I love that my boys are interested in baseball. At three and almost two, they’ll turn anything into a bat. Cindy prefers to give them paper towel rolls, the cardboard part that will itself yield to whatever they might hit with it—instead of the opposite. Sure, they like to play with balls (ball may have been for both of them their fourth or fifth word), but they also like watching baseball too, something the women in my house are loathe to do.

I was watching a game earlier this week and was reminded about a difficult aspect of parenting: discipline. It’s hard to say no to your little ones, because they’re so dang cute. But if you don’t, then they’ll start not being so cute. And I want to keep them cute.

I won’t attempt to offer what kind of correction you should or shouldn’t use, whether timeout or spanking or forcing them to listen to morning talk radio. Whatever it is, it’s consistency that’s most difficult—and it’s what our children need. The rules we ratify and any necessary correction must be unswerving, while at times leaving wiggle room for grace.

Kicking Dirt and Throwing Bases

How did a baseball game remind me of this? For those who like hockey and football and other more barbarous sports, the only highlight in baseball is, after a high and tight fastball, the stare down between batter and pitcher that might lead to a melee, when benches and bullpens advance to the field like something from Braveheart. The only other altercation to anticipate is the dispute being umpire and player, which always develops into an umpire/manger argument, if the manager is awake and wants to keep his player in the game.

Baseball managers are unique in sports. They’re not called coaches, and they don’t wear ties and suits or even sweater vests. You’d think they’d wear ties, since they’re called managers. Even managers at McDonald’s wear ties. But could you imagine Tommy Lasorda or Lou Pinella kicking dirt wearing slacks? Or the guy who managed the Indians in Major League?

No, managers wear the same uniform as their players. Maybe it’s to remind them, who can get cocky, that, Hey, I’ve been here a long time. I used to play, just like I used to work out, and I was damn good! Nevermind my poor physical conditioning, I could still throw one by you. [Or if he was a hitter:] I could take your hardest fastball deep into the bleachers.

Country Joe Tosses Gardenhire

What does all this have to do with discipline? Check out the video below. It’s a bit choppy like a silent movie, but you can see what I’m talking about.

What am I talking about? Watch home plate umpire, Joe West when manager Ron Gardenhire (who gets ejected a lot) comes out to argue whether his batter foul tipped. Joe West is like a parent trying to discourage a child from doing something. “Don’t come out here,” he says. “I’m gonna have to throw you out. Don’t do it. See that line there. Don’t cross it. C’mon now. Don’t do it. … Well, you did it. Gotta throw you out.”

Parenting is difficult. It’s not for the faint of heart. Keep your resolve. Show a little grace. And be consistent. Unlike Joe West’s strike zone.

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