A couple of weeks ago I wrote an article for you encouraging you to practice focusing attention on your child's competence (rather than weaknesses) after practice/competition to develop his/her self-belief. Self-belief is a personal quality that is largely developed via parent/coach-child/player communications to do with performance experiences. And it's been revealed in much research across various domains to be one of the most powerful determinants of long-term mental toughness and high performance...So in this article I want to introduce you to 1 more vital way that you can boost your child's development of self-belief...Communicating High Expectations.
Communicating High Expectations...
My master’s degree psychology thesis, which compared developmental factors between those tennis players who were considered to have overachieved in their career (some becoming Grand Slam champions) with those who were considered underachievers,’ revealed a consistent finding regarding parental communications.
The overachiever group reported parents who they perceived generally expected them to 'do well, improve, and achieve' in their tennis endeavours, while the underachievers often did not.
These repeated interactions of 'high expectations', on average, contributed to the overachievers developing a deep sense of self-belief.
A Famous Experiment on the Power of Expectations
It was a 1964 experiment that predicted a simple effect...
Harvard professors Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobsen wanted to explore the idea that performance could be affected simply by the expectations of others.
They believed that biased expectations could essentially affect reality and create self-fulfilling prophesies as a result. The researchers tested this in several school classes...
They gave teachers prior incorrect information about certain students being ‘late bloomers’ about to dramatically spurt in academic learning. The researchers believed that the teachers may then unconsciously behave in ways that encouraged the students to perform based on these expectations.
In reality these students were randomly selected and no smarter than their classmates.
At the end of the year all students were tested on standardized IQ tests and the ‘special’ students had significantly outperformed the other students.
The teachers’ biased expectations had come true!
3 Simple Ways You Can Communicate High Expectations...
Since that famous study the expectation effect has been shown on numerous occasions using both high and low expectations. Parental expectations have now been linked by research to children’s academic performance through adolescence and even work performance in adulthood.
It’s therefore vital to communicate reasonably high expectations for your child regarding his/her tennis participation because it creates a type of self fulfilling prophecy that he/she will come to internalize over time.
Here's 3 simple ways you can do this...
1.) Encourage Challenges
You can do this by encouraging your child to take on tennis challenges..
Start by encouraging your child to take on challenging tennis activities that might evoke nervousness and self-doubt, as this behaviour implicitly communicates your belief in their ability.
2.) Communicating Your Belief That He/She Can Be Successful
And also let him/her know verbally when he/she takes on this challenge that you believe in him/her.
And by pointing out times in the past when he/she was successful even when he/she had doubts if he/she is hesitant can be helpful too.
3.) Model Self-Belief
Perhaps the most powerful way that your child learns is by watching you...
You can model self-belief for your child by setting high expectations and working determinedly in achieving well with regard to your own work and passions yourself...
Keeping Expectations Realistic
And while communicating low expectations is problematic, it’s also imperative to recognize the detrimental effects that unrealistically high expectations can have on a child.
This means that communicating high expectations is a real balancing act.
While low expectations can foster lack of self- belief and achievement drive in your child, by continually communicating unrealistically high expectations you likely engender unrelenting high standards, or what psychologists sometimes call maladaptive perfectionism.
This mindset is characterised by increased anxiety and continual frustration regarding performance, which in turn can result in the avoidance of challenges and competition experiences.
It’s About Finding the Balance...
By successfully finding the middle ground, as Rosenthal’s teachers were able to do unconsciously, your child will receive the message that you encourage him/her to go after his/her tennis dreams and that he or she is competent to pursue and succeed in tennis with minimal pressure.
This nurtures the self-belief that supports improved performance and mental toughness over time.
And if you'd like to learn more crucial ways that you can help foster your child's mental toughness both on and off the court you can get our '10 Commandments of Parenting Mentally Tough Tennis Checklist' here...
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