Guys, sports, and parenting series #3
Guys have tremendous power to be an influence for good in their kids’ lives. We face some challenges however. Sometimes we don’t get involved. Other times we don’t know what we should do. There are times when we don’t want to take heat from mom and avoid getting involved. What we don’t realize is that we are amazingly prepared to help raise kids, and kids love it when we do. To help us understand the skills we have, we’re going to talk sports.
All of us know what those white lines around the outside of the field mean. Inside those lines you can play football, outside those lines, no matter what you do, you can’t play football. Pretty simple right? We may not remember it, but we all had to learn this. We were told and shown that there was this line, and if the ball goes outside of the line, the game stops. It wasn’t sometimes we stop, it was every time.
I remember some great runs I could have made if I could have just run outside that line for a little bit, but I knew there was no way I would be successful if I did. So I did my best to stay in bounds. So did my friends. It didn’t matter if they were hyperactive, good at listening or bad at listening, high IQ or low IQ, somehow we all got the message. How did that happen?
Coach pointed out the boundary and coach was clear what the boundary was for. Coach helped us understand the boundary and see it as necessary to our success. Coach was also consistent, if we failed to respect the boundary and stepped outside the line, he blew the whistle and our progress stopped.
How cruel it would have been for coach to ignore teaching us the boundary, let us go all over the place, tell us how great we were, and then send us into our first game. We would have gotten roasted. The ref would have called us every time we stepped out, and if we insisted on continuing to run and ignored his whistle, he would have booted us out of the game. What a cruel joke that would have been.
Guys, we know boundaries help make football a fun challenge and understanding them make us successful. Life has boundaries. There is a boundary called listening to and respecting mom, dad, and other care givers. Being taught this boundary, and having it consistently enforced has saved more than one child’s life on a busy street. Listening or not listening to care givers is not a choice if we want our young kids to be successful in life.
Yet what happens? We sometimes make our kids listen and we sometimes don’t. We sometimes make fun of what mom asks and don’t support her. Sometimes we make unreasonable requests that our kids can’t follow (telling a two year old not to cry), or we explode at them when they break rules we haven’t taught them. You and I know this would make us a bad coach.
Our children need to learn boundaries that will help them succeed in life from the very earliest age. For example, as they begin to learn to talk, making them use words to get what they want is a great boundary. To be successful in life we need to use words, we can’t fall down on the floor and kick and scream. What would Coach have done? If I had thrown a kicking fit because I didn’t get the handoff, coach would have put me on the bench, no questions asked, and later we would have had a coach-style talk.
What we need to do is to have conversations with our coaching staff (friends, significant other, grandparents, teachers, neighbors) and make sure all of us know important boundaries for our kids to follow. We then need to help each other enforce those boundaries. Everyone should know that it is best for kids to understand and embrace appropriate boundaries as their own (Marion 2007). Then by being consistent, like Coach, we can help them do that.
Another example of a clear boundary is that kids need a consistent bedtime to sleep. Enforcing a consistent bed time that gives them lots of sleep is a necessary boundary for healthy growth and development. Try to be thoughtful about the boundaries you choose and always work to have good reasons that will help your kids understand those boundaries.
Sometimes we are surprised when our kids keep pushing against our boundaries. Do you know what they really want? They want to know that someone is in charge and loves them enough to enforce boundaries consistently and appropriately. We know how to do this, we learned it from Coach. Enforcing consistent boundaries actually makes a kid feel safer and reduces their stress. Less stress means healthier physical growth and brain development. This helps your kids be stronger and smarter. Way to go Coach!
Guidance of Young Children, by M. Marion, 2007 edition, pg. 80-100, online at http://www.education.com/reference/article/positive-guidance-discipline-strategies/