The six-word phrase that matters most

Picture of boys playing soccerDid you know there is a parenting phrase that brings student athletes happiness, confidence, and a sense of fulfillment? It’s just six words: “I love to watch you play.”

Years ago, I first came across a variation of this phrase in the program for a local Nutcracker performance. My friends’ daughter was playing Clara, and they placed an ad in the program saying, “We love to watch you dance. Love, Mom and Dad.” It made an impression on me. It was so simple, supportive, and beautiful.

I like to think that I’ve used it many times since then to encourage and praise my kids, but I’m not so sure I remembered to. However, it was top of mind when my husband and I sat down to write a letter of love and affirmation for our daughter, to be given to her at a high school retreat. Our daughter is a talented writer, and in our note to her, we said: “We love to read what you write.”

Coincidentally, a few days after the retreat, I came across Daniel Coyle’s article in the Huffington Post: Five Ways to Nurture Talent (Without Being a Psycho Parent). In the article, he shares informal research done by collegiate coaching experts about ways parents had made a positive or negative impact on their children’s development. One of the “aha’s” from their interviews is what Daniel Coyle says may be “the wisest parenting tip I’ve ever read.”

The kids reported there was one phrase spoken by parents that brought them happiness. One simple sentence that made them feel joyful, confident, and fulfilled. Just six words. I love to watch you play.

Given how important the phrase is to student athletes, and the impression it made on me when I first saw it, I started wondering how it could be adapted by leaders to make their teams feel confident, happy, and engaged with their work.  For example,

I like to watch you lead meetings.
I like to read your reports.
I like to watch you give presentations.
I like to see you help customers.

What do you think of this phrase, as a parent or as a leader? Have you used it yourself? Thinking of opportunities to use it more in the future? Please leave a comment sharing your thoughts. After all, I like to read your comments.


© 2014 by Karen Catlin. All rights reserved.

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8 thoughts on “The six-word phrase that matters most

  1. Love it!

    I love to read your blog.

    We’re back. Had a great trip. Now adjusting to real life and enjoying the rain.

  2. I have not used that line in a work-related context but am certainly thinking about it now. Thanks for the enlightenment.
    I, too, love to read your blog.

  3. My son is playing drums/percussion in a school concert tonight. I love to watch you play will definitely be used tonight! Thank you for this timely tip!

  4. Your blog post made me smile – thanks! And…I read that article and loved it. As I started reading your post, I felt compelled to find and send that to you (but wasn’t sure I could find it again). So thrilled that you caught it. And….my son does competitive gymnastics. At 7, we want to keep it fun. So we make sure to say that to him, at the very least, before a meet. I like to think that we say it more often, but it probably gets forgotten in the day-to-day. Thanks for the reminder.

    1. Hi Marie – so nice to hear from you! What a coincidence that we both read that article earlier this week, and that it caught our attention. Enjoy watching both your boys, in whatever they love doing!

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