In the South, football season takes on a special meaning. I don’t know what it is about the game, but folks who have never attended a college are die hard college football fans. The football phenomenon spans the ranks of recreational or pee wee through professional football. From Thursday through Monday, you can watch or attend some type of football game in the South.
There are rules in football that can be applied to raising adults. The easiest one even if you are not a fan is the out of bounds rule. All play must be conducted on the field. As soon as you go outside the boundaries, the play ends. Imagine watching a game where there were no yard markings, no in-zone and no way to know what yards were gained (or lost). The game would be hard to gauge and frustrating. Football is based on a series of strategic game plans but you have to know the game well enough to pick up on certain signals that will help you stop your opponent. Parenting works the same way.
My introduction to football came from my dad. My parents were separated before I reached the age of 5. As I got older, we watched each other’s favorite shows so we could talk about them. Once we shared the activities of the week, this gave us something else to talk about. Teenagers can be challenging to speak to, but this provided an incentive on both sides to look forward to the next conversation. I inevitably would root against the team my dad was pulling for, just to keep it interesting. My mother also enjoyed football and particularly enjoyed the half-time shows.
When I watch football now, I see it with different eyes. I enjoy the strategic aspect of it, yes. My sons played the game (football and soccer) and I learned a lot from sitting through their practices and listening to their post game analysis. There are set plays that everyone needs to know and execute but you also need to be able to adjust should the play break down. This is also very true with raising adults.
One of the most important things you can do with your children is to set boundaries and to empower them to make smart decisions. When babies first start breathing air, one of the things you are instructed to do is to swaddle them. Laying a new born on a bed or table can cause them to exhibit a startle reflex. Having their arms and legs free is not a normal feeling so swaddling them gives them the feeling of being in the womb. The same is true as your child grows. Do they know your expectations? Have you explained the out-of-bound markers to them? Are they contributing to the family by helping around the house? Do they know how to stay in bounds in school and how to properly respond to authority? Are you allowing enough approachable time with them that they would feel comfortable sharing things with you? Just spending some time in the same room and being present can keep you” in-bounds” with your child.
When the expectations are clear, and you allow for some collaboration from the “players”, you will find that your household will stay in tune with the family game plan.