How Much Advice Is Too Much?

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By Dan Coulter

How much advice is too much?

When it comes to our children, it’s sometimes hard to know where and when to draw the line. Sometimes a dramatic incident draws it for us.

At the recent birthday party of my friend, Bill, we talked about a legendary high school basketball game. I recalled the game, but Bill was on our team and remembered some crucial advice interaction between the opposing coach and one of his players in great detail.

Our team, the Central High Bulldogs, was 10 points behind in an away game against a team I’ll call the Wildcats (not their actual team name) with two minutes left on the clock. Several of our starters had fouled out. Things looked bleak.

But then, the remaining Bulldog starters and substitutes rallied. In the stands, we screamed as our team repeatedly scored -- and cut the Wildcat lead to two points. The noise level in the Wildcat gym rose higher and higher. One of the Wildcat starters, a superb ball handler, got possession. From the bench, my friend Bill heard the Wildcat coach frantically shout, “Don’t lose the ball!”

Hearing his coach’s voice amidst the roar of the crowd, the Wildcat player with the ball glanced over and called, “What, coach?” That momentary distraction gave Barry, one of our Bulldog subs, the opportunity of his high school basketball career. Barry stole the ball, drove down the court with Wildcat players in hot pursuit and scored a layup with five seconds left, tying the score. The game went into overtime.

If the Bulldog fans had been going crazy before, now we went berserk. Two overtime periods later, our voices hoarse from screaming, we stomped the bleachers with our approval as a Bulldog starter, Cliff, sank a free throw with one second left to win the game by one point. We poured onto the court.

Barry learned that you don’t have to be a starter to become a high school sports hero. And maybe a coach learned that there’s a point when you need to stop coaching, because your advice can become interference.

As our children grow older, some of us find it hard to break the habit of telling them what to do. If we can stop and think each time we’re tempted to offer advice, and only pass along the essential stuff, we may find our offspring are more willing to listen.

We may even find that children who’ve gotten used to tuning us out, actually let us touch the Holy Grail of parenting, and ask for our input.

Stranger things have happened.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR -- Dan Coulter is the producer of ten DVDs about Asperger Syndrome and autism, including the new employment guide video "Asperger Syndrome at Work.” You can find more articles on his website:

Copyright 2010 Dan Coulter All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission.

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