Steve Mukensnabl – Horizon Coach
This is written from a coaching perspective but can be applied just as easily when dealing with your kids during daily activities.
“Praise Less for More Success.” That’s a provocative statement. I can almost hear the gasping of the child psychologists and therapist types in the background as I write this. Bear with me though and maybe that statement will make more sense.
No doubt the athletic experiences of our kids have changed in many ways since our days on the field or in the gym, some for the better and some for the worse. The science of sports has progressed dramatically with greater understanding of movement and mechanics thanks to modern analysis equipment and training methods. Now we are able to compare in slow motion, the movements of our kids to those of high-level athletes that didn’t have access to such equipment when they were young. Wait! How is it possible that they were so successful? Because it’s not all about the equipment, the coaching strategy or the new fangled technique. It’s the attitude of the athlete. Or more importantly, the motivation.
In working with literally hundreds of kids over the past 15 years, I have learned that there is nothing I can do to change an athlete’s attitude without first addressing their motivation, in other words…what causes pain and what creates pleasure. The very first task when training your family dog is to find out what toy they like so you can provide pleasure when they perform the task you want them to perform. Think of your athletes like dogs….I hear gasping again….what is it that gives them the greatest pleasure? Winning? Playing? Cheers from the crowd and other players? Money or treats for accomplishments? Internal gratification? Any or maybe all of these. For most athletes, a well-timed and undiluted “great job,” “outstanding effort,” or “that’s the way to do it” from their coach is a dog’s scratch to the head to any young athlete. Eventually, a mature athlete does not need this type of external gratification and is content and motivated with simply “playing the game.” Like the rule states though, when it comes to praise/reward, “you can have too much of a good thing.”
Coaches and parents need to understand that although their intentions to shower kids with love, praise, encouragement and rewards are honorable, it is not unlike throwing you know what against a wall and hoping some of it sticks. We need to be a bit more sophisticated than that. Reducing the amount of praise and then using it in a targeted manner to reinforce great effort, attention to details, good attitude, and self-correction is much more effective than a splattering of atta-boys. Notice I didn’t say praising success. Success is not what coaches should be focusing on when dealing with their athletes…..I hear the therapist types cheering now….but not so fast. Success is the by-product of developing proper motivation and habits. Focus on that and you will experience even greater success and outcomes.
So, proper use of praise/reward is the first “toy” a coach should reach for when addressing an athlete’s motivation. Once that is perfected, then the delicate use of the “choke collar” and the Cesar Milan hand bite can be employed for those kids who need an alternate form of consequence. But that’s another article.
Points to remember: