For a long time, THE hardest things about sports parenting for me was this…
Maybe you know how it goes…
You talk to your child about their softball goals and, as a parent, you can see exactly what they need to do to get there. What you envision for your child, the path you can see laid out ahead of them, looks like the path on the left (see image above).
The challenge comes when your child seems absolutely hell bent on taking a route that looks like the right side of the image above. You can’t for the life of you understand WHY they won’t just do what you know, and they know, they need to do in order to reach their goals and dreams.
The path is so simple. You clearly see it in your mind. You see the straight line from where your child is, to where they want to be.
- They should work hard on and off the field…but “too often” they want to relax, hang out with friends, and take a break.
- They should get good grades…but they don’t always turn in their homework on time or study for their tests.
- They should put in extra work on their own time…but facebook gets in the way.
I know. I feel you. I’ve been there. It’s frustrating as heck. And our parental brain jumps to all these crazy conclusions about the future and see it crumbling to pieces before our very eyes…
But now I realize, just as this images so clearly shows, the path to success is not that straight and simple one you envision for your child. You keep trying to make them walk it. And they keep refusing because, the true path to success, looks much more like the one on the right. It’s full of ups and downs and twists and turns and challenges and hardship.
But that’s what makes us stronger and prepares us for the greatness that’s yet to come.
What I’m beginning to understand is that we ALL must walk our own crazy, completely UNstraight path to success. It’s true enough for someone to make an internet meme about, it’s true enough for that meme to become quite a popular one, and it’s true for, not just us, but for our kids too.
So, the FIRST STEP to overcoming the battle of wills that you get into with your child about their path to success, is to realize this very truth. We all take our own path. As parents, we can see the “easier” direct route, but I can almost guarantee you, your child will not take that one.
In fact, I recently saw a friend lament that her child was not going to go back to college for their last year. I could see and hear the anguish in her words. I could feel the despair in her valiant, but completely unconvincing effort to “hope for” the best as she tries to support the decision though, admittedly, doesn’t understand it.
My first thought was…
It’s OKAY! It really is. That child (and yours…and mine!) will take their own path, one that is likely perfect for THEM.
Will they miss out on some opportunities because of it? I’m sure they will. Will other, possibly more perfect ones come along in the process? Most likely. Can they still end up exactly where they’re meant to be at the right time, in the right place? I’m certain of that too.
Your job is to stay connected with your child. Build and nurture a strong relationship with them. Discuss options, issues, and choices with them (don’t lecture!!!!!).
No. Really listen.
Not just sit there while they talk, and then pick apart, and go into a full blown dissection of, exactly why each and every thing they said was “wrong.”
That’s not LISTENING.
That’s lecturing…and judging…and condemning…all in one fell swoop.
Yes, they may be “wrong.” Yes, they may be a little “off track.” BUT…
What your child needs, at any age, is to feel heard, not constantly criticized or corrected. They need to FEEL like you’re on their side.
There comes a time when you can’t really “make” your child to anything, as much as you would like to! Eventually, they must choose to make a good decision, at some level, for some reason. Hopefully, that reason isn’t “because mom and dad said I have to, OR ELSE.” That’s only a temporary method for making solid choices as an individual, independent human being.
Your child can’t live their whole life “because mom or dad said so.” At some point they must make their own choices.
Why not walk with them through that process now?
Help them think through decisions that come up in life. Love and support them no matter which decision they make, good or bad, right or wrong. Not because you’re “okay” with them making bad decisions, but because ESPECIALLY when they make bad decisions, they need to FEEL your love and support and FEEL that you’re still on their side no matter what. That’s what unconditional means.
When they’re ready to really truly get back on track, they know exactly where they can find the strength and support they need to dust themselves off and climb up out of the hole they dug…to you.
Believe me, that’s where you want them turning in times of need. Not to some immature or irresponsible “friend” who doesn’t have their best interests at heart like you do. In this vulnerable state, relying on you, instead of someone who may take advantage of them, saves everyone a lot of stress and heartache.
Besides, what Amanda Scarborough says in her message to fathers is probably THE most important sports parenting thing you can get right. Even if you get EVERYTHING else “wrong,” this component makes it possible to overcome the other mistakes made along the way. Get it wrong, however, and, even with everything else right, there can be a hefty price to pay…
Right now, envision the relationship you want to have with your daughter once softball is over.
Have a solid foundation of a relationship with your daughter in games and at practice – I promise, years from now it is more important than any strike she throws or hit she gets.
Never, ever forget that!
And even if you’re only in it for the here and now, remember that every word you say, every action you take, every response you make affects your child. THINK before you act. You’ll be glad you did.
Stacie Mahoe shares lessons learned from decades around the diamond. Enjoy her unique insights on softball and life from years as a player, coach, parent, and fan of the game.