The Heli-Parent and the Punch

It’s never a good story when people take things too far. Over-parenting is the classic gone-too-far trait. Sometimes the consequences can be devastating to the relationship between parent and child. I had a recent conversation with a friend of mine who shared a not so great experience.

John, a former baseball pitcher back in the day, who spent some time in the minors (a short time) is now actively involved with coaching baseball. He is a good coach, but a bit intense. He levies criticism from parents and his peers, but he knows how to stay within the boundaries of the baseball association and the community. He produces winners, so the system is forgiving. John has been coaching his son Max since he was able to throw a ball. John is the kind of parent coach who is harder on his son than the rest. When Max got into his teenage years, John was particularly tough on him, as he felt like he should be able to take it “like a man” if you will. The verbal abuse, calling him out in front of his teammates and continual “you’re not good enough” insinuations reached a breaking point. One day, after practice, John was going at it with Max in the kitchen. Max, now 16 years old, a fairly large frame in stature, slightly bigger than his dad, lost it. He took a swing at John, clocked him in the chin and rocked him back into the fridge. John was more shocked than hurt. Did my son just hit me? Have I been taking it too far? Max stormed out of the kitchen. John just stood there stunned. The incident really affected their relationship from then on. Both backed off a bit, but the relationship to this day (Max is now since graduated from college) has never been the same. Max’s pent up anger towards his father hit a breaking point.

In speaking with John about it, obviously he has regrets. But he feels that he has done irreparable damage to his father-son relationship. I simply told him to suck it up, have a frank conversation with your son, and tell him you were wrong and you are sorry. Admitting you are wrong shows strength in character, not weakness. But I also reminded John that he is still Max’s dad, and acting like one means finding balance. “You will always be Max’s dad” I said.

Parent coaches are a rare breed. Most know what they are doing and are superstars in my opinion. Sometimes the dreaded helicopter parent bug gets the better of them. My advice, remember why you started coaching in the first place. Be a part of the village that raises the child, yours is no different from the rest.