Back to the Basics

Back to the Basics

by Kurt Bruner

Do you remember the story of legendary football coach Vince Lombardi standing before his team after a humiliating loss? Having ordered an extra practice immediately following the game, the coach held the pigskin and announced to some of the most successful players in the country, “Gentlemen, this is a football.”

Lombardi sensed that his team had become distracted from what wins games. So he brought them back to the basics.

I can relate to those deflated players. For 20 years, I have worked for Dr. James Dobson, one of the greatest parenting coaches. Yet, like so many moms and dads, I quickly lose sight of the basics.

My fumble

The other night I lost the bedtime battle with my youngest child and only daughter (a combination that puts all the odds in her favor). Applying Dr. Dobson’s advice with my three sons was no problem. I could play the stern disciplinarian, but Nicole is a different story. She is so cute that I become the parenting equivalent of a 90-pound weakling. Any observer would describe her actions as manipulative; she leverages her status as Daddy’s Little Princess to get her way every chance she gets. But I often don’t see it, which brings me back to the other night.

Nicole did not want to go to bed despite a long day with no nap. You know the routine. Weepy resistance. Cranky demands. Melodramatic overreactions. She overwhelmed my capacity for fatherly calm and I panicked, dropping the ball during the most important play of the game. I stooped so low that I began mimicking her rants until she screamed, “Stop copying me!” To which I childishly replied, “Stop copying me!”

Having heard the commotion, my wife, Olivia, entered Nicole’s bedroom and recovered my fumble.

“Honey, this is a tantrum,” she said, reminding me of the obvious. In short order, we got back on track, implementing the play Coach Dobson would have called: “Kurt, it might be a good idea to be an adult rather than trade tirades with a 4-year-old!”

Other players

Have you seen the hit reality shows “Super Nanny” and “Nanny 911” on TV? Each episode begins by giving a peek behind the scenes at parents who haven’t a clue how to discipline their kids. Obviously staged but nonetheless interesting (and painful) to watch, a nanny enters the situation to coach Mom and Dad through the basics.

“No, it isn’t OK for your child to hit you in defiance.”

“Yes, it is OK to tell children they can’t have chocolate ice cream for every meal.”

“You might want to consider preventing your 2-year-old from walking down the street unattended.”

I can’t believe how clueless some parents can be, but then I remember my battle with Princess Nicole. I suppose we all need a coach from time to time.

The big play

Twenty-eight years ago, Dr. Dobson began Focus on the Family to help baby-boomer parents get back to the basics. Three years ago, we determined to do the same for today’s generation of moms and dads. This included the development of several exciting programs designed to provide ongoing practical parenting advice and encouragement from a Christian perspective.

Recently we launched the new Your Child parenting series featuring Coach Dobson presenting the basics. I, for one, intend to heed his advice.

Never again will my daughter have the upper hand or force Dad to fumble! (OK, hardly ever.) She, along with millions of children across the globe, has an opportunity to grow up under the loving yet firm leadership of a dad who can handle the important plays.

This article appeared in Focus on the Family magazine.
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