Parenting / Sports / World Magazine / April 15, 2015

Parenting Lessons From an Afternoon Kickball Game

From my most recent article at

On Easter my wife, two daughters, and I headed to our friends’ house for an Easter egg hunt. The four children, ages 6 to 9, had a blast running around looking for eggs stuffed full of candy. And what is a parent to do after stuffing his kids full of junk food but challenge them to a game of kickball?

We played dads versus kids, two against four, which wasn’t remotely fair. We would have destroyed them—the kind of destroying that would have forever made them hate kickball, dads, and possibly Easter itself. Don’t worry; we didn’t. We all enjoyed ourselves, and in the process I learned five lessons about parenting:

1. Keep those under you involved.

My daughter Dianne has the attention span of your average 6-year-old. After 30 seconds of non-action she’d be picking dandelions or pirouetting around, but all I had to do was call her name when I was kicking and shoot one her way for her to fully reengage and jump back into the game full bore. It was a small thing, but just noticing her attention wandering and keeping her in the game helped her have a better afternoon.

2. Don’t be unduly harsh to your own kids.

Some parents tend to be easier on their kids than on other people’s kids, but other parents are harder on their own brood. I fall into the latter category . . . My closeness to them and expectations for them shouldn’t be license to be harder, especially not in a game.

3. Make easy wins.

. . . giving them a chance at little victories will be the thing that gets them to play again next time.

4. Take a backseat to elevate your kids.

5. Make it fun.

. . . Fun isn’t everything, but it speaks love to children. It’s motivating. When people enjoy themselves they engage more, play or work harder, and want to do it again the next day. It leaves a sweet taste in their mouths, nearly as sweet as all that Easter candy.

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