childhood stages

3 Ways to Prepare for All the Childhood Stages

When I look through old notebooks from my playing days, one of the things that jumps out at me is just how vital preparation is in playing football. All players, especially quarterbacks, must prepare for playing against their opponents. I learned at an early age to take notes and review those notes all the time—from high school and into college and certainly in the NFL. But if a quarterback’s prep for a football game is vital, how much more vital is preparation for a dad?

It’s crucial for dads to prepare for what our kids will face at every age and stage. One thing I know for sure is your kids will face challenges in every stage of life. Will they be ready for what comes at them? Will you? As fast as kids grow and change, you’ll need to grow and change as well. What will prepare you for what’s coming? Here are 3 ways to prepare for all the childhood stages.

1. Practice, practice, practice.

Sure, you’ve thrown a pass or handed the ball off a million times, but the goal is to get so good at practice that the motions become second nature so you can spend less time thinking and more time quickly executing. Once you get the fundamentals down, you never stop doing them. You keep practicing.

In my notes from back in my football days, I had jotted down to “do your job.” Your job as a dad in every stage is to keep practicing the fundamentals, like correcting, encouraging, and equipping your kids; holding them accountable; and making sure they know how loved they are. Doing this helps your kids have positive experiences beyond the family, with friends and teachers and coaches and bosses. It helps them grow into who they were created to be and to know they are loved—which is most important.

2. Read the defense.

If you anticipate what’s coming at you on the field, you’ll be ready to respond to the opposing team during the game. This is how you know all the coverages a team could call. It’s how you know when they’re blitzing or which linebacker they’re going to send and when. Reading the defense in football is tricky, but it’s possible.

As a dad, you need to read the defense for your kids. You’re going to see what’s coming a lot sooner than your kids can, especially in the early days of fatherhood. It’s on you to help them see it. Pointing it out to them is a great start, but it’s also up to you to equip them to handle it. You do that by teaching them boundaries and responsibilities, equipping them to make good decisions, and then giving them more decision-making freedom so they can practice what you’ve taught them.

Remember, this is their life, not yours—remove your ego because this is their journey.

3. Stay on offense.

You’re going to make mistakes in any and all of the childhood stages. Get after it anyway. No matter how much you’ve practiced or read the defense, you’ll have to remember this: Every child is different. And at some point or another, you will need to call an audible.

Yes, prepare as much as possible. But be ready and willing to change things up when necessary. This requires dads to have the humility to admit when something isn’t working and the discipline to pick and stick to a new plan. This gets easier when you stay present and engaged, study your kids in the moment, and discern what their unique needs are. Remember, this is their life, not yours—remove your ego because this is their journey.

Sound off: How would you prepare for all the childhood stages?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What is something you’re looking forward to?”