Sunday, April 03, 2005

Life Lesson at the Little League Field

Seems like every few months some parent gets headlines for some really stupid acts at a local childred's sports field. I'm happy to report that this is not so extreme, but opened my eyes.

Our youngest is now nine, and that puts him in the "minors." In his league that means that the kids are pitching, and stealing bases is now o.k. So, in addition to all the other things they are still learning how to do, four new skills are added. Pitching, hitting pitched balls, stealing bases, and making plays on runners trying to steal.

Yesterday was the teams 4th game of the season. They didn't do so well. I won't give the score to protect the innocent. Some of the parents were very frustrated with the mental errors and the ball handling, not to mention the pitching. As the errors added up the frustration level went up and up.

Why do parents get so frustrated at childish behavaior by children? Why, in fact, do adults get so frustrated with other adults' miscues and even their own muffed plays? How often that frustration turns to hurtful words or worse.

As I reflected on this, professional sports games came to mind, and how frequently grown adults who have spent thousands of days practicing and playing still make mental errors, and fail to deliver in the clutch situation. Our frustration with them might be more appropriate given their age and skill, but the sports addicts I know are generally pretty forgiving about the 9th inning bases loaded strike out.

The lesson. Kids are kids. They are going to do childish things. Our frustration is all about what we want, and not about what is good for them. Our frustration turns into anger and inappropriate actions designed to manipulate them into acting how we want them to act. While it might bring short term results, usually the long term in not satisfactory, and is often disasterous.

On the other hand, when we look at any behavior by child or adult, put it into the context of their age and skill level, we can make a judgement as to whether the error was the result of intentional misbehavior, gross negligence, negligence, or merely the learing curve. Once we have that sorted out, we are much more likely to provide the right kind of correction, discipline, or training to encourage better future results.

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