Guys, sports, and parenting series #4

Guys have tremendous power to be an influence for good in their kids’ lives.  To help us understand the skills we have, we’re going to talk sports.

Some game situations require that we adopt a different mental attitude and use a different approach.  When the team is behind by a touchdown, it’s the fourth quarter, and you get the ball on your own 20 yard line with 1:58 left, you need to do things differently.  The time between play calls is shorter.  Runners and receivers need to get out of bounds to stop the clock.  Time outs should be used.  If a play isn’t working quickly, abort by throwing the ball out of bounds, and give something else a try.

Coach knew we needed to practice for these situations, and we couldn’t just do this naturally.  This required a different state of mind and a different approach to how we would play the game.

In the same way, we had another drill for what we would do when we were ahead more than a touchdown and had the ball in the fourth quarter.  All of a sudden burning up time became important.  In this situation we needed to stay in bounds.  This sometimes meant falling to the ground when we could have gotten three or four more yards.  This meant running the ball more and making slow steady progress when coach usually wanted us to burn down the field in as few plays as possible.

Coach knew that if he didn’t teach us the appropriate skills and state of mind when we faced these situations, we wouldn’t know how to respond.  If we found ourselves in one of those situations and hadn’t practiced, Coach knew no matter how much he yelled, “Slow down Doughty” or “Get out of bounds Doughty”, I likely wouldn’t do it.  So we practiced and practiced and practiced.

Our kids face similar challenges throughout the day from the time they are infants.  Getting ready for bed requires a different state of mind than playing.  There are times when our kids need to finish what they are doing more quickly, because mom has to get to an appointment.  Sometimes our kids need to take care of chores. These situations require different states of mind to do well.

Just like coach, we shouldn’t assume our kids know what to do when we say, “Time to get ready for bed.”  Getting ready for bed is like a two-minute drill, and our kids need to be trained for that state of mind.  First we should let our kids know that having to get ready for bed is coming.  About five minutes before they start, you should tell them “In five minutes, it will be time to get ready for bed.”  This is exactly what coach did.  He would talk to us on the side line and say, “If our defense can get us the ball back, we will be using our two-minute drill.  Get ready!”

Then you need to practice getting ready for bed with them.  What do they do first (put toys away).  What is next?  Are there certain tasks that they can make choices on (Do you want to brush your teeth first or put on jammies first?).  Are there certain things that they don’t have choices on (no getting out of bed after we turn the lights out, unless there is a problem – and let them know what those problems might be)?

We need to practice the skills and give them time to adapt mentally.  Coach knew we wouldn’t do as well if he screamed from the side line as we ran out onto the field, “Oh, I forgot to tell you, do the two-minute drill.”  He knew it took some time to mentally prepare.

We should use coach’s approach for all the transitions throughout the day.  For example, what state of mind do our kids need when they do chores?  They need to be awake and energetic.  It is not the best idea to remember at 8 pm at night that chores didn’t get done and try to get kids to do them.  At that time of night, kids are winding down and their bodies are getting ready to go to sleep.  It would be much better to wait until the next day, when they come home from school and have a snack.  At that time they will be active and have energy, just what they need to do chores.

Coach knew that sometimes we as football players did poorly because he hadn’t prepared us to be in the right state of mind to do well.  Our states of mind have a huge influence on what we do and how well we do it (Jensen, 2003).   Take a minute to think about what you are asking your kids to do.

  • Does it seem easy for your child to immediately drop their play and run out the door and get in the car? That is not easy for most kids, and they need a heads up that a change is coming.
  • Does it make sense that they know what to do when visitors come over? Likely not and we need to teach them.
  • Does it make sense that they know to be in a more aware state of mind when they are walking out in their neighborhood to stay safe? Likely not and we need to show them what to do.
  • Is in natural for them to be quiet and attentive in a learning environment? Likely not and we need to help them learn those skills.

There are many different states of mind our kids need to learn to use throughout the day.   Just like Coach getting us ready for the two-minute drill, we guys can think about the different situations our kids face and help them practice the skills and states of mind that help them succeed in those situations.  Way to go Coach!

Jensen, E. (2003). Tools for engagement. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.


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