Tread carefully with post-game talks with your kids

jonbuzby@hotmail.comFebruary 5, 2012 

Taxi! Taxi!

How many of your kids wish like heck they could call a taxi after a ball game? I know mine would have quite a few times, and offered to pay for it himself. And probably wanted to take one to the game a few times as well.

I learned very early in my parent-coach role that the last thing he ever wanted to talk about on the way home from his game was the game itself. It didn't matter whether he played well or poorly, won or lost. He didn't want to hear my best post-game speech in the car.

Same when I became a parent in the bleachers.

I once went on for five minutes about a few game details (OK, more than a few) that I would have liked to see him do better. I followed my five-minute barrage of hints and ideas with, "You know I'm only trying to help, right?"

His response: "Yes, but do we really need to discuss it now? The game is over, let it rest." And you know what? He was right. And by the way, he was 7. I was 32. Who says kids aren't smart?

So I swore right then and there that I would never talk about a game or practice on the car ride home again. And I haven't. All I say is, "Good game, you played well." But it sure hasn't been easy, and on more than one occasion I suggested he drive home with his mother.

I don't mean we never talk about the game. In fact, we always did and still do, even now after his high school games. We just do it when he's ready, and we talk about the things he wants to discuss. I make a point to just listen. Even if I don't agree with his analysis, I don't say anything unless he asks me my opinion and then I do tell him my thoughts, whether I think he'll like it or not. But I also tell him it is just that -- my opinion -- and he can disagree if he wants, and his coach and other parents might also.

What have I learned? That, like most adults, kids want to talk when they are ready, and prefer to be supported and listened to rather than lectured and criticized. And you know what? Typically, when I just wait for him to want to talk, I get to make the points I wanted to make anyway, but in a very non-threatening manner that he is much more responsive to.

Think about your last car ride home from a game. Was it spent talking about all the things that he or she could have done better? Or about what your child wanted to talk about? My guess is the former.

After the next game, try the latter.

Reach Jon Buzby at jonbuzby@hotmail.com and follow him on Twitter @jonbuzby.

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