Parenting a teen takes much more listening and engagement than when they were younger. With teens, you have to be subtle, pick your moments, and listen very carefully. Parents need to “show up”, be present, and be engaged with a teen. Horse showing provides many great opportunities to be present and engaged. It is a time to listen and observe your daughter with other kids and adults, watch her handle competition, and observe how she works with a trainer and grooms. Traveling to and from shows, grooming a horse, or hanging out waiting for the next class are also key listening and observing times.

Here’s how you can learn to listen and pick your parenting moments with your daughter:

1. Don’t try to be the trainer or coach. Even if you have showed in the past or have the experience, trying to train or coach your daughter from the rail will be met with great resistance. You have hired a professional to do that, so let the trainer do his job. Your job is be the unconditional fan. No matter what happens out in the ring or in the stables, do not give advice or get involved in strategy. Show moms need to let the trainer work with their riders so we can take on the role of the consistent and unconditional fan.

2. Avoid the winning and losing trap. If you’re like me, you find it very easy to respond to a question about a horse show by saying, “My daughter got a blue ribbon” or “My daughter was the champion.” The focus should be on having your daughter do her best and riding well, not on winning. Success and failure messages can be subtle create pressure points for children. So, watch what you say, as our children look up to us to set the rules and be the role models.

3. Never stand at the rail and criticize another horse, rider or trainer. Imagine how you would feel if you heard others critiquing your horse or rider during a round. Reserve your comments for a private conversation later. Remember, every rider out there is somebody’s daughter. Be the show mom example and practice good sportsmanship.

4. Help your child learn to be comfortable with failure. A recent Harvard Business article cites that, “true leaders are not ones who manage their success but ones who manage their failures.” One of the most valuable gifts you can give you child is to teach her how to understand failure, learn from her mistakes, and to take failure in stride. Everyone has one of those days when they miss distances, get refusals, or are just out-of-sorts. Those days can be great learning days. Few horses and kids can shine every day, so when things don’t go as hoped, turn this into an opportunity to teach your daughter about handling the failures or mistakes. The last thing a child needs to hear is you blaming the judge, the horse, the course designer, the show manager or the gate person. This type of blaming behavior serves no one.

5. Support your children in learning new skills instead of just getting ribbons. Everyone likes to win ribbons, and frequently we focus on asking about which ribbons were won or how they placed. Trust me, winning ribbons is great, but no one wins all the time, so to focus on winning to the exclusion of everything else can be challenging to your child or teen. Instead of focusing on winning by asking about what ribbons were won, focus on what you child learned, how she rode, what she can try in the future, what she did best, etc. Turn the focus away from winning and focus on helping her learn and improve her skills.

By engaging your child in conversations about lessons learned, new skills acquired, and the ups and downs of trying something new, you’ll shift the focus on learning and experiencing new lessons rather than on winning and losing. Your actions and your attitude will set the tone for how they feel or respond to situations. You’ll become a better parent, and your child will thank for you that in the future.