Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Teaching your kids Tough Life Lessons

I will be the first to admit. I am one of THOSE Mom's. When someone does something that hurts one of my children, I immediately put my gloves on and prepare for a fight, after all, isn't that MY job? To defend my children who aren't able to defend themselves? Well I am slowly learning that the answer to that question is both Yes and No. I have learned lessons over the past couple of years on when and how to react to situations involving my children and some of those lessons have been painful to learn. But I am learning that lashing out isn't always the solution and if I want to teach my kids right, I need to keep my own temper in check. My kids need to learn that Mom isn't always going to be there to defend them or to help them. Someday they will be adults and they aren't going to know how to handle disappointments if I don't teach them now.  They need to learn that life isn't always fair and that they are going to be faced with situations their entire lives that are unfair and unjust and how they deal with those instances are going to make a big difference.

Case in point.

My 9 year old son has played on the same baseball and soccer teams for the past 3 years.  Our entire family has sacrificed time and money and we have passed up a lot of other opportunities to make sure Drew could be at all of his games, practices, etc. He has poured his heart into both games, giving 110% at all times and I believe he has worked hard to EARN his place on both teams. He played in a soccer tournament back in the Spring sicker than I have ever seen him. After spending the night puking his guts up, I wanted to pack up and go home the next morning but he insisted that he needed to play. And he did. I watched my son give everything he had as to not disappoint his team. He doesn't just play with his body but he plays with his heart. Every time he takes the field, he gives everything he has and that is one of the traits he has that I most admire.  He doesn't slack. He keeps his head in the game and does what he needs to do no matter how hot or cold it is outside. It might be pouring down rain. But he gives his everything and you can't ask for much more from a 9 year old little boy! He just loves baseball and soccer and will do pretty much anything to get the chance to play any day of the week.

This year, baseball has been a big transition year. We went from the coaches pitching to the kids pitching for the first time. This means the boys had to go from the coaches pitching balls right where they know they can crank them out of the park to kids pitching trying to avoid that very same situation. Drew started to struggle the last couple of games for an unknown reason. Because my husband has a crazy schedule, I am on my own with the kids most of the time and I admit.....I don't know enough about playing baseball to help Drew. I love watching and I can tell you a lot but not enough to see where or why he is struggling.  Was it the bat size? Was it his swing? Is he not watching the ball? I didn't know! So over the weekend at a tournament after a couple of strike outs, he was knocked from his #2 batting spot down to the #7 spot.  And this did ZERO for his confidence. Instead of someone stopping and taking the time and seeing what he might have been doing wrong to HELP him, he just had the rug pulled from under him and he was crushed to say the least. 

On our way home on Saturday, he was pretty upset. I was too but not for the same reasons.  I was simply upset because my child was hurt. And I was ready to give someone an earful right then and there. But I didn't. We went home to cool down and I am so glad we did because my Mom Wisdom kicked in and I was able to really give Drew a pep talk from my heart that I truly believe helped him.

First, I explained to him how much we loved him and how proud we were of him.  I told him how much I loved to watch him play sports and how happy it made me. And then I talked to him about disappointment and how throughout his entire life, he is going to be disappointed and that I am not always going to be able to come to his rescue.  I told him that everything he gets in life has to be earned, from everything to a top spot in the batting order to his dream job.  We live in a small community where there are some kids who will get opportunities handed to them simply because of their last name and I told him to chuck that idea out the window. He doesn't have one of those magic last names. So that means he is going to have to work for everything he wants. I patted him on the back and told him that he needed to work hard to prove to his coach why he was put on that team in the first place and EARN his spot back. 

You see, as a Mom, I could see all along what the problem was. It was his confidence. And I told him, when you quit believing in yourself, it's hard to get others to believe in you too.  And then I gave him a pep talk and told him that he is an excellent baseball player and I have seen it firsthand. I have watched him make great plays on the field and crank baseballs over the fence for homeruns.  This year is just a transition year and he is going to experience growing pains as he finds what is comfortable and what works for him but I assured him 100 times that he can do it.

And he did.

We went back out to the park that day for another game and I watched him take the field a completely different kid. When he went up to bat, he didn't look nervous. He looked confident in himself and he looked like he was ready to earn his spot back in the top of that lineup. And I believe he did just that. Watching him out there was like watching the old Andrew and I was proud of him.  No strike outs. And lots of smiles. And I had missed seeing those smiles.

I was proud of him. And of myself. Proud of him because I could see his self-confidence rise instantly just by telling him that I believed in him. And proud of myself for taking a different route to handle the situation. Drew is our oldest and I believe I am learning valuable lessons for when the other 3 get into similar situations. While it might be my first instinct to lash out and to stick up for my kids, sometimes the greatest lessons are learned when you do just the opposite.  It's ok for kids to be disappointed now. It's preparing them for whats to come later in life. And while I will always be there for them, they need to learn that sometimes we just have to deal with things on our own and let others see the error of their ways on their own.

What about you? Are you one of THOSE parents too? How do you cope when your kids get hurt or disappointed without lashing out?


  1. Wow - great post! You gave him a long-term perspective instead of getting mired down in the short-term disappointment. Thanks for sharing this story!

  2. This is the same talk I had to give to Clay when he struck out each time he was up to bat this summer. He was so upset with himself, but I gave him the same talk and he did so much better after that. Thanks Sarah!

  3. Glad it worked out for him! Not all 9 year olds have the ability to stick things out like that. Not all ADULTS have the ability to stick things out, either!

  4. Drew seems like an amazing kid with an amazing mom!


    Michelle Ayers

  5. I truly enjoyed reading this. As a mom myself, it's often hard to not 'sock 'em out' when my child has been hurt. But each time, I've taken a viewpoint much like this one, to truly inspire what @Laura called a "long term perspective". So important. Glad your son was able to see past the short term problem to something more forward.


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