Put me in coach…I’m ready to play!   Leave a comment

“You kids fight it out,” said their mother.  Have you ever said that to your kids?  I know I have!  It is exhausting to play the role of referee between children.  It seems you can never find a good solution to the problem between them…and it almost always involves tears (for one of the kids…or both…or maybe just MINE). 

Today I had the opportunity to really think about whether this is the way to handle these little spats between my children.  You see, God’s Word tells us that a child left to himself is a shame to his mother.  (Proverbs 29:15)  A SHAME???  Meaning…shame on you (ME), Mama, for leaving your little one to figure all this out himself???  WHOA. 

In true Mama Bear fashion, I have tried to find a situation in life that would parallel this role a mother (or father) often takes on.  Are we meant to be referees between our children?

I grew up playing sports–volleyball, basketball, and softball–so I’ve seen my share of referees, and had to deal with them in many situations in each game I played.  Some called the game fair while some were biased.  Some called too many fouls and didn’t let us play, while others didn’t call enough fouls.  Some admitted when they made a bad call during a game and corrected it immediately, while others changed the outcome of a game with a bad call, and never thought twice about it. 

What does that look like as a mother?  Well…I know with my Brother Bear, Sister Bear, and Baby Bear…I have often taken on this role of referee–more times than I care to count!  There have been days that I blamed Brother Bear for everything because he was the one I saw do something wrong.  There have been days I managed to catch Sister Bear when she did something to him to bring on his reaction…and then SHE was in the hot seat. 

There have been days I hovered over my children and didn’t let them say or do or even think anything without my correction…and other days that I sat on my rear and let them do what they wanted. 

And yes…there have been days that I did everything WRONG…and didn’t think twice about it.  But also days where I remembered the grace that the Lord has given me, and I passed that grace onto my children by admitting my own shortcomings and asking for them to forgive me for handling myself poorly.

But today I see all of these situations differently.  You see, I am not meant to be the referee in the lives of my children.  God hasn’t called me to call fouls, throw penalty flags, or throw anyone out of the game.  I am called to love them, to teach them, and to train them.  Referees don’t do ANY of these things! 

In a game of volleyball (or any other sport you like), the role of the referee is to make sure that the rules of the game are followed.  They often wear stripes, carry a flag of some kind, and keep a whistle between their teeth so that they are ready to call someone out for the wrong action in play or for a mistake.  Their role is to enforce the rules.  The players know the rules–but if they don’t abide by them, the referee can and will call them out.

But it isn’t the same with raising children!  We don’t just tell them every time they do something wrong.  We don’t blow the whistle and call foul when they make a mistake.  We can’t just shoo them away when a situation comes up say, “go fight it out”.  Does that really solve the issue?  Not likely.  AND–have we taught them anything by sending them on their way to figure it out themselves?  Again–resounding no.  Unless, of course, you want to teach them that they are all alone in this world to figure out the rules of life…and that they will have to endure all the consequences of each lesson themselves, rather than having someone who has been there/done that (I mean YOU and ME) to share the wisdom of a lesson learned. 

Children aren’t allowed to be children these days.  And I suspect because it is because parents aren’t being parents.  I used to be one of those parents who didn’t do my job.  And it got frustrating and overwhelming FAST.  I was ready to give up–throw in the towel–forfeit the game!  Thankfully, the Lord changed my heart! 


If I’m not supposed to be the referee…then what role DO I fulfill in the lives of my children??? 

I am their COACH.  I remember one of the best coaches I ever had–my high school volleyball coach.  Here is what she did for me and my team.  She held workouts in the summer, where we prepared our bodies.  She held practices in the preseason, where we trained our bodies and prepared our minds for what was to come (in future games).  She made us run.  She made us jump.  She made us communicate.  She made us practice every move and every play we could possibly have to use in any game situation.  We practiced regular plays and we practiced “trick” plays.  We practiced being offense and practiced being defense.  We even practiced playing the other positions besides our own. 

When game time came, she was right there with us–sitting on the sidelines.  She watched us as we played.  She gave slight instruction as the game went on if we needed a bit of help/correction.  She took us out of the game if we needed a break or a rest.  She sat our hineys on the bench if we just didn’t have it that game.  And yes, sometimes she threw her clipboard!  🙂 

What she didn’t do: she did not try to teach us a new skill during the game.  She did not yell at us because we couldn’t do something she hadn’t yet taught us to do.  She was the coach–but game time isn’t for coaching.  Game time is for playing.  Coaches are expected to be on the sidelines during games, but it shouldn’t be necessary.  You see, coaching happens WAY before game night!  Coaching happens in summer workouts, in preseason, and on practice nights. Practice nights are the nights that fall in between game nights–where players can work on what they may have done wrong the game before, and learn new ways to handle the situations they may face in the next game.  The coach can instruct and train at practice. 

I wrote a post about what I dislike about playdates not long ago…and since writing that, I have had a change of heart on just one thing.  I think playdates are wonderful–but ONLY if my children are prepared for them!  If they aren’t, they may be disastrous!  Because that is game-time for them.  If they don’t know how to handle socializing with other children, or being at someone else’s house, or playing with others’ toys (or sharing their own), then maybe–just maybe–they need a few more “practices” before putting them in the game.  I still believe I’m supposed to be active in those moments of a playdate–but active like a coach–not active like a referee where I simply blow the whistle or throw a flag.

What does this look like in real life?  Well, take Brother Bear, for example.  He is currently 5 years old.  He had a problem hitting when he got angry about Sister Bear touching his toys.  I spent LOTS of time talking him through situations like that.  You may be saying, “I do that too!”  BUT…here is the key that made all that talking effective.  I talked to him about it at times when there was NOT a problem.  In other words, I didn’t have this talk with him right after he hit her.  I didn’t have this talk with him on the same day!  I had this talk with him the day or so after–when he was not angry with her, and when we were just enjoying some casual time together (building with Legos at the table or putting a puzzle together on the floor).  I do a lot of “role play” where I pretend to be Sister Bear and I teach him how to respond to what she might say or do.  We practice it–over and over–in a lighthearted way.  And you know what?  The next day, when Sister Bear tried to mess with his toys–either he responded correctly…OR I saw his habit reaction starting to stir up, and I just reminded him gently by saying something like, “Remember what you should do now?” or “Remember how you should speak to Sister Bear when this happens?”  I’m the coach, sitting on the bench, offering a little help while he is in “the game”. 

Has every moment gone that pleasantly?  No stinkin’ way!  And those moments, I’ve had to take him aside (away from the situation–out of the room) to *snap* him out of it.  And some days, I’ve had to sit him on the bench for the game…as in, he has to play in another room for the rest of the time or the rest of the day…or we leave playdate early, or just don’t go at all.

I challenge you with what I’ll call the “Coach’s Challenge”.  I challenge you to ditch your whistle and yellow flag!  Don’t be a referee in the lives of your children!  There is so much to teach them–so many things for which they need to be trained!  And the Lord commands it of us, mamas!  He doesn’t give us the go-ahead to let them figure it out (fight it out) themselves.  Be the best coach you can be!  Train them, let them practice, and only put them in the game when they are ready to play. 

(Besides…referee stripes don’t look good on anyone!)  🙂 


Posted April 23, 2012 by whohearsahorton in Uncategorized

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