You’ve seen him. He eagerly attends his kids’ games—and, unfortunately, yours’ as well—and suddenly fashions himself the Vince Lombardi of the grandstands. One minute in, he shakes his head and makes disapproving comments he pretends to keep under his breath. Overcome by his desire to “help” the coach get the best out of his kid (and yours), he screams out reminders colored with frustration and disappointment. Much like an overprotective mother who never allows her child to taste disappointment, he means well and genuinely wants his child to succeed.

How do the best of intentions go awry? When does encouragement become pressure? How do you get the best out of a person? All parents, teachers, and coaches are faced with these questions. Let’s take a look at what some of the most successful coaches of all time have learned.

  • Start from a Place of Encouragement: It’s so easy to get frustrated. Children give us so many opportunities to discourage behavior. It’s all the more reason to make a conscious effort to be encouraging when you can. Think about your boss and your loved ones and how you like to be treated. When you’re disrespected, does it motivate you and make you want to listen more to that person? Take it from Hall of Fame Oakland Raiders coach John Madden: “You have to coach, you have to teach, you have to strategize, you have to encourage. That’s what coaching is, not the opposite.”

  • Listen: This age-old but oft-forgotten practice works for toddlers as well as teens. Very natural to want to fix everything and spill knowledge, but far more effective to listen enthusiastically. Doc Rivers has a championship ring from the Boston Celtics and a son who is a pro baller. He describes his paternal role as such: “I’ve always thought my job was to support him. To pick him up when he’s down. And really, try to enjoy it more than coach. If he brings something up, or asks a question, I’ll answer it. But basically I say, ‘Good job.’”

  • Lead by Example: You want your children to be healthy, respectful, and value effort? It’s only natural for them to mimic your behavior. Use that to your advantage. John Wooden, legendary UCLA Men’s Basketball coach, agrees: “Young people need models, not critics.”

  • Believe in Your Child: Your children know whether you believe in them or not. As legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi notes, “Confidence is contagious. So is lack of confidence.” Your trust and belief will fuel their determination and drive.

  • Help Children Learn from Mistakes: Like most of parenting, modeling and attitude are key here. Your child will fall, fail, and break down. If you want her to garner the lessons life is teaching her, be there to listen and interpret without judgment and blame. As our men’s Olympics basketball Coach K (Duke’s Mike Krzyzweski) attests, “A crisis can be a momentous time for a team to grow — if a leader handles it properly.”

  • Praise Effort: The best coaches know that in order to achieve ultimate success, the focus should be on effort and improvement — step by step. Jim Calhoun has won multiple championships in basketball at UConn and observes, “When you have perfect heart and perfect effort, you can’t ask any more of the kids.”

  • Keep Anger and Frustration at Bay: Only natural to feel them at times, but the best leaders know these emotions will only distract from your messages and the lessons learned. Phil Jackson won eleven NBA championships. He concludes, “You know, I’ve found anger is the enemy of instruction.”

  • Invite Honesty: Of course, parenting isn’t all fun and games. Sometimes we have to gently push and teach. When that time comes, speak confidently and honestly to your child about your shared goals and how the next step will help her get there. Most importantly, help her understand why she wants to get there. Enlisting the power of honesty helped Joe Torre win multiple World Series: “What I try to do is make sense, try to be as honest as I can possibly be, and be able to communicate.”

All of these principles fall under the umbrella of respect. The desire for respect is as natural and innate as our need for water. As parents, we all want our children to learn to respect others — including us. Lenny Wilkens was one of the most successful NBA coaches ever. Take it from him: “If you want it, you’ve got to give it.”

If you’re interested in taking your parenting game to the next level, consider working with one of our parent coaches. We can provide one-time support, or a long-term partnership on your parenting journey. Contact us today to learn more.