Teach Your Child to Love a Sport

Do Your Homework

Try to find a sports program that fits your child's personality and skill set. Is it the kind where everybody plays in games or participates in competitions regardless of ability? Or do only the best athletes play? Observe a practice with your child, so you'll get a sense of the team's culture, and you'll both know what to expect. Plus, you'll see the coach in action. It takes more than technical expertise to get 7-year-olds hooked on a game; a good coach also has an even temperament and a thoughtful teaching style. "The concept of 'doing the best that you can' should be the real goal rather than merely a pat phrase," says Dr. Zelinger.

See the Big Picture, Not Just the Score

When children show talent at this age, some parents daydream about college scholarships -- and then push their kid to the brink of burnout with private coaching and travel teams. "Many people forget why they wanted their child to play a sport in the first place: for social, emotional, and physical development," says Dr. Gould. If you put too much emphasis on winning or rankings, he may get stressed out and fear letting you down. Instead, show interest in your child's overall experience by asking open-ended questions such as, "What did you learn at practice?" For every mistake you want to correct, give five specific comments about what your kid did right. ("Rotate your right shoulder" is more effective than "you can throw harder.")

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