Jack baseballToday’s message is a short one.  I have been working as a supervisor for over twenty years.  I have been a mom for almost ten years.  In all this time, I have tried to encourage the people around me by providing lots of feedback, both positive and constructive.  I’d like to think that has been fairly successful over the years.

Yesterday, I came across an article that changed my approach in a wonderful way.

I read Six Words You Should Say Today by Rachel Macy Stafford.  It is worth every second it takes to read.  In it, she describes how children who play sports said the thing they most want to hear from their parents is “I love to watch you play.”  She then details her story of how she put that into play with her own family and the amazing results.

It sounded too good to be true.

After all, I am a mom of kids who are very active in sports.  Right now, my son is playing select baseball and my daughter is involved in gymnastics.  I always cheer them on from the stands.  I make signs with their names and number on them.  I have bags for every sport with their names/ numbers on the bags.  I take pictures, say encouraging things when they are performing and when they are through.  I realize I say too much.  I give too much detail.  “Great hit in the 3rd inning.”  “Way to call that catch.”

They smile.

When I really think about it though, they don’t really say anything after the games.

It was time to try the new approach.  My son had a baseball game last night.  I still cheered when he came up to bat, when he got a hit or made a good catch.  My change came after the game.

He game to me all dusty and sweaty in that great way that little boys look and smell after playing.  He tipped his head up as the sunlight streamed under the brim of his ball cap.

“Hi Momma.  We won.”

I paused.

“Hi hon.  You sure did.  You know what?  I love to watch you play.”

Then I stopped.  I did not say anything specific about his performance.  That’s when something amazing happened.  His face relaxed and he grinned up at me.  “Mommy, I love when you encourage me.”  He hugged me.  Hard.  Really hard.  And then he was running off with his friends.  Smiling.

It was amazing.

I learned that sometimes parents, and even bosses, make giving praise too hard.  We over analyze and think we have to give a million specifics.  We don’t. 

So today, think about this story.  And say those six little words to someone.

I love to watch you play.