Avoid the Mulligan Mentality

Written by Dan Seaborn on . Posted in Local

dan seabornIn the game of golf, if a player hits a shot poorly, at times he or she is allowed to take a gimme. Officially, it's called a Mulligan—the first shot is disregarded completely, like it never happened in the first place.

I worked with teens for many years, and in that time, one of the most frustrating aspects of my job was dealing with parents who had a Mulligan mentality, moms and dads who were using their kids' lives to make up for the past. It was as if the sons and daughters were do-over's—I really sliced that first one, but I'll aim better this time around.

For starters, there were the Party Parents. These were the people who felt like they'd missed out, like they hadn't had enough fun while growing up. They didn't want that kind of thing for their children, so they nixed the parenting role and became a buddy instead. Entertainment always flowed at their homes. Some of them even supplied the Friday night booze.

There were the controlling parents, the ones who had grown up with a lot of freedom and regretted it. They'd lived in the fast lane as teenagers—sex, drugs, and Guns 'N' Roses T-shirts. Many had gotten into serious trouble during those years, and they were intent on keeping their kids from making similar mistakes.

In caution, those moms and dads forbid any activities that could have even the slightest potential for being their child's first step down the wrong road. Superstrict regulations applied to everything, from friendships to clothing to CD libraries.

There were those parents who had missed the athletic scholarship by thismuch, so they enrolled their eleven-year-olds in fifteen different sport camps year round. There were the moms who couldn't afford nice things growing up, so they made sure their daughters always wore the best clothes, displayed the most expensive haircut, and had trendy accessories to boot. There were the dads who had hated working every day after school, so they made sure their sons never had to get a job.

In watching all those parents, it was clear from their approach that they were tense about how things would turn out. Their grip was tighter and their stance was more rigid in Round Two. They had that unique nervousness that comes from knowing they'd already blown it once.

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What those parents didn't realize, though, was that there's one big problem with Mulligans in parenting. They mess up the whole game—it's like the caddy stepping in to play a hole. They break all the rules, and the kids are the ones who have to take the penalty strokes.

The kids whose parents become their buddies have all the freedom they could ask for, but the look in their eyes and the slump of their shoulders screams out for structure and accountability.

The kids whose parents are overly strict are suffocating under family rules, craving just an inch of wiggle room.
The middle school Olympic hopeful feels like he'll never be good enough to make the folks happy. The daughter dressed in Calvin Klein thinks her value is wrapped up in her appearance. The son who's never worked is a total couch potato.

Parents, if you're anything like me, you don't want your kids to end up like those kids. But if you're anything like me, you can also see a little bit of Mulliganing in yourself. We all have the tendency to overcompensate for what was missing in our childhoods.

Take a moment and check yourself. Or ask a friend to evaluate your parenting tactics. Do you have your kids' best interests in mind, or are you just trying to make up for something?

Moms and dads, our childhoods are over. We have much to teach, but we've already played our eighteen holes. It's time for us to caddy so our kids can swing the clubs.
Author Information
Dan Seaborn
Dan Seaborn is the founder of Winning At Home, Inc., an organization designed to assist and encourage people of all ages and stages of family development. As a featured speaker at churches and large-scale events such as marriage conferences, corporate functions, and university assemblies, Dan Seaborn has earned recognition as a powerful and passionate communicator. Through practical illustrations and memorable real-life examples, he encourages individuals and families to lead Christ-centered homes.

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