As a parent, you think a lot about the things you say to your kids. You plan activities to do with them and you think about discipline and reward. You are aware of the tremendous opportunity you have to impact their lives. One thing that’s easy to forget about, though, is what you communicate to your children through your body language. This is of special note when they’re playing sports.
What We Communicate with Body Language
Dr. Albert Mehrabian pioneered studies in communication and determined there are three parts to every face-to-face message. They are words, tone of voice, and nonverbal behavior such as facial expressions and body language. Words convey the content of your message, but it’s your tone and body language that convey your emotions and attitude.
His studies focused on how a message is received, especially when these three elements seem to be saying different things. According to his findings, when your words disagree with your tone of voice and body language, people tend to believe your tone and body language over the content of your words.
You’ve probably heard it said that communication is 93% non-verbal. While this statement is derived from his research, it’s actually a misrepresentation of his conclusions. According to Mehrabian, when you are conveying a message regarding your feelings, your words account for 7%, tone of voice 38%, and your body language the remaining 55%.
When all three parts of your message are in agreement, the message is received loud and clear. However, if you’re saying one thing with your words, but your tone and body language are communicating something different, it’s this unintended emotional message that’s being received.
How Parents’ Body Language Affects Kids in Sports
You want your kid to succeed, or at least do the very best they can every time they play. That’s why you give them youth tennis lessons and instruction and encourage them to practice. That’s why you show up when they play and congratulate them when they do well. It’s also why you drive them to do better, practice harder, and always improve.
When your children are competing in tennis and other sports, you are thinking of a bigger picture than they can see. Sometimes, even though your intention is to encourage them, this may cause your body language to communicate something different. When this happens, your child listens to your body language, not your words.
To make it even worse, their young, immature perspective may misinterpret your body language. They may be receiving a message you never intended and would never ever want to give them. Messages like, “You failed again,” “You’re not trying hard enough to make me happy,” or “I’m embarrassed by you,” and other messages of disappointment and discontent.
At the end of the day, it’s your opinion, mother and father, that matters the most to your children. It’s your approval they want. Your support and your encouragement they need. If you want them to be able to perform their absolute best, they need your unconditional love and complete acceptance, no matter what the outcome of any particular game, set, or match will be.
They need to hear it in your words, feel it in your tone, and see it in your body language. Think about how powerful this is! Your response could make the difference in the middle of a hard game. It could be going badly for them until they look up and see your steady smile. They may have lost hope until they look up and see nothing but hope and encouragement in your face and posture. Your body language could reinvigorate and reanimate them in a crucial moment.
You Matter Most to Your Kids
Coaches and instructors play a huge role in developing young athletes. They teach them the game, both physical and mental. They teach them the discipline of practice and the importance of technique. Tennis instructors also encourage and motivate them to play their best.
However, it’s you who matters most in the lives of your kids. Your words, tone of voice, and body language speak volumes and volumes more than anything or anyone else. Dear parents, what’s your body language communicating to your children?
At Giammalva Racquet Club, we are passionate about family, fun, and developing the whole athlete. Contact Us to learn more about youth tennis instruction and competitive play.