When I hit February, it seems to me that the basketball season has flown by. It’s always a good reminder than seasons are fleeting, but the lessons we learn in the midst of them will go with us into the years ahead. So it’s wise to keep our eyes focused on what we are learning and how we can learn more.

I currently have three kids playing their basketball seasons. I have another who performs on the stage. I have had a few reminders over the past week that how we act at our kids’ games flows from what we value. But oftentimes, we don’t seem to be clear about what we value. Or what we should value.

I often address what I think we should value from a basketball perspective. But what about a parental perspective? I can do give as much basketball advice as anyone, but what is really the best gift I can give to my kids. Two big words come to mind: enjoyment and ownership.

Maybe I am cheating by offering two words, but I think they are vitally connected for us as parents. The first, enjoyment, is foundational. And it boils down to one simple question: Do you really enjoy watching your kids play?

I mean it, do you genuinely find joy in watching your kids play? Or is it a burden to you? Is it stressful? Is there something you need to get out of it?

The reason this is so important is because if you don’t genuinely enjoy it, you can’t lie and say you do. You can’t fake it. Your kids will see right through you. It’s also vital, because you can’t give what you don’t have. If you need something, if you are too attached to how they perform, how can you help them find their own joy and delight in the game? You can’t.

It’s mind-boggling to me how often I have heard parents say that they can’t understand why their kids don’t play harder and enjoy the game more. But then I watch their conduct and spirit and there’s my answer. It’s you! If you are burdened, they will be as well.

Which is why ownership is so important. I often tell people that one of the greatest gifts my father ever gave me was that he didn’t care. You know what I mean by that. Not that he didn’t care at all. He helped me like crazy. No. When all was said and done, he really didn’t care whether we won or I performed amazing or I reached all my goals. It wasn’t about him at all. My pursuit of basketball excellence was entirely my own. He empowered me to own it.

This is an incredible gift. Because if he had needed me to do something, I wouldn’t have been able to take it. I put more than enough pressure on myself. But look around, as parents, if we are really honest with ourselves, we own too much of their own pursuit. This kills their enjoyment and their long-term development. Ownership is essential.

So at this point of the season, I think it’s helpful to ask: am I enjoying my kids? And am I empowering them to own their own games and their own season and their own development? The two really go hand in hand. And in my experience, they cannot be asked enough. Answer honestly and adjust accordingly. Your kids may not thank you now, but they when they become parents themselves, they should thank you later!

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