If I tried to put all of the parenting tips I learned from them here, I’d run out of room. Wiley and Martha Harland knew how to raise kids. They raised three and helped raise many others in one way or another. And, they didn’t even have Focus on the Family back then.
But, here’s the one thing they taught me that I wish I could pass on to every parent that has a child playing sports, studying an instrument, or getting straight A’s on the report card;
They never associated their love for me with accomplishments.
Sure, they celebrated great games and solos, essays and awards. But, they celebrated the fact that I belonged to them more. It didn’t matter if I pitched a “no-hitter” or I got shelled – the feedback was the same. “I’m proud of you, son. You really tried hard out there.”
They didn’t nit-pick at what I could have done better. They didn’t complain about the bad umpire or the teacher that wasn’t fair. They never criticized the coach in front of me. Never. They just affirmed the fact that I was their son.
One game, I was pitching and the umpire had a strike zone I didn’t agree with at all. I’d throw a pitch I thought was a strike, he wouldn’t call it, and I would huff and puff around the mound giving a visible reaction to his call.
Guess what my mom did.
She met me at the first base line after one inning and said, “If you don’t stop acting like that, it won’t be the coach that takes you out of the game – it will be me.” And, I knew she meant it.
It would be one thing if I was 8 years old when that happened. But, I was almost 18. I got the message – and started pitching better too.
When parents only celebrate their child after the home run or leading role in the school play, and then pick at them to do better the rest of the time, they are training the child to associate their approval with the child’s performance. And, when they take the position that somehow the child is being treated unfairly when the game isn’t going their way, they reinforce that idea. It mattered more to my mother that I had a good attitude than the umpire had a good strike zone because she loved me more than my baseball results.
At the end of my baseball career when I walked away to pursue ministry, my mom and dad were cheering the loudest. Because a long time before, they chose to love me more than what I did.
I wish everybody had parents like mine.
Mike Harland is the Director of LifeWay Worship. When he’s not directing 30+ employees, you’ll find him leading worship at various churches around the country, writing/arranging worship songs and/or, writing his next book. In his spare time, he loves playing basketball and spending time with his family. Mike can be found on Twitter @MikeHarlandLW and on facebook.com/Mike.Harland.37.