Teach Your Kids the Rules

Sports are complicated.  Every year there seems to be a new rule that no one knows about until half way through the season.  Expecting our kids to know all the rules to the sports they play can be an unachievable task.  I have memories of playing multiple sports growing up.  The one I was the worst at was basketball.  I played for two years, and I earned a grand total of 4 points.  However, the one memory that sticks with me the most was the first time I was asked to inbound the ball.  I remember standing there under the basket.  I remember the referee handing me the ball.  I remember having a sudden mental collapse, unsure if I was supposed to stand out of bounds or in bounds to pass the ball to my teammate.  No one had ever taught me this part of the game.  I think I was 9-years-old at the time.  To accommodate, I kept one foot out-of-bounds and one foot in.  That would work, right?  Nope.  We turned the ball over, and I was subsequently benched.

This memorable experience should have taught me to be more thorough in teaching my own children about their respective sports, right?  Our older son is 7, and he is currently doing coach-pitch baseball.  We were driving home the other day from one of his games, and I was trying to give a lot of positive feedback on how he did.  

“You were swinging the bat really well!  You almost got a hit on that one pitch but it went foul.”  

“Oh ya, Dad.  Is that why I didn’t get to run to first base?”  

“Well ya, bud.  You hit it outside the lines.”  

“Oh.  I always wondered what those lines on the field were for.” 

Parenting for the win right there.  I was so focused on my child improving things like hitting, throwing, and catching, that I completely forgot to make sure he understood the basics of the game.  I mean, I know the ground rules.  Apparently, I expected him to know them as well.  

It is easy to forget that our children don’t come preprogrammed.  As they start to develop and age they gain new skills – crawling, walking, talking, etc.  By the time they turn two they turn into their own person with a new personality.  It is easy to imagine them as a grownup, and this perspective often leads us into the trap of expectations.  We expect them to understand how to behave. We expect them to sit at the table.  We expect them to sleep in their rooms.  There are simple truths and rules of life that are second nature to us.  However, for a child that has only been using sentences for a 2 month period, these truths are still a mystery. 

A large portion of parenting is teaching our children these foundational truths.  This tends to be where we run into the most friction.  They throw tantrums, yell, and purposefully resist commands; these actions tend to make it feel like our children are being “naughty” on purpose.  However, these behaviors are all part of the learning process.  They get easily frustrated when something doesn’t make sense.  How many times have you seen someone yell at the TV due to an unseen penalty in a football game?  They don’t understand why the referee threw the flag, which then leads to the expected response of anger.  It is the same with our kids.  As we try to teach them how to behave, they get frustrated when they don’t understand the guidelines.  

In my last blog post I discussed brain wave patterns in kids.  As they hit early elementary school age, they take on more alpha waves, which allows for an increase in critical thinking and in-depth thoughts.  This leads to numerous questions on just about everything.  It is easy to get worn out by the constant barrage of inquiries, but answering in easy-to-understand responses is important for your child to grasp the concept.  If they still seem confused, work backwards and determine where their foundational knowledge is lacking.  Giving your child the proper understanding of the primal rules of a topic allows them to improve on their base understanding of other topics as well.  

The rules of life are constantly changing.  For example, we have all recently had to learn new routines with wearing masks and social distancing.  But there are some rules of life that are more concrete and create a framework of who we will become.  These are the lessons we should teach our kids early and often, which allows for less frustrations and negative experiences at home.  Be patient with your kids as you teach them. Try to see things from their point of view. It will save you a lot of headaches.

What are some basic life lessons you have had to teach your kids recently?  Where have you struggled?  Where have you failed to lay the ground work for your child to understand the bigger picture? In parenthood there are frequent failures. Just as our kids learn from their failures in day-to-day life, we should as well. The next time you and your child get into a shouting match, pause and ask yourself where things went downhill. Determine if there was an expectation in place designed by you, and figure out if your child has ever been taught this. If not, defuse the situation and discuss it. If you have approached the subject in the past, figure out where their base knowledge needs improvement and go from there.

Remember, Embrace the Imperfection

Imperfect Dad, MD

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