My son’s words made me realize I was too critical as he played baseball.
by Mario Zandstra
Perhaps you can imagine the scene. The mom, dad, and brothers and sisters are sitting in the stands watching as one member of their family plays in a baseball game. The son makes a mistake in the way he is taking his position, and the dad starts barking out instructions from the stands. The dad doesn’t get the desired result, so he barks them out louder and still doesn’t get any results. Finally, he says something to the effect of, “Son, get your head in the game!”
Well, that dad was me. For some reason, when my son Daniel was playing in a baseball game this week as a catcher, I decided to be hypercritical of every move he made. “Give him a better target, Son.” “Get farther up in the box, Son.” “Get down into your position earlier, and give that pitcher a better target.” About 80 percent of the way through my constructive feedback, Daniel turned, looked at me, and gave me one of those looks that I just hate to see from my kids. The look basically meant, “Dad, back off.”
When he did that, I left the stands and actually stood behind the scorekeeper knowing that if I tried to give any constructive feedback I would be screaming into the scorekeepers’ ears, and I wouldn’t want to be offensive to them.
On the way home, in my discussion with Daniel about the game, I asked him if it bothered him that I was giving him constructive feedback during the course of the game. He looked at me and said, “Dad, yeah. You are not my coach. The coach is my coach.” I felt about 10 inches tall and was surprised to realize that what seemed like constructive feedback from me was actually causing my son great heartburn.
I asked him, “Well, Daniel, what would be the best way for me to help you?” Daniel responded, “Dad, if you would take the time to talk about it, not in the middle of the game but afterwards, it would help me in the next game.”
The next night after dinner, Daniel and I drove to the ballpark to watch another team’s game. We decided to critique the catcher for both teams, to talk about the things they did well and the things they could improve on, and to see how by watching the other kids Daniel could become a better catcher. We had a great time. We sat there and bonded in the stands while listening to moms doing homework with the younger siblings of the players. He had a snow cone, and I had a bag of sunflower seeds and a Gatorade. We had a wonderful time.
On the way home, Daniel, unsolicited, said, “Dad, thanks for taking the time to come to the ballpark and talk to me about becoming a better catcher.” He went on to tell me what he learned that night at the ballpark. He mentioned that he learned it was important for him to be in position early, to give the pitcher a target earlier and to make it big, and to help the pitcher succeed in the best way he possibly can.
You know, it is amazing to me how often I want to micromanage my kids right there in the middle of the game (or game of life) as opposed to taking the time when the pressure is off and they have a much better opportunity to listen.
Sometimes we learn great things about life from our kids. Unfortunately, this one started by me exasperating my son in the middle of a game. The Bible tells us in Ephesians 6:4, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children.” As I have heard it said, exasperating your children is “to emotionally knock the wind out of your children and cause them to resent you.”
I don’t know what is going on in your life, but I pray that neither you nor I would emotionally knock the wind out of our kids, but we would instead show them unconditional love.
Mario Zandstra is president and CEO of Pine Cove Christian Camps in Tyler, Tex.