On Tuesday, I sat feeling angry and helpless through my son’s baseball game, watching everyone else’s son play except mine. The season started two weeks ago. Fourteen games later and Jared, my 16-year-old son, has only played a total of three innings!
I know Jared is feeling angry and defeated. Watching him experience this mixture of emotions got me thinking about a Milton Creagh seminar I attended a few years ago. Creagh is the author of Nobody Wants Your Child and writes that today’s parents are not equipping children with the necessary skills to thrive in the world. According to Milton, many parents want to protect their children from negative experiences, even if they are not in any real harm. Milton believes that it’s okay for children to feel badly sometimes, and that it’s important that our children learn through these experiences. Children of all ages are going to fall down and get hurt, literally and figuratively! They need to learn that when they fall down, they need to get right back up and keep trying. Through failure, we all learn to cope.
My initial instinct was to protect my son from the pain of rejection, humiliation and failure. I did not want his self esteem to suffer nor did I want him to feel bad and think he was not a good enough player. I wanted to call the coach and demand that Jared play, but instead of shielding him or going to his defense, what I needed was to equip him with essential tools he needed to succeed. When I asked Jared why he wasn’t playing, he explained he wasn’t hitting consistently. I knew this was hard for him to admit, and I acknowledged his feelings. Then we discussed what his goals were and how he was going to accomplish them. He knew he wanted to improve but it would take motivation, self-discipline and hard work to earn more playing time.
Between now and May 5, the end of baseball season, I will check my feelings at the gate and allow my son to learn how to be resilient. The only way for parents to teach their children this life lesson is not to intervene every time something does not go their child’s way… even when that’s harder for us than it is for them!