Parenting the ‘yeah but’

When I witness discussions between parent and athlete and it goes into debate mode, the ‘yeah but’ is pulled out. Both parent and athlete interrupt each other with the ‘yeah but’. It is a common destructive pattern of communication.

Parents need to be equipped for these ‘yeah but’ situations. It involves moving out of debate mode and engaging in teaching life skills of resilience, confidence, and effective communication skills.

Strategies to employ when 'yeah but'

  1. Accurate Self-Talk: Support your child to develop accurate inner dialogue. When you hear the ‘yeah but’ comment, teach them to question their automatic negative thought and counter it with an accurate statement about their abilities and efforts. Ask, ‘Is that really true that you can’t do anything right?
  2. Focus on Controllables: If their focus is on the coach or teammates or outcomes, then emphasize the importance of their controllables. Help your athlete understand other people are not in their control. Their own effort is in their control. Sometimes setbacks are not in their control. Their response to the mistake is in their control. What matters most in a failure situation is their focus on learning and improvement.
  3. Receiving Feedback:Yeah but’ response is often tied to a dislike for criticism. Athletes need to learn how to differentiate between their emotions and their performances. Encourage them to listen to feedback and consider it to help them learn and grow. Sometimes coaches are not always helpful in their delivery style. The coach delivery is a non-controllable. Assist your athlete to manage any negative emotions which come with criticism and evaluation.
  4. Goal Setting: Parent your athlete to set realistic not ridiculous goals. Breaking down their larger long-term goals into smaller, monthly, weekly, daily goals lead to manageable steps. I often hear ‘yeah but’ when the goals are too vague or too advanced for current status.
  5. Regulating Stress: Teach your athlete techniques for managing stress and other negative emotions. Meditation, mental rehearsals, and other sensory exercises can help keep your athlete in the moment and regulate any negative emotions.
  6. Role-Play Scenarios: Once you hear your athlete say ‘yeah but’, then help them practice countering their negative thoughts and excuses with those accurate accounts. Role-playing or rehearsing what to say proves useful when they need to do it at practice or competition. This can help your athlete develop confidence and assertiveness in addressing criticism and doubt either within self or coming from outside of self.
  7. Encourage Resilience: Remind your athlete resilience comes through facing what is hard and the determination to keep going. Encourage them to stay committed to their goals even when they fail. Speak to perseverance and benefits of facing setbacks with strength in managing emotions and regulating their inner self-talk.
  8. Support Team: Make sure your athlete involves others in their sports journey. Anytime the ‘yeah but’ situation occurs, assist him or her to seek support from trusted coaches, teammates, or other mentors. ‘Yeah but’ situations typically need aid when navigating challenges.
  9. Lead by Example: Finally, parents, model accurate responses to criticism and setbacks. Show your athlete everyone faces challenges and demonstrate in front of them the proper response to the difficult things you go through.

Kip Rodgers LPC-S

Kip Rodgers-BrainCodeParenting athletes is hard work. There's an entirely new and different set of dynamics at work. You have to be mom, dad, or mom and dad, coach, counselor, EMT, equipment manager, engineer, and seamstress all before dinner! You're not alone and maybe, just maybe, we can help each other navigate this never-ending path to glory. Hey, what's your biggest challenge with your athlete?

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