It's never too late to help your family. You just need a coach.
Updated: Aug 20, 2022
How Parenting is Like Fantasy Football
In case you aren’t familiar, Fantasy Football is a game many people play where they ‘draft’ real players from the NFL onto their ‘team’ and compete against friends in their ‘league’ for the most points.
I remember my first time attempting to explain what Fantasy Football is to my wife for the first time; she gracefully listened to my explanation, and then asked the question that many people ask about it: ‘What’s the point?’
Honestly, it’s a great question. For me, I enjoy how it makes watching football games a bit more interesting. If I am rooting for the Atlanta Falcons kicker to make three field goals in the fourth quarter of a game to give me a chance in my match up, I’m going to be more likely to watch the whole game, and be more into it than probably what’s necessary.
One thing that drives me nuts about playing Fantasy Football is how points don’t directly correlate to the effort I put into it. In other words, I could spend five hours in a given week doing research about players, reading articles about different teams, and attempting to make trades to make my team better.
And sometimes all of these efforts produce good fruits; I win. However, there are MANY times where I put all this effort into it, and I lose.
On paper, my team SHOULD have won. But, then real life happened. No matter how hard I try, I can’t predict with exact certainty that my hard work will lead to good results.
I also find this to be true as a parent. I have three girls; a 5 year old, 3 year old, and a 6-month old. I can confidently say that there are times as a parent that I give 150% of myself to my girls.
Trying to connect with them, trying my hardest to remain calm in the tough moments, doing all I can to teach them the skills they need, and comforting them when they are having a hard time.
And yet, no matter how hard I try, no matter how much effort I put into being the best parent I can to them, it doesn’t always translate to a ‘win.’ It may come as a surprise to you with me being a therapist, but my kids aren’t perfect (if you’re a therapist yourself reading this, sorry to shatter the glass). My kids have tantrums, sibling conflicts, difficulties at bed/meal times, and often aren’t able to control their emotions.
I often tell people that becoming a parent has been one of the most challenging and rewarding things I’ve done in my life. I SO wish parenting was a gum-ball machine; put in a quarter, out comes a gum ball.
Input an hour of well-executed parenting, out comes more positive behaviors from the kids. Unfortunately, it’s not. As we all know, parenting relationships can be complex, messy, and unpredictable.
Now, I really don’t want to leave you reading this article feeling worse off than you began, so here comes the hope. In Fantasy Football, if you can find someone you trust, with research/strategies that you trust (for example, focusing on drafting a quality running back over a wide receiver), then it IS possible to make your team’s point output more consistent, bringing you more wins.
In the same way with parenting, if you can find someone you trust, and research/strategies that you trust, then it IS possible to make positive shifts in the quality of your parent-child relationship, and to actually see more behaviors you want to see (and less of the more ‘negative’ behaviors).
I’ll conclude today by dropping off one nugget. I’ve really enjoyed diving into research on parenting, and specifically attachment theory. Attachment theory is all about how secure our bonds are with our caregivers, and how the security (or lack of security) in this bond can impact our ability to go out into the world confidently, and have a safe space to come to in times of distress.
Here’s the nugget—Research within attachment theory points out how it is never too late to make a bond more secure. In other words, no matter where you have been, what your own bonds with your caregivers were growing up, it is still possible to create a secure relationship with your loved one (Siegel & Payne Bryson, 2020, p. 28).
It’s never too late. It might not be easy nor simple, but as you find the skills, research, and people that help you make sense of it, you’d be surprised by how many more ‘wins’ your team can get.
Follow me for more skills, research, and strategies to increase these bonds not only with your kids, but with your partner too.