How Raising Children Is Like Playing Racquetball

When I began playing racquetball about a year ago, I believed it was a game of power. Hit the ball as hard as I could off the front wall with little thought to placement or angle. My goal was to get my service in, track down the return and smack it off the front wall as hard as possible.

Depending on my opponent, I could get by playing this style. It leads to a lot of running back and forth from the front to back wall. Strategy didn’t play a role, and the player in the best shape usually won.


I didn’t give it much thought until I played a guy who plays a lot more than I do. He plays in tournament sand practices regularly. Physically, he didn’t look imposing, and I assumed I’d run him into submission with my style of play.

I was wrong.

I was the one who was running around the court. This guy didn’t hit the ball very hard, but he used angles to keep me off balance. When I was able to get to the ball, I was leaning, reaching or diving. He seldom returned the ball to my comfort zone, and he conserved his energy while I continued to hit the ball as hard as possible. It was as if he was taking my style of play and using it against me, wearing me down until a simple passing shot put me out of my misery.

I believe that raising kids has many similarities to racquetball.

As our four children mature, I’m finding that a shotgun approach isn’t always the best. There are times when a stern voice is needed to correct behavior. But I’m finding that a thoughtful, even finesse approach can be successful with older children.

It’s easier to say, “I’m the parent so end of story” without providing an explanation of any kind.

My daughter had a rough evening that ended with the cancellation of a play date with her closest friend due to her behavior. As much as I wanted to send her to bed without any of the normal routine, I sat next to her on the couch and listened. It was clear she did not understand how her actions affected others. Part of me wanted to say, “Here’s how it’s going to work…”

I decided it was best to table the discussion for now and return to it tomorrow when everyone has calmed down. I don’t know how it will turn out tomorrow or what I’ll say. Maybe it will take more discussion. But I know one thing: the finesse approach feels better in this situation.

Picture by Coolmallu