He is so NOT a team player.

14Jun2013

The CRUNCH:
He is so NOT a team player.

CRUNCH deets:
Baseball’s barely started and you’re already done. The first week was okay… he didn’t complain much, but he didn’t play much either. Last week was worse. You’d prepped him to get in the “game” and he tried… along with five other munchkins and only one ball to field. Now he’s “never playing baseball again”. Great.

The Fix:
There’s no crying in baseball.

Fix deets:
He was interested when you pitched it to him. He trusts you and always wants to make you happy, so when you use your smiling eyes and excited voice, it’s an easy sell. But he had no idea what he was signing up for, and when the first game was too hot/cold/long/boring, and the other kids were too mean/loud/rough/not fair, the reality definitely didn’t live up to his expectations. So, do you force him to go week after week or cut him from the team altogether?

The first thing to do is think about why you really want him in the game. Any chance it’s based on your own childhood experiences? Or your dream, or your neighbour’s dream, about bonding over a bat and a ball? There’s a lot of pressure to sign kids up for organized sports and it starts about a second after they take their first steps. Sure, your monkey needs to learn how to socialize/share/be part of a team, and he also needs to recognize physical fitness is an important part of life. What he doesn’t need? Pressure. Odds are he’s not gonna turn pro, so pushing him too hard too fast is a set-up for the big R: resentment. Tiger parents may have superstar kids who overperform, but at what cost?

So, it sounds like we’re saying to let him quit. Nope. Letting him walk away after barely trying only teaches him it’s okay to give up when he’s out of his comfort zone. Probably not a character trait you want to encourage before he’s even learned to read! Here’s how to walk the line without a foul ball:

  • Talk it out, honestly. Listen, really listen, to his reasons for why he doesn’t want to play, and brainstorm together how to get around each problem. You maybe need to admit that you oversold it, and apologize.
  • Reward effectively. Sure, we’re into a post-game-sugary-buzz, but he has to earn it. This does NOT mean he has to score a home run or out another player, simply that he tries his best. Make sure this is clearly communicated before the next game. You’ll still have a meltdown the first time you ixnay the imbitsTay because of poor sportsmanship, but he’ll get the logic instead of feeling blindsided (even if he won’t admit it). And, with any luck, there won’t be a second time.
  • Follow through. You’ve heard this before, right? During your discussion, talk about what’s acceptable behavior and what is definitely off the table. If he’s whining/crying/sitting too much, don’t be afraid to yank him from the game after a warning.
  • Decide together what happens if you have to leave early because he’s acting poorly. Our go-to consequences include skipping an upcoming playdate/parkdate/IKEA trip, paying us a fee for wasting our money (our boys choose between paying actual money from their piggy banks or giving us a fave toy we deem equivalent; we’re not super-mean though, they can earn it back over the next week or two), or our cleaning jar. And there’s definitely no sugar rush post non-game, no matter how much he begs/whines/cries.
  • Talk about game day a lot. Every so often during the week say something like “I can’t wait until Friday’s baseball game!” and mention it once or twice on the day. Aside from the positive buzz, which is contagious, this is a gentle reminder in case he’s forgotten and is looking forward to some quality Lego/iPad/backyard time right around when you have to go.
  • Practice at home. If he thinks everyone else is better than him, there’s no other way to make him feel more comfortable. Just remember to keep it fun and not be hyper-critical.

If the season’s still a bust don’t be afraid to skip next summer when registration rolls around in February (because who isn’t thinking about baseball in winter?!). Those sharing/socializing/athletic skills will come with time whether he T-balls or not. Activities should be fun for the whole family, so if it’s a chore for everyone, it’s not worth it.

Remember this:
The lesson to follow through on a commitment is a far better one than learning it’s okay to quit when life becomes too hard. And for him to follow through, he needs you to follow through. This means support, love, patience… and probably a trip to Tim’s.

Email us if he’s got a reason to stay benched that you just can’t come up with a solution for – we’ve heard ALL the excuses!

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