Classes are opening and tryouts are on. But what happens if your child refuses to go? Are you respecting their wishes if you agree, or are you holding them back from opportunity? Here, one mother faces just that dilemma when her son wants to quit baseball. As she digs deeper she discovers it wasn’t the sport he was giving up on, it was himself.
“One of my boys is an avid baseball fan, and, thanks to his grandma, has been from birth. From as early as I can remember, he’s had a baseball in his hand. I can’t recall a time when he didn’t have a head full of statistics on players and teams, and there is rarely a day when I am not asked to play, talk, or get excited about the sport.
When he was really little, we’d just play ball together in the park. As he got older, there was t-ball, and then Little League. Each year he was a star, by far the most skilled player on the team. Then, when he was about eight
or nine, Little League required each child to participate in tryouts. The point of the tryouts was to distribute the children evenly across teams to ensure a fun season, where one team didn’t dominate. Every child would be chosen for a team.
“Not This Year, Mom”
When I told my son that baseball season was around the corner, and
tryouts were coming soon, I was stunned by his response. “I’m not playing
baseball this year. I hate baseball! Why did you sign me up without asking?”
At first I was baffled, but then I put two and two together and figured
out that he must be nervous about tryouts. I explained to him that the
atmosphere would be a relaxed one, and that everyone would be chosen,
but his insistence on quitting remained.
I felt confused. On the one hand I knew my son lived, ate and breathed
baseball. There was nothing in life he loved playing more. Yet on the other
hand, I wanted to respect his wishes and to teach
him that he could make decisions for himself.
But then I thought about my own life, and the times I had given up on dreams because I was scared of failing or making a fool of myself. I realized that respecting his demand to quit would be doing him a disservice. I would be teaching him to give in to fear rather than teaching him how to move through his fears. I decided that, come hell or high water, we were going to tryouts. After tryouts if he wanted to quit baseball, we could talk about it, but I wasn’t going to let him give up on something he loved because he was scared.
On the morning of tryouts, I woke my son at six o’clock. That gave us four hours to get to the dugout. “Wake up, babe. Baseball tryouts this morning!” I said with excitement.
He immediately started to argue.
“No! I hate baseball! I told you I’m not playing this year!”
I Staylistened my way through his upset. When he was done crying, I
suggested he get dressed, and he begrudgingly put on his baseball pants
and jersey. But when he got to the socks, his fears popped up again.
“These socks bother me,” he cried, and again I Staylistened.
After several of these Staylistening sessions with him
insisting that he hated baseball and me continuing
to listen calmly and assuring him that we were going to tryouts and that he
could do it, we made it to the car. But when we parked at the field, he refused to get out of the car. Again I held the limit. “Sweetie, you are going to go try out. I know you can do it.”
He cried and cried. He held the door shut so that I couldn’t open it.
He screamed that I was a horrible mother. At one point a man
walked by with his son and asked if my son was OK. I thanked him,
assured him that he was, and told him that he really loved baseball, but
was feeling scared about the tryouts. The man came over to my
son and told him that he remembered feeling exactly the same when he
was a boy. My son’s eyes lit up.
Eventually, my son agreed to the tryouts if I would stand at particular
points around the field, near each station where he would either bat, pitch,
field, or play first base. I agreed to do exactly as he asked.
Together, we headed to the field. I followed the directions he’d given me, and we moved in sync from
batting to pitching to outfield to first base and before we knew it, it was over,
and we were walking back to the car together. I asked him how it went, and
he said, “Great! I think I’m going to get on the Yankees!” and he looked at
me with a big smile.
My son is now thirteen, still passionate about baseball, and getting
ready to play high school ball next year. I am so thankful that I had the
lifting fear tools to help him through his fear, so that he didn’t have to give up on something he loves!”
How it Works
One of the most common hesitations I hear from parents about setting limits
is that they want to respect their children’s desires. But we offer our children a gift when, instead of immediately complying with their requests, we consider what feelings might be driving them.
There is a difference between giving in to our children’s feelings
and respecting their choices. When we say “yes” to a request that is based in fear,
we hold them back in life, keeping them small
– and fear can easily masquerade as “I just don’t want to.”
When her child wanted to quit baseball, his mother paused to consider her son’s request. She thought about her son’s wishes, and also about her experience as a child. She decided that if her son really wanted to quit, they could
discuss it, but first, she would help him work through his fear of tryouts. That way he
he could communicate from a place of thinking and feeling connected.
Her advance planning was key to success. Mom woke her son early, anticipating his need for limits and lots of Staylistening. And she was right! But her clear
limits and loving ear paid off. After shedding lots of tears, her boy was able to step
out onto the field and do his best. And as we often see after lots of Staylistening,
her son felt pleased with himself, getting on with his day as if those four hours
of ‘tryout prep' had never happened.
And quit baseball? No way! He wanted to be on the Yankees!
From the Hand in Hand Toolbox
- This post is taken from our new book Listen: Five Tools To Meet Your Everyday Parenting Challenges. Buy the book here!