Thanksgiving Tips for Dads – Lessons from Football

I have a prediction: I bet you’re going to watch a football game or two on Thursday …

It’s a great tradition—at least one that I enjoy each Thanksgiving.

And here’s one thing I really like about watching football with the family. Football, as with all sports, comes ripe with teachable moments.

Think about the messages you are sending to your kids while watching a football game. When your team is too far behind to catch up, do you roll your eyes and say, “They might as well go home”?

dad-preschool-son-on-shoulders-jerseysOr do you cheer for them, shouting for them to play their hearts out anyway?

And when a referee makes a bad call that favors your team, do you call for fairness anyway?

So with that in mind, here are some tips for dads …

Action Points for Watching Football on Thanksgiving:

1. Hold your team to high standards.

If one of your favorite team’s players is misbehaving, don’t defend him. Defending people who behave inappropriately could teach your kids that it’s okay for them to disregard authority figures in their lives (even you) if it serves their own purposes.

It also tells children that some adults don’t have to behave. This is the wrong message to send children. Yes, children should respect adults. But they should also be aware that adults shouldn’t get away with inappropriate behavior simply because they are adults.

So when you see a player or coach misbehave, or when a referee makes an unfair call that benefits your team, calmly explain to your child that you disagree. You can say things like:

  • “Oh, it’s too bad the referee made that call. I like to see my team win fair and square.”
  • “I wish that player wouldn’t behave that way. I’m always a little embarrassed to watch a grownup who doesn’t know how to control himself.”

2. Manage your anger appropriately.

I really don’t like it when the Chiefs are losing. In fact, when I’m watching a game alone, I’ve been known to blow off a little steam. But when your children are watching a game with you, it is important that you manage your anger and disappointment.

If your team plays its heart out and still loses, you have an opportunity to teach your children that you will love them even if they make mistakes or fail.

Sure, it’s okay to be disappointed, but being angry or mocking a team’s performance just because they lose sends your kid a negative message: I’ll stop loving you if you fail. If you haven’t done it in a while, maybe this weekend would be a good time to come right out and tell your child: “I will always love you no matter what—even when you fail, mess up or make bad decisions.”

3. Encourage goal-setting.

This is a good opportunity to talk to your children about hard work and goal setting. Be sure your children know how much you admire athletes for their hard work and discipline. You can say things like:

  • “Can you imagine how much work it took for Aaron Rodgers to get to this place? Look at that arm! How many times do you think he’s thrown a football?”
  • “I really admire the discipline required to be a professional athlete. While the rest of the world was slacking off in front of the TV, these guys were practicing for hours on end.”

And on a related note, it won’t hurt to show that you admire strength wherever it is displayed. Show appreciation for the other team’s hard work, even when they are beating your team.

4. Remember the bigger picture.

Sports have always been a great analogy for life. You can tell a lot about a player, a coach, or a fan by the way they celebrate victories, by the way they treat their teammates and opponents, and by the way they recover from setbacks.

You see, football is about a lot more than football.

And remember … Thanksgiving is about a lot more than football, too. Thanksgiving is about shifting your perspective, remembering to count your blessings, and focusing on your family and all of the love they bring into your life.

So go around the table and voice your appreciation for all things, little and small. Be sure that you are engaged with your family and focused on what truly matters. If the game is distracting, by all means … turn it off!

Please visit one of our sites to leave a comment and tell me what lessons you’ve taught your kids about sports and life.


Carey Casey is the CEO of the National Center for Fathering, a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the culture of fathering in America by enlisting 6.5 million fathers who to make the Championship Fathering Commitment. NCF believes that every child needs a dad they can count on, and uses its resources to inspire and equip men to be the involved fathers, grandfathers and father figures their children need. Subscribe to his weekly email tip by clicking here: “Yes! I want tips on how to be a father who loves, coaches, mentors, and inspires my children.”

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