Parenting Insight from the Playing Field

Photo by Rebecca Alison

Photo by Rebecca Alison

I am always on the lookout for life lessons that can be applied to parenthood. And, if you are like most parents, you can use all the guidance and inspiration you can get.  So when I find inspiration, I am compelled to share. 

This is why I wrote a book, Dad’s Playbook: Wisdom for Fathers from the Greatest Coaches of All Time. In the book, I collected more than 100 quotes from the greatest coaches in sporting history, and I applied them to the task of parenting.

In the first section, “Lead and Inspire,” I wanted to establish the idea that the best way to influence and motivate your child is to provide him or her with a role model—that would be you. So many parents, especially in sporting circles, are eager to demand hard work and dedication from their children, but often they don’t apply the same expectations to themselves. It’s only natural for children to mimic and learn from adults, so it follows that the best way to lead and inspire them is through your actions. As I explain in my book, “Through your example, every day you show your children how to treat each other, how to handle adversity, and how to get things done.” I think it’s important to recognize and even embrace the responsibility of parenting and to consciously create a positive and encouraging environment in your home. Perhaps former UCLA men’s basketball coach John Wooden says it best: “Young people need models, not critics.”

In the next section, “Believe and Praise,” I tackle the controversial parenting topic of praise. Like anything in parenting or any form of leadership, it’s all about balance and communication. It’s indeed best to be specific with praise and to focus on effort, but my main point is that the best way to motivate children long before we wish to praise them is to believe in them. Jim Valvano, head coach of the 1983 North Carolina State national champion men’s basketball team, concurs: “My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person: He believed in me.”

I’m pretty sure the next section would be Aretha Franklin’s favorite. In “Love and Respect,” I explain that respect is a gateway to compliance. Compliance gets a bad rap, but the simple truth is that we all want our children to listen. The good news is that you can set limits clearly and still convey love and respect; all you have to do is add a simple explanation. Consistently remind your child that you have his or her best interests in mind. Every time you explain a limit to your child you show her that you love and respect her. When she protests (and she will), be ready to listen and empathize, but stand firm in the knowledge that your reasons are sound. Renowned Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz ties these love and respect themes together nicely: “Do right. Do your best. Treat others as you want to be treated.”

The next section, “Teach and Learn,” is all about learning from mistakes. As parents, it’s up to us to help children interpret and learn from the inevitable adversities of life. If we can begin to see challenges and even failures as opportunities for learning, “then each test is a means to strengthen your bond with your child and for her to ultimately succeed.” Most parents would agree that a big part of their role is teaching, but it’s equally important to acknowledge the self-learning that can be experienced through parenthood. As legendary Oakland Raiders coach John Madden explains, “Coaches have to watch for what they don’t want to see and listen to what they don’t want to hear.” Sometimes the same can be said for parents.

In the final section I remind parents that two incredibly important steps toward success of any kind are to focus on the present and to enjoy it as much as possible. We all know parenting can be challenging, but it’s my goal to leave the reader inspired to fully invest himself in the task of parenting and to make a conscious effort to enjoy each moment with his children. Of the 23 quotes I include in this section (aptly titled “Live and Enjoy”), I think two-time Super Bowl Champion coach Joe Gibbs sums it up best: “People who enjoy what they are doing invariably do it well.”

Knowing full well the task of parenting can often seem thankless and exhausting, I close my book with one final correlation between coaching and parenting and an inspirational reminder: The memories and relationship you create together with your children are your championship. It is my sincere hope that, through this book, I am able to inspire parents and help them embrace and enjoy their roles as teachers, coaches and leaders. I know that if we can manage to start there, the journey will be much smoother, and the lessons will be all the more clear. Happy Father’s Day!

PAMP is getting a copy of Tom Limbert’s book. Comment on this article to enter a drawing to win it. We will announce a winner June 15.

Tom Limbert is a parent coach in the San Francisco Bay Area and can be found online at Tom has been working with families of young children since 1992, including 10 years at Stanford’s Bing Nursery School. He is the author of the upcoming book Dad’s Playbook: Wisdom for Fathers from the Greatest Coaches of All Time.

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One Response to “Parenting Insight from the Playing Field”

  1. J Chen says:

    This sounds like a very interesting book…looking forward to checking it. I guess one question that comes to mind is whether there’s anything about “tough love”? Is it in the “teach and learn” section? I’m sure the greatest coaches of all time have to give tough love to his/her players and that’s certainly true in parenting. It’s not clear in the article if this approach is discussed. While you want to be a positive influence as a parent, everything can’t be peaches and roses.

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