Dad Nails Exactly What You Should Say to Your Sons Instead of 'Toughen Up'

boys soccer
No Idea What I'm Doing: A Daddy Blog/Facebook

When it comes to sports and boys, any display of emotion is often seen as a sign of weakness. "Shake it off," "Toughen up," or "There's no crying in baseball" are phrases we've all heard, and ones we wouldn't be surprised to hear come out of the mouths of parents or coaches on the sidelines of kids' games. But when one dad came to pick up his son from soccer practice and found him upset, he didn't give him the same "be a man talk" he received as a kid. Instead, he wondered if there was a better solution to dry his child's tears.


Clint Edwards of No Idea What I'm Doing: A Daddy Blog shared on Facebook what happened when he found his son Tristan upset at the end of soccer practice. "My son's soccer coach pulled me aside after practice to tell me Tristan had a breakdown. 'Or something like that,' he said. 'He started crying so he sat out for a bit,'" Clint wrote.

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kids soccer
No Idea What I'm Doing: A Daddy Blog/Facebook

Clint explained that he felt like the coach was looking to him as Tristan's father to tell the boy to "toughen up." Clint knew that right there and now -- in the middle of a busy week while picking his kid up from practice, having to rush home, and deal with dinner and homework -- he was facing an important parenting crossroads. "Every father since the history of ever has been faced with this decision," he wrote. 

He admits that there was a part of him that wanted to do what was expected of him, to tell his son that men don't cry and to get over it. "We got in the car to drive home. I sat there for a bit, knowing that I needed to say something, but not sure what," he wrote. "As a father of a boy, there was a part of me that wanted to tell him to toughen up. To stop this BS and play the game like a man."

Then he remembered what hearing that same advice did to him as a child. 

"But the thing is, that's what I was always told when I was ten," he wrote. "Not by my father. He wasn't around. I was told that by coaches and other fathers. I was already strong enough to face things without a dad, so 'toughen up talk' didn't make me feel stronger. It made me feel weaker. It made me quit."

boy playing soccer
No Idea What I'm Doing: A Daddy Blog/Facebook

Clint decided right then and there to break the "get tough" cycle. He took Tristan to McDonald's for a dollar cone and a heart to heart. But the treat came with conditions -- Tristan had to tell his dad everything that happened, and he had to promise to take his advice.

Thankfully, the plan worked. The little boy told his dad why he got so upset during practice. "He told me that he couldn't get the ball during some drill, and how all the other boys could get it, and they were better than him. 'I've been playing for five years and I haven't gotten any better,' he said. 'I just want to quit soccer,'" Clint wrote.

In the movies, parents always have the perfect words to reassure their kids. Clint didn't have a script, but he did the best he could, using his own experience as an example: "I told him how I quit sports as a kid because of all that, and I wish I hadn't. 'It's not about being the best right there and then,' I said. 'It's about growth. It's about showing up and trying, really trying. It's about gaining skills. Your whole life will be like this: sports, school, work, family. It's all about showing up and trying. Sometimes I feel like I'm not getting any better at this whole dad thing. But I keep showing up and trying. Life is like that.'"

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Clint asked if any of that made sense to the boy, and Tristan admitted not entirely. However, when Clint asked if he still wanted to quit soccer, Tristan had an important answer: "'No,' he said. 'I'm going to keep trying.'"

This is parenting. It's taking the hard road and having the difficult talks because you feel like it could be what's better for you child, even if you're unsure of the outcome. It's trying, right alongside them, to be the best you can. 

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