How often do our kids actually ask us for feedback about their performance?

Perhaps more to the point, how often do we offer our feedback when our kids don’t ask for it? The car ride home after the game or practice is notorious for us as parents to provide feedback to our children, whether they want it or not. Often the conversation occurs too close to the time of the game and whatever good intentions we had in sharing our pearls of wisdom are lost in a frustrating breakdown of communication. Sulking can occur … maybe even an argument. I admit it. I am guilty of this, and often I have to remind myself of some important guiding principles.

Steps for Providing Constructive Feedback

First, give it some time … wait 24 hours before you say something about the game, if you can stomach it. The heat of the moment or the hours following a contest are rarely a good time to offer feedback, particularly if there is criticism or even a suggestion involved. Second, focus on identifying positive comments prior to any constructive suggestions.

If possible, see if you can name 4 or 5 things your son or daughter did well. “Honey, it was great to watch you play today. Looks like you gave it your all out there. I saw you make some great plays and that was a terrific ground ball you got when the game was on the line. And I loved the way you were so positive with your teammates. I’d love to see you attack the goal more often because you are such a good dodger.”

State the Truth

An important caveat here is that you can’t make up a compliment. It has to be accurate. Inaccurate praise undermines the legitimacy of your comments and can backfire, leading to frustration or simply watching your child zone out and shut you off. Kids, particularly teens, can see write through us. So, we have to be authentic. And, if we are feeling particularly grounded and bold, we might even pat our child on the back and say, “It was great to see you play today,” and leave it at that. Who knows, our children might actually seek out our thoughts and opinions if we give them the space to do so.


This article was adapted by Dr. Ginsburg’s original posting on the US Lacrosse website and from the book Whose Game Is It, Anyway?, Ginsburg, Durant and Baltzell

Dr. Richard Ginsburg
Dr. Richard D. Ginsburg is a clinical psychologist and sport psychology consultant. He is co-director of the Massachusetts General Hospital PACES Institute of Sport Psychology and is an assistant professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Ginsburg also serves as staff psychologist in the Newton Wellesley Hospital Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Department and is the director of Behavioral Health for the Boston Red Sox. Dr. Ginsburg offers a broad range of clinical services to children, adolescents and adults and conducts youth and professional sport research. He is author of the book, Whose Game Is It, Anyway, A guide to helping your child get the most from sports, organized by age and stage and has served as a sport psychology consultant for a variety of professional and college-level sports teams, including lacrosse, soccer, water polo and ice hockey at Harvard University. He is a member of the US Lacrosse Safety and Science Committee and provides talks and consultations nationally to youth, high school, and collegiate athletic programs. Dr. Ginsburg played lacrosse and soccer at Kenyon College, where he won all-conference and all-Midwest honors. He is also a former independent school teacher and coach. He lives with his wife, Teri, and their two children in Newton, Massachusetts.