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Parenting to Win

Monday, May 20, 2024

Primary Blog/Parenting to Win

I grew up playing on a lot of sports teams. At the end of highly competitive games or matches, our coaches would inevitably tell us to, "Play to win," rather than "playing not to lose." Is there a difference?


Playing not to lose involves backing down and showing up with a lack of confidence when it matters most. It's playing tentatively, rather than giving your best because you know you will succeed. It's playing with fear rather than assurance that your game plan is a successful one.

On the other hand, playing to win is moving forward with confidence, even when mistakes happen. It's trusting your instincts. It's also trusting your teammates because you know it takes all of you to create success. It's sticking to your game plan and not panicking when there's only three seconds left and you need to pull out a last-minute 3-point shot for the win. It's being in control of the game, rather than hoping the other team makes a mistake that ends up in your favor.

Any idea which team usually wins? That's right--the team that plays to win!

Parenting is somewhat like a ball game (isn't everything?). We can play to win, so to speak, or play not to lose. Here's the difference. When we play not to lose, we parent out of fear. We demand things are our way, rather than trusting our children and listening to their input (or even our spouse's). We fear the consequences of the poor choices our kids might make, so we try to control as much of their lives as possible, exacting strict punishment when rules and expectations fall short, rather than using mistakes as valuable learning and growth opportunities. We point out faults often but rarely give praise. We constantly play defense, fearing the outcome of allowing our children the freedom to choose and become.

When we parent out of love, however, we listen wholeheartedly, even--no especially--when our children have fallen short. We ask more questions than we give statements. We include our children in decision-making processes and offer praise often. We encourage problem-solving and allow for mistakes. We apologize often and own our own short-comings, confident this doesn't mean we aren't getting it right. We don't insist things are done our way all the time. We work as a team, rather than a dictatorship.

When we parent out of fear, we risk damaging the relationship we have with our kids. Instead of feeling like we are on the same team, they feel like we care more about our rules than we do about them as individuals. We jeopardize the chance they will talk to us about their mistakes or struggles because they don't feel they can trust us. In fact, often they struggle to feel the love we have for them is real because we emphasize our fears for them more than our love for them.

The good news is that we can change. Fear is a real thing, but it doesn't have to be a driving force in the way we parent. We can begin by being honest with ourselves about what our fears concerning our children are. Are they valid? Are they real? What if they happened? What if they didn't? Are we worrying ahead of time about things that may never occur? Is that serving us? What if we trusted our children more? What if we trusted ourselves more? What if we trusted God more?

These are questions that can help us begin the journey of parenting out of love and parenting to win. If you feel that you are parenting too much out of fear right now, keep trying and don't give up.

You got this!

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Hi, I'm
Lori Conger

Certified Life Coach at
You Got This

Ever wish you were the perfect mom? What does that even mean to you? And what if you are "perfect" already because you are you. And motherhood is messy and crazy, right?

​As a mother of five, I know all about messy! I also know how to find the perfect in it all so I can thrive and be who I want to be.