Five parenting lessons from an afternoon kickball game

by Barnabas Piper

Posted on Friday, April 10, 2015, at 4:12 pm

On Easter my wife, two daughters, and I headed to our friends’ house for an Easter egg hunt. The four children, ages 6 to 9, had a blast running around looking for eggs stuffed full of candy. And what is a parent to do after stuffing his kids full of junk food but challenge them to a game of kickball?

We played dads versus kids, two against four, which wasn’t remotely fair. We would have destroyed them—the kind of destroying that would have forever made them hate kickball, dads, and possibly Easter itself. Don’t worry; we didn’t. We all enjoyed ourselves, and in the process I learned five lessons about parenting:

  1. Keep those under you involved. My daughter Dianne has the attention span of your average 6-year-old. After 30 seconds of non-action she’d be picking dandelions or pirouetting around, but all I had to do was call her name when I was kicking and shoot one her way for her to fully reengage and jump back into the game full bore. It was a small thing, but just noticing her attention wandering and keeping her in the game helped her have a better afternoon.
  2. Don’t be unduly harsh to your own kids. Some parents tend to be easier on their kids than on other people’s kids, but other parents are harder on their own brood. I fall into the latter category. Even in a simple game I got my kids out and let the other kids on base. I kicked the ball harder to my kids. Is this wrong? No, but it’s inequitable. My closeness to them and expectations for them shouldn’t be license to be harder, especially not in a game.
  3. Make easy wins. A little success goes a long way. Watching my girls’ faces light up when they kicked safely or scored a run showed me just how much it boosted them. Could we have gotten them out every time? Sure, but giving them a chance at little victories will be the thing that gets them to play again next time.
  4. Take a backseat to elevate your kids. I hate losing. I don’t let my kids win at anything. Not checkers, not races, and not kickball. But this time my friend and I understood that letting the kids win would make a memory and lots of happiness. We bumbled and bobbled into a late-inning loss, and the kids were so excited to beat Dad. Instead of putting our full skill on display and squashing them we eased up so they could earn a celebration. It was worth it.
  5. Make it fun. Each of the first four lessons contributes to this. As a parent this is fast and surely becoming a motto of mine. Fun isn’t everything, but it speaks love to children. It’s motivating. When people enjoy themselves they engage more, play or work harder, and want to do it again the next day. It leaves a sweet taste in their mouths, nearly as sweet as all that Easter candy. 
Barnabas Piper

Barnabas works for Lifeway Christian Resources and is the author of The Pastor’s Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity and Help My Unbelief: Why Doubt Is Not the Enemy of Faith. He and his wife live in the Nashville area with their two daughters. Follow Barnabas on Twitter @BarnabasPiper.

Read more from this writer