If you're like most of us parents, you can use all the guidance and inspiration you can get on a daily basis. I'm always on the lookout for life lessons that can be applied to parenthood. When I find them, I'm compelled to share. Because, as I state clearly in my new book, Dad's Playbook: Wisdom for Fathers from the Greatest Coaches of All Time, “Parenting is no easy business.” That's the opening line of the section titled, “Teach and Learn.”
In the book, I collected over one hundred quotes from the greatest coaches in sporting history and I applied them to the task of parenting. Hall of Fame Quarterback and father of four, Steve Young was gracious enough to write the Foreword. Chronicle Books did an amazing job with the design and production and I must say, it is the ideal gift book for any dad – especially the millions of us that love sports (although I know plenty of non-sports fan moms and dads that have found the book inspirational). “Teach and Learn” is just one of five sections in my book. They all have concise two-word titles, thought-provoking quotes, and enduring lessons and messages that apply succinctly to all parents and leaders.
The first section is titled, “Lead and Inspire.” I thought it was important to establish the idea that the best way to influence and motivate your child is to provide her with a role model – that would be you. So many parents, especially in sporting circles, are eager to demand hard work and dedication from their children, but often they don't apply the same expectations to themselves. It's only natural for children to mimic and learn from adults so it follows that the best way to lead and inspire them is through your actions.
As I explain in my book, “Through your example, every day you show your children how to treat each other, how to handle adversity, and how to get things done.” I think it's important to recognize and even embrace the responsibility of parenting and to consciously create a positive and encouraging environment in your home. Perhaps legendary UCLA men's basketball coach John Wooden says it best: “Young people need models, not critics.”
In the next section, “Believe and Praise,” I tackle the controversial parenting topic of praise. Like anything in parenting or any form of leadership, it's all about balance and communication. I explain that it's indeed best to be specific with praise and to focus on effort, but the main theme of this introduction is to highlight the best way to motivate children long before we wish to praise them: to believe in your child. Jim Valvano, Head Coach of the 1983 North Carolina State National Championship mens basketball team concurs, “My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person: He believed in me.”
I'm pretty sure the next section would be Aretha Franklin's favorite: “Love and Respect.” In it, I explain that respect is a gateway to compliance. Compliance gets a bad rap, but the simple truth is: we all want our children to listen. The good news is you can set limits clearly and still convey love and respect. All you have to do is add a simple explanation. Consistently remind your child you have their best interests in mind.
Every time you explain a limit to your child you show her that you love and respect her. When she protests (and she will), be ready to listen and empathize, but stand firm in the knowledge that your reasons are sound. Legendary Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz ties these love and respect themes nicely into the lead and inspire lessons, “Do right. Do your best. Treat others as you want to be treated.”
The next section, “Teach and Learn” is all about learning from mistakes. As parents, it's up to us to help children interpret and learn from the inevitable adversities of life. If we can begin to see challenges and even failures as opportunities for learning, “then each test is a means to strengthen your bond with your child and for her to ultimately succeed.”
Most parents would agree that a big part of their role is teaching, but it's equally important to acknowledge the self-learning that can be experienced through parenthood. Legendary Oakland Raiders coach John Madden explains that, “Coaches have to watch for what they don't want to see and listen to what they don't want to hear.” Sometimes, the same can be said for parents. Sometimes our children are the teachers.
In the final section of Dad's Playbook: Wisdom for Fathers from the Greatest Coaches of All Time, I remind parents that two incredibly important steps towards success of any kind are to focus on the present moment and to enjoy it as much as possible. We all know parenting can be challenging, but it's my goal to leave the reader inspired to fully invest himself into the task of parenting and to make a conscious effort to enjoy each moment with his children. Of the twenty-three quotes I included in this section aptly titled “Live and Enjoy,” I think two-time Super Bowl Champion coach Joe Gibbs sums it up best, “People who enjoy what they are doing invariably do it well.”
Knowing full-well the task of parenting can often seem thankless and exhausting, I close my book with one final correlation between coaching and parenting and an inspirational reminder to the reader: the idea that the memories and relationship he creates together with his children are his championship. It is my sincere hope that through this book, I am able to inspire parents and help them embrace and enjoy our roles as teachers, coaches, and leaders. I know that if we can manage to start there, the journey will be much smoother, and the lessons will be all the more clear.