Have you ever caught yourself disciplining your child today for something that last week you let slide? Or constantly changing the house rules because of unrelated issues like job burnout or the recent failures of your favorite team? It’s tough for children when last week’s low-and-away slider is now suddenly a called third strike.
Baseball umpires generally succeed in the big leagues based on two realities. First, they enforce the rules with calm authority. Secondly, they apply a consistent and predictable interpretation that doesn’t waver in the wind or back down when they are heckled. The strike zone is always the strike zone.
I was excited once to meet Eric Gregg, a rather hefty National League umpire, in a hotel ballroom. But the fact is that his erratic – and huge – strike zone throughout his career, and especially in the 1997 National League Championship Game probably handed the Florida Marlins a free ticket to the World Series. I still remember gasping when the final pitch of the last game, clearly high and inside, was called a strike three to end the badly marred contest.
Frankly, most hitters and pitchers can even bear with an oddly-shaped strike zone . . . as long as it remains in the same place for all nine innings and treats the home team and visitors alike. The watchword is consistency. Kids need to know what kind of terrain they are navigating, and that Mom and Dad can be counted on to referee the adventure with good-humor but reliable authority.
For parents, it’s worth taking some quiet time alone to simply reflect on what the rules are. Then . . . announce them and stick with them. Don’t raise your voice; don’t babble and backtrack. Just say what it is, then quietly stand your ground.
It’s been observed that most children are actually comfortable knowing that wise parents are firmly in charge. A night watchman goes from door to door during the midnight shift, checking all the knobs – hoping to find them locked.