As the parent of two adult children with children of their own, I am now able to sit back and watch the progress of three little granddaughters' development. My two sons became professional athletes for the Boston Red Sox. I have written blogs, as well as a book (MINOR LEAGUE MOM: A MOTHER'S JOURNEY THROUGH THE RED SOX FARM TEAMS), about that journey. I recently read an article in The Sun Sentinel (Fla.) newspaper ("Parents: Focus on the Effort") that I want to share.
The article by Nick Sortal reported that applauding effort is better than merely recognizing talent. He cites research by Stanford's Carol Sweck on the two different mindsets of parents of athletes. Those who focus on talent alone, Dweck claims, cause a dead end. The theory goes that there is no growth implied in this fixed mindset ("Wow, you were really good today!").
Instead, Sweck claims that a growth mindset reinforces effort, which in turn inspires athletes to work harder in the future. In other words, "Your hard work is really paying off!" not only applauds a performance but will create a commitment to continue to learn and achieve. In one of my previous blogs, I explained that in our home while our sons were growing up, the goal athletically was always to achieve the next level, whether it was a team or a division or a ranking. We never looked beyond the next level. So I very much agree with Carol Dweck's research, and Jim Thompson's new book which endorses that research (THE HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS PARENT).
In Florida, I participate on a tennis team that travels around the county playing other women's teams. It is an extremely competitive league and it's getting more and more difficult to compete, the older our team becomes! However, I am still learning from the drills with the pro and still competitive enough to be upset with each loss. I prioritize this aspect of my life among writing and other commitments, but it ranks pretty high up there. If I lose, I visualize each stroke I should have hit and practice each deficiency.
More importantly, like my young granddaughters who are just beginning their athletic careers, I want to feel that my effort gives me satisfaction. I want to feel I am progressing in my skill. I try to focus on my effort, and I want the pro who is teaching me to focus on my effort. In that way, my internal motivation is reinforced by the pro's compliments and the fun follows! I know I am part of a group effort and that group appreciates my progress, as I appreciate theirs.