A promising high school swimmer I\u2019ve worked with named Jen had a tough dilemma: she was in the top tier of a very good club swim team, but wasn\u2019t the best. She wanted to improve, trained hard to make it happen and had come to talk to me about how to push past whatever barriers were holding her back. Still, no matter what she did couldn\u2019t help feeling like she was constantly -- pun intended -- swimming upstream. Adding to this frustration was her parents\u2019 ongoing commentary about her performance. The minute they\u2019d pile into the car after a meet her mom or dad would rehash it, comparing Jen\u2019s times and results to her teammates\u2019. They\u2019d analyze her strokes and her choices, ask questions like \u201cWhat were you thinking?\u201d or, \u201cWhy didn\u2019t you\u2026.?\u201d and give her tips on what she could do to improve next time around. Though well-intended, these comments left Jen feeling angry. Already exhausted, she struggled to listen without blowing up, \u201cleave me alone!\u201d When she did allow herself to get pulled into the conversation she felt instantly drained, and it seemed like her point of view barely mattered: the times spoke for themselves. In those moments she\u2019d sometimes wonder whether she even wanted to keep swimming at all. When our kids play competitive sports, we tend to take pride in the hours we spend each week shuttling them to and from practices and games. We shrug off the time commitment and sacrifices youth sports bring as necessary trade-offs in the process of helping our children develop and, we hope, accel as athletes and people. Rarely does it occur to us that in fact, we may not be doing our kids a favor. In my work with young competitors, I\u2019ve seen cases like Jen\u2019s over and over again. At their most vulnerable moments such as after games they played poorly or didn\u2019t go the way they would have liked, or even after getting injured, kids find themselves confronted with their parents\u2019 input. All too often, this input comes in the form of criticism and commentary about what they \u201cshould\u201d have done better. The car ride home \u2013 whether from a competition or practice \u2013 is a particularly touchy time to talk about something so emotionally charged and must be handled with care. Adrenaline is still running high, the pain of loss or disappointment is still raw and everybody\u2019s usually pretty tired. What\u2019s more, in the car, kids are as good as trapped. As if the in-car coaching weren\u2019t already suffocating enough (\u201cYou need to be more aggressive out there!\u201d \u201cWhen you get it, shoot it!\u201d), there\u2019s literally no way out. I\u2019ve had kids tell me that during these rides they\u2019ve felt like they could hardly breathe. Some have called the car a \u201cmental coffin.\u201d Parents are frustrated, too. Ironically, even as we attempt to communicate we get little feedback from our kids while in the car. Or what we get is terse and testy, poor quality. Although hard to admit, the truth is that even our most well-intended comments and suggestions fail to achieve the goal of helping. Instead, we inadvertently create a negative environment at a moment when what our kids really need is the time and space to de-stress and decompress. Rather than persist, the best thing we can do as parents is to resist the urge to offer feedback and talk instead about anything but the practice or game until an agreed on time later on. After dinner is one example. Doing so will enhance our kids\u2019 confidence and improve our relationship with them. It\u2019ll also bring on a welcome increase in feedback and discussion. As for Jen, her mental game, her mood, her outlook and performance as a swimmer made a dramatic turnaround soon after she got her driver\u2019s license and was able to get to and from events on her own. _______________________________________________________ About Dr. Rob Bell Rob Bell, Ph.D. (drrobbell.com), is the author of several books on sports psychology including The Hinge, Mental Toughness Training for Golf, and NO FEAR: A Simple Guide to Mental Toughness. A sport psychology coach and owner of DRB & Associates, where he works with athletes, coaches and teams on achieving peak performance, \u00a0Rob has coached winners during the PGA tour. He has also advised major universities, most recently working with Notre Dame. His upcoming book, Don't "Should" On Your Kids: Build Their Mental Toughness (2015), co-authored with Bill Parisi, celebrates toughness over trophies and guides parents in strengthening and affirming their young athletes\u2019 capabilities. He is a regular guest on ESPN 104.5 \u201cThe Zone\u201d in Tennessee, has appeared on Fox News in Indianapolis and Sirius XM Doctor Radio, and has contributed to Parenting.com.