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  • Writer's pictureLaura L. Zimmerman

Lessons from a referee and why they’d make great parents

I admit, I’m not a fan of sports. I definitely hate participating and don’t often watch anything sports related on TV. So, I’ve never paid much attention to the various ‘characters’ that are active during any sporting event – particularly referees.

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Yesterday, I was at the gym on the the elliptical, trying to decide which of the plethora of screens plastered on the wall would draw my attention during my time there. One particular screen caught my eye – a sports news program recapping events that had happened recently. While watching, I noticed a baseball player – one who was obviously disgruntled with a ref’s call – approach the ref and literally begin screaming in the guy’s face, no more than 2 inches away. His arms were thrown back behind him in an obnoxious way, which led me to assume there must be some rule that a player can’t touch a ref for fear of penalty. (That or he was imitating a bizarre bird attempting to take flight. But we’ll go with the ‘no touch’ idea.)

Anywho, each time he would scream in the ref’s face, the ref would simply turn away and attempt to move on. Which in turn, made the player more angry, so he would step in front of the ref, cutting off his path, continuing to rant and rave even longer. It was seriously crazy. So I was watching this debacle unfold, enthralled with the ref’s ability to walk away from someone who, not only was attacking him verbally, but clearly wasn’t going to give up.

And all I could think during the entire spectacle was, wouldn’t he make a great dad? 

For real. Sounds silly, but that’s exactly what I thought. I contemplated what it would be like if I could apply the same concept that ref’s do, to my parenting skills. Instead of losing my temper in the heat of the moment and rattling off a bunch of words everyone knows I’ll only regret later, what if I could keep it together like that ref? Intriguing to say the least. The following are a few ways in which we can glean parenting skills from this high stress profession.

1. Referee’s keep their cool. (Usually.) Just like I said above, on most occasions when I’ve caught a game on TV that involves a ref, I notice they just don’t ‘lose it’, when a player or coach throws a temper tantrum. From what I’ve seen, they keep their poker face in place, while doing their best to walk away from the situation – without giving cause to further escalate things. If only I could apply the same principle to my attitude when dealing with my kids! 

2. They break up fights. Literally. How many times on a day do I feel like a referee, when it comes to forcing my own children apart? Maybe I should take a class in ref’ing so I can hone my skills in this area, too. 

3. They make tough calls. Yep. They decide if a play is good or not, regardless how many people in that stadium might be out for blood. They aren’t interested in earning an award in popularity. They don’t care if the population of a particular state (or town or school) will likely shun them for life. They call it like they see it. With parenting, this is called tough love and following through with our discipline. I know it’s hard – I’ve been there: when my 3 year old has tears swimming in her eyes because I’ve taken away her dessert for bad behavior; when my oldest is beyond disappointed that she’s lost her tablet for the day, when she so badly wanted (*needed*) to feed that virtual pet of hers, before it died. I get it. Tough love stinks. But it’s necessary.

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4. They actively watch and listen. Ouch. Yeah, yeah – it’s their job and all. But as a parent, it’s my job to listen to my kids, too. I’m all for a little ‘alone’ time and girls night out, of course. But how many times do my kids demand my attention and I’m ‘too busy’ to give them a sliver of it? I admit I am 100% guilty in this department, when it comes to allowing my mind to get distracted by social media. Kids just want to be heard, even if it’s interrupting our uber important email we’re in the midst of or the birthday party we’re so desperately planning on Pinterest. Observing a referee is a good reminder to put down my electronic device and indulge my kiddos as often as I can. 

5. Humility. A Ref’s every call is caught on video, then carefully scrutinized for errors in judgement. And sometimes, errors are found. Do the ref’s throw a temper tantrum about it? Nope. They have no choice but to accept that their call wasn’t correct and to change the decision. No tears. No whining. How often do I come to my kids with the admission that I overreacted to a situation? Not very often. Sometimes, being humble with your own family can be the hardest. 

In what other ways can we learn successful parenting skills from a referee? Feel free to leave your thoughts below! I’d love to hear your suggestions! 🙂

Happy Reading, friends!

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