Not everyone deserves a trophy. Unearned rewards can be harmful, because artificially inflating a child’s self-esteem merely for participation in sport sends the wrong message, according to psychologist Dr. Jason Richardson, a Pan Am Games gold medalist in BMX cycling, in his new book, “It’s All BS! We’re All Wrong, And You’re All Right!”
“There are plenty of incarcerated felons with an inflated self-view and there are extremely successful people grappling with a more moderate self-concept, so self-esteem alone is not the measure by which we should prepare our children for greatness,” Richardson says in a news release.
Richardson says the value of youth sports is in the tough lessons and success children can experience through hard work and merit.
Among the tips that Richardson offers in the book, according to a news release:
• Stop saying “the problem is …” Fill in the blank. Too many people say the problem is with the coach, the school, the other kids, the equipment, the schedule – and so on. This kind of thinking implies failure because it immediately rules out your child’s goals. Instead, say things that rule in positive outcomes, such as, “I/We/You can do this!”
• Make failure a teachable moment. Sports can test a kid’s emotional fragility. They may want to give up with failure, but that’s a terrible lesson. If your child missed a free throw that would’ve won the team the game, encourage free-throw practice the next day. Better yet, ask them what they are going to do differently next time! Use a coach’s staple: remind your child that Michael Jordan was cut by his high school basketball team during his sophomore year. Parents can always reward persistence and effort.
• Don’t let your child’s ego run wild. The flip side of low self-esteem due to failure can be cockiness with success. Children have far less experience keeping the ego in check, so if he/she is the best athlete in school, they may become arrogant. Try to catch this early; people evolve at different rates. Temper their ego by showing examples of humility, respect and gratitude. Use examples of great athletes who have overcome slumps or adversity.
• Show them how to be a better student. It may seem odd that a star quarterback can memorize every detail of a complex playbook, but has trouble with class studies. If he’s having trouble with chemistry, for example, place the playbook next to the textbook and show him the parallels of complexity. Don’t let him believe he’s “just a jock.”