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The 6 Rules I Have With My Kids

Do you wear a lot of “hats” in your life? You know, your “parent” hat, your “work” hat, your “spouse” hat…

I’m no different. The most difficult “hat” I wear is the “Dad” hat. I absolutely love it. But man, it can be tough sometimes.

For example, this past weekend, we had 14 games between my 3 kids. Seriously. 14 games. Between 2 basketball games, 8 lacrosse games, and 4 soccer games, it was a “record-setting” weekend in the Durkin household. It was exhausting and exhilarating at the same time. Seeing my daughter McKenna (7) win her first soccer tournament was precious as she had the biggest smile on her face. And watching my 2 sons compete so hard was just fun to watch.

One of my biggest challenges with my “Dad” hat is not wearing my “Coach” hat when I should be wearing “Dad” hat. I don’t want to always be “coaching” them when we are in family-time. Ultimately, every parent wants their best for their kids. And every kid wants to have a successful experience playing sports or being in a certain activity.

So I have some “rules” I set up for me and for my kids. This will help them be their best in their sports. And it will help me successfully wear my different “hats.”

When it comes to competing, I tell my kids these 6 things:

  1. Be a HUSTLER!!! I don’t care about winning or losing. Or how many goals or baskets you score. I care about hustling. You better hustle your tail off. I want you scrapping, diving, rebounding, going hard to the ball, and playing until the whistle blows. Be the biggest hustler on the field…and great things will happen.
  1. ALWAYS DO YOUR BEST!!! Did you truly do your best? Did you give maximum effort? Can you look in the mirror after the game and know you gave it your all on the field or on the court? If so, mission accomplished. If not, shame on you. That should NEVER happen.
  1. It’s what you do AFTER a mistake that counts. I actually encourage my kids to make mistakes. I seriously do. That means they are not afraid to play hard and take risks, which are 2 commonalities with winning in sport. I once heard one of the local youth coaches tell my son’s basketball team that if they made a mistake, they would be coming out of the game and sitting next to her on the bench. That infuriated me that she would say that to a bunch of 10-year olds. What??? That made them all scared to make mistakes and they played like a bunch of robots afraid to play ball. NOT GOOD!!!Instead, encourage them to go hard and hustle ALL-OUT…One of the keys at this age (and even in adulthood!) is what you do AFTER you make a mistake. Do you hang your head and sulk? Do you look to the bench to be taken out? Or do you keep your head up, learn from it, and continue to go hard yearning for a different result next time?

    Hey, you’re going to make mistakes. Even the pros do. Just don’t let your mistakes define you. Learn from them and let them propel you to work harder than ever to make you better. Ultimately, it’s how you respond to mistakes that will define you. Keep working, practicing perfection, and desiring greatness. I tell them to “walk tall, stick your chest out like a proud peacock, and keep your eyes up” AFTER you make a mistake.

  1. Pull-UP…don’t Push-DOWN!!! I’m just shocked how kids can be so mean to each other and be horrible teammates to each other. They so often put other kids down to try to lift themselves up. I always tell my kids that it’s far better to pull people UP…than to push people DOWN. ELEVATE people by lifting them UP!!!As “coach” of my son Luke’s basketball team, I want to measure their success by how well they lift each other up. How well they encourage a teammate after making a mistake. How well they encourage the player on the team with the “least” skill-set. After all, we will be only as “strong as our weakest link” and “teamwork makes the dreamwork.

    Humility is important for my kids to learn at this age. Whether they are talented or not, they better learn what it’s like to be a good-winner. And a good-“loser.” And a great teammate. While it’s healthy to engage in some healthy banter with their friends and talk some smack at school, there better be a positive, humble tone to their silly-antics. Otherwise, they are going to have one upset father.

  1. What did you eat for breakfast? My kids are probably no different than yours. I have to do everything possible to get them to eat the meal(s) that I know will properly fuel them for success on the field. Even though Luke wanted just a bagel and cream cheese for breakfast at 6:30 am before his 8 am lacrosse game this past Sunday, I wouldn’t allow for JUST carbs and that garbage. He’s 12. I gave him a choice of almond butter or eggs with his bagel. He chose the eggs with the bagel. And his performance in that game was directly related to the food that fueled him in the morning. He’s slowly learning. And I’ll emphasize the slowly….. :)Nutrition for the kids is always a big one. It’s critical. But at the ages of 7, 10, and 12, they still need a lot of guidance from “Mommy & Daddy.” While they think they know what’s good for them, you must provide them food that you know will be BEST for them. And no, if the box of cereal has a cartoon-figure on the box, it is NOT a healthy choice.

    As my philosophy goes, put on their plate only the healthy stuff. And if they don’t eat it, don’t give them junk as an option. Sooner or later they are going to be starving enough to eat the “good” stuff. 🙂

  1. The “10-minute Rule.” My 10-minute rule is that after any practice or game, I have 10-minutes to talk to them about their performance, good or bad. Even if they were atrocious in their performance, I will ask them what they did well in their game/practice. And then I give them some “objective” coaching feedback for a few minutes. I’ll typically use the “sandwich technique” where I start with the positive, give them one or two nuggets of wisdom to work on, and finish with a “Good job…I’m proud of you.”After those 10-minutes, I take OFF my “coach” hat and tell them I’m putting on my “Dad” hat. This is their safe-zone to not feel like they are being evaluated or judged or coached. They can just be themselves and I’m not going to talk about the game, unless they want to.

    Obviously, every kid is different. My son Luke could take my coaching 24-7 and always wants my feedback. My son Brady (10) wants it selectively. And my daughter listens like a hawk to everything I say. But each are different. And that’s part of the art of balancing the “Dad” hat and the “Coach” hat.

    It’s not easy. My career and calling is as a “coach” and my brain operates in training my athletes and clients to be great. All the time. My “coach” mind operates 24/7 thinking about performance and success. And it’s hard for me to turn that off.

    But when it’s “Dad” time, I want to turn that “coaching” hat off and do the fun things that Dad’s do! And while it’s probably the most-challenging thing I do out of everything, I will always work at trying to do the most important job I have BETTER…#DadHat.

Have an incredible day my friends.

Much love… and much family time!!!

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