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How do you introduce and describe your kids?
A study in 2002 from the Journal of Attitudes and Social Cognition examined people’s names and the impact on careers they chose. The researchers found that people named Dennis were statistically more likely to become dentists. They contended that a phenomenon existed called “implicit egotism.”
The words that we associate with our names can actually shape our decisions and identity.
“Perfect little Rachel.” That’s how her parents described and introduced their child, a high-school second baseman. Those are pretty high expectations, and I was curious how long they had been calling her that. Unfortunately, she was not mentally tough, and it had little to do with her and more to do with expectations placed on her.
How do you introduce and describe your young athlete? “There goes our little champ” or “Here comes our star goalie” aren’t the best ways to do it. Be especially mindful about using descriptors that emphasize only a single aspect of your child’s identity or their outcomes. No one wins all the time, and certainly no one loses all the time. Your child is also only an athlete some of the time. Sports are just things they do—not who they are.
Parent Strategy: Call them this!
Call them a competitor. We can all compete in everything we do. We can compete in grades, paying attention, being a good friend and playing sports. To define it in a healthy way for your child, emphasize that competing means competing against yourself, not anyone else. Can we become better than we were yesterday?
Try it: “Here comes Rachel, our fearless competitor.” In this way you will be teaching your child not to compare themselves to others, which often results in low self-esteem. Too much of competition stresses beating or besting someone else. Teach them to have an audience of one—themselves—and that that is the only one that matters.
For more on this topic, check out my previous TeamSnap article, Five Ways Parents Can Build Mental Toughness.
Dr. Rob Bell is a Sport Psychology Coach. His company DRB & associates is based in Indianapolis. Some clients have included: University of Notre Dame, Marriott and Walgreens. Check out the most recent book on Mental Toughness, Don’t Should on Your Kids: Build Their Mental Toughness.
Visit the website drrobbell.com.