One of my favorite parenting books is The Life You Imagine. It’s not a traditional baseball book, just like my book is not a typical sports book. People think it’s a book about Derek Jeter, but to me, it’s just as much about his parents – what they liked and didn’t like, how they helped him become Derek Jeter.
I was at the Yankees game the other day, signing some books; a guy came over and told me he was a new dad, and asked if I had any advice for him.
That’s a question I love. Because while it’s true that you can’t necessarily “parent” your kids to success, I’ve always thought there are a few rules you can follow that will put your kids in the best position to attain success for themselves. (By the way, for the most part, these apply to managing people, as well.)
1. Show your children you trust them to make decisions.
This can start very early. Since our kids were little – as young as four or five – we asked for their input regarding restaurants we’d go to, vacations we’d take, what clothes they wanted to wear, those sorts of things.
For instance, we always went “around the horn” with restaurants: each kid got to choose a restaurant every week or two. (We went to a lot of crappy restaurants when they were little.)
My son was into trains, so we designed his room with a train theme, took him to a train museum, bought him toy trains. My wife and I weren’t particularly interested in trains; we were following his lead.
Trusting your kids with decisions that affect them eventually pays off in two big ways. First of all, they feel more sure of themselves when they have to make decisions and you’re not around; they’ll be less dependent. Second of all – and this seems contradictory, but it’s not – they’ll be more likely to include you in their decision-making, because they know you’ll be supportive.
2. Steer children, don’t push them.
This builds off the first.
Nobody wants to be told what to do, including kids. When they’re told outright how to behave, they like to go the other way. So let them figure out things for themselves.
For instance, if a kid wants to stay up late to watch a game, don’t just say “No, bedtime’s at nine.”
Try: “You have a big day at school tomorrow, and you need your energy, do you think it’s a good idea?”
Of course, many kids will answer with, “Sure, it’s a great idea!” So let them try it, and when they’re nodding off at 6 PM the next day, the right conclusion will come to them naturally – they won’t feel like you rammed it into them – and it’ll be more likely to stick.
It’s okay to let them fall down once in a while so they learn how to stand on their own.
3. Never reprimand a child in public.
Never reprimand your kid in public. It shames them in front of their friends or other people, and it will only make them want to rebel more, to prove themselves in front of others. Yelling out consequences in public leads to disaster.
Instead, step away with the kid for a minute. Ask them what’s going on. Treat them sternly, but with respect and composure. Because those two things will resonate with them, show you trust them, and reduce their need to rebel.
Make sure you pick your battles with your kids. Too many parents argue with their kids about everything. See Rule #1 to get a sense of some of the battles you sometimes gotta let your kids “win.”