with their race for reasons that we’re not aware of. Maybe they didn’t follow their coach’s race strategy, or maybe they missed a goal they were shooting for.

The number one tip to remember when praising or commenting to our kids is to praise their effort, not their performance or talent.

There are lots of studies that show that kids who are praised for their efforts develop more confidence than those who are praised for performance. Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D. from Stanford University and author of “Mindset” has done numerous studies showing the benefits of praising effort over talent. In one study of New York fifth and sixth grade students, she offered praise to two groups: one for how hard they worked, the other for how smart they were. The group who were praised for effort were willing to take on harder challenges, while the ones praised for intelligence were more likely to take on easy tasks where they wouldn’t make mistakes and would still look smart.

We should praise our kids, but not over-praise on every little thing they do. When we praise them all the time, they become immune to our words and may not believe us.

Also, it doesn’t help them if we critique their technique or offer tips for better racing strategies. That’s what their coach is for and they need our support as a parent, not our coaching tips.