I read some parenting advice last week, and I can’t stop thinking about it…

My sister sent me this blog post by Hands Free Mama, in which she quotes a survey:

“College athletes were asked what their parents said that made them feel great, that amplified their joy during and after a ballgame. Their overwhelming response: ‘I love to watch you play.‘ ”

Isn’t that lovely? These kids didn’t want to hear criticism or coaching or even praise from their parents. They simply wanted to hear that their parents loved to watch them play. Kids get enough pressure from teachers, coaches, peers and themselves; you just want unconditional love from your parents, right?

This weekend, I tried it out. Toby was playing his toy guitar and instead of saying, “You’re a great guitar player,” or “Here, hold it like this instead,” I just said, “Toby, I love watching you play!” He looked up, gave me a huge smile and broke into a rousing rendition of “Down By the Bay.” The next morning, we were hanging outside with some friends, and he was dancing around on the grass. I laughed and said, “Toby, I love watching you dance,” and he just beamed.

And imagine if someone said it to you—for example, think of the difference between “You’re a great karaoke singer” and “I love to watch you sing karaoke.” Doesn’t the latter make you feel much more confident and free to goof around and not be perfect? All you have to do is sing karaoke, you don’t have to be a genius at it. It’s remarkable how much those words take the pressure off.

We loved to watch them swing like monkeys during dinner on Friday night:)

What do you think? Will you say those words to your children? Or even friends and spouses? Or do you think it’s all psychobabble? xoxo

P.S. More linguistics: How to introduce people, and how to talk to little girls.

(Thanks, Lucy!)