World Cup Parenting: What Maradona Can Teach Us

K. Emily Bond

Football is a very big deal in our household, and by football I mean association football -- aka footy, fútbol, soccer. In fact, I met my husband while watching the last World Cup in a Brooklyn bar. Four years later, here we are: teammates, parents, Mr. and Mrs. Head Coach.

Now, my bookshelf is full of parenting and toddler development books. In recent weeks, though, a lot of my parenting advice has come straight from the World Cup pitch.

Here’s how not to parent, care of England’s coach Fabio Capello:

Look at him. Bullying, aggressive, not fighting fair with his partner. Is this the kind of behavior you want to see on the sidelines? Hardly. He has an amazing track record of winning big competitions, but days after this footage was shot, his team was knocked off the world stage in a disgraceful 4-1 defeat. Shameful.

Parenting lesson number 1: If you want your toddler to win big on the playground and beyond, don’t be such a brow-beater, even if your kid’s been given a crap ball.

Parenting lesson number 2:
Always treat your assistant coach with respect, win, lose, or draw.

There is a big game this weekend, mamas, Germany versus one of my favorites, Argentina. While they don’t play the samba football of their Brazilian neighbors, they’ve got the tango and an electrifying coach by the name of Maradona.

Like most of us parents out there, before becoming a head coach himself, El Diego went through his own share of ups and downs, including drug addiction, womanizing, gastric bypass surgery. I, for instance, used to smoke. And I won’t lie to you (or to my son when he’s old enough to ask), I even inhaled. A lot. But that’s in my past, as are Maradona’s trespasses.

Nowadays, his coaching style should be considered exemplary to us all. He’s encouraging on the sidelines, optimistic, when his team loses he says things like, "Everyone makes mistakes. At the end of the day ... it is forgotten."

He’s also not afraid to show his players how much they mean to him, kissing and hugging them every time they walk on and off the field. Some consider that sort of affection unusual, as evidenced by a rather peculiar question from the British press:

Odd question and, yes, odd response. But the point is, Maradona’s style of parenting -- I mean coaching -- comes straight from the heart. A team can only be as strong as its leadership, which is why Argentina is going to crush Germany into a thousand little pieces in the quarterfinals.  

Parenting lesson number 3: The past is prologue, now is the time to live in the present.

Parenting lesson number 4: Don't be afraid to kiss, hug, kiss, hug, and kiss and hug your champs again.

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