The Three Inning Rule

Have you ever just completely lost it with one of your children? They push the exact right buttons and send you over the edge? Yeah, I know, I have too. And then afterwards you realize what you’ve done and you feel SOOOO bad because you know you shouldn’t have yelled or overreacted or threatened to punish them for a year? I say “threatened” because you and I both know that it WON’T be a year, or even a month, or maybe even a week?

Am I the only one that has done that? If you’ve NEVER over-reacted please stop reading now… and START writing about how you’ve developed that much control and send me a copy when you’re done so I can read it and learn from you.

But if you’re like the rest of us, I’d like to share with you something I have learned to implement that I think may help. It’s called the “three inning rule” and it’s something I learned from… get this… playing competitive baseball as a kid. Let me explain:

When I was a young man playing more competitive baseball, I was typically a lead-off hitter. That meant I was the very first hitter that went up to bat for our team. Since I knew my job was to get on base at all costs, I was very focused on just that. There are 3 ways to get on base. First, and hardest, was to get a hit or get on base because of an error on the defense. Second, and a bit easier was to get them to throw 4 balls before 3 strikes so you could draw a walk. And the third and easiest (but also the most painful), way to get on base was to get HIT by a pitch. That’s right, guess who became an expert at getting HIT by pitches? Yep, it was me.

And no matter where I got hit, it always hurt. But instead of crying (which I wanted to do) I would turn the pain into anger. THAT way, I could retaliate by stealing a base, or spiking the second baseman, or trying to run over a fielder. I know, I know, it probably wasn’t right, but at the time I felt somebody had to pay – since I was fuming and in pain – EVEN if it was my own fault.

In reaction to that anger – and in what I believe NOW was my coaches attempt to keep me from trying to brutalize some other poor little-leaguer – I had a coach teach me what he called the “three inning rule.”

The “three inning rule” went like this. You MUST wait three innings before you retaliate. At the time, the rule for me was… simply genius. I wasn’t allowed to do anything until we were able to determine if I was hit on purpose. If I WAS and we could determine that, I could retaliate – but ONLY after 3 innings of research. If I wasn’t, and it was an accident (which it usually was – mostly because I crowded the plate) or we COULDN’T determine it was on purpose then we would label it “an accident” and I SHOULD NOT retaliate.

Simple huh? But the lesson I learned and I still try to apply to this day is just like it was when my coach introduced the idea – simply genius.

When the pain was fresh and the anger was full-tilt, I was hell-bent on retaliation no matter WHAT the reason. Three innings later when I was proudly showing off the growing bruise and the pain was subsiding and I had (frequently) scored for our team, I was much more willing to let the accident slide.

Let me give you two examples of how I have learned to use the “three inning rule” in my life… and – in doing so – have SAVED myself from making what I believe may have been some big mistakes.

The first example was when my #2 son, me and my wife were all working together on a house-cleaning project. As we were working I made what – in my wife’s mind – was a thoughtless mistake. As wives do, she “called me out” on it and… well… truthfully, she “TICKED ME OFF BAD.” Whether she meant to or not didn’t matter. All that mattered was that I was seething.

Remember when I asked if your KIDS had ever just pushed the exact right buttons and sent you over the edge? Well, obviously, it can happen with spouses too, huh? Surprise, surprise?

BAM, the “three inning rule” kicked in for me full force, I kept my mouth shut and we finished the project. After a bit of internal seething, I calmed down, realized she really wasn’t trying to be mean – more likely, it was a simple slip-of-the-tongue. (Note: Later on, she even apologized – without it being initiated by me.) I avoided retaliating (for me, saying something I was SURE to regret) and the unintended consequences of what MAY have happened had I lashed out in anger were never realized.

One other really cool side effect was this: Later that day, I was confronted by my #2 son who said, “Wow, Dad. That was kinda mean of Mom. Why did you let her get away with that?” And I had a chance to explain to him that sometimes we say things we really don’t mean and if I had fired back at her right then – when I was REALLY mad – I may have said something I didn’t mean and caused a lot of additional problems. THEN I had a chance to tell HIM about the “three inning rule” so he may be able to benefit from it sometime in his life. He said, “That’s cool. I like that.”

WHOA! Now, let’s back up. Did you catch that? My #2 son (all of 17 years old) told me what I did was cool and that he liked it. Now, I’m not sure about you, but to me that is significant.

But this isn’t really about my wife, right? So how have I used this with my kids? Aside from the obvious (little kids whining, begging, crying for no reason – I’m sure you’ve got your own aggravations) here’s my NEW situation with my oldest son, Alek. Keep in mind, Alek now has a year of college under his belt, he’s lived on his own, worked hard to make money to live and pay for college, and all this – (sarcastically speaking) OBVIOUSLY – means he is much, MUCH, smarter than me.

Truthfully, I couldn’t be prouder of Alek. He’s an incredible young man. And I’m NOT saying that just because he’s my son. Seriously, he’s the kind of young man mothers want their daughters to marry.

But his independence and his “unheard of wisdom” for his age has fostered an unsavory side effect. He’s also now an unqualified “KNOW-It-ALL.”  Surprise, surprise, again?!

He is still a pleasure to be around but it has become MUCH more common for him to talk down to myself and his mother, generally poo-poo any guidance or council we try and give, assertively disregard suggestions and often challenge what is being said and when discussions happen, aggressively defend his every (experience-limited) thought and decision. Truth be told, I used to be able to playfully tease him about things (it WAS a two-way street because he’d simply tease me back) but now, since he’s been back from college, I have had to completely stop playfully teasing because he seems to only get agitated by it now.

However, it is STILL – I guess in his mind – okay to goof on me. And THAT – having my 17 year-old son be able to dish-it-out… but NOT be able to take-it – has come off as real disrespectful.  (And it’s not just me – I have asked my wife and she has seen it too.) And disrespecting me in my own home pushes me right up to the edge and has started to “TICK ME OFF BAD.” Yep. You read that right.

Three Inning Rule, Three Inning Rule, THREE INNING RULE!

In my mind there is NOTHING that will TICK ME OFF, that will push my buttons and make me feel more like retaliating than a WISE-_ _ _, 19 year-old, know-it-all, freakin kid, disrespecting me in my own home.

Three Inning Rule, Three Inning Rule, THREE INNING RULE!

Keep in mind, the LAST thing I want to do is just completely lose control and tip over the edge and say (or do) something that will drive him away, but dad-gummit, I’ll be DANGED if I’m gonna just sit back and take this crap anymore.

Three Inning Rule, Three Inning Rule, THREE INNING RULE!

Seriously, I’ve been pushed to my extreme limit on a few occasions. Can you tell?

Hold on, slow down, Three Inning Rule, Three Inning Rule, three inning rule… aaaaaaah…

(One Hour Later)

Okay, I’m back. Now that I’ve calmed down I want to share with you this:

It’s really hard right when it’s happening, but I am convinced (now that I’m calm) that it sure seems like getting defensive and DEMANDING respect WHILE IT’S HAPPENING is the WRONG thing to do. What SEEMS to be the right thing to do is to now exhibit some patience. It SEEMS the only way now to have any ability to persuade him is to allow him to come to me when HE HAS decided I have something worth hearing. YELLING AT HIM Telling him he’s being disrespectful WHILE he’s being disrespectful – I believe – will lead to unintended consequences… BAD unintended consequences.

I remember being his age, I remember wanting to be my own man, I remember expressing my contradictory opinions to MY father, and I vividly remember NEVER having him say to me – what I’m sure HE was thinking, “What a KNOT-HEAD kid. Does he realize how stupid and inexperienced he is?” In retrospect, HAD he said something like this to me, it MAY have caused a serious strain on our relationship.

The example I saw, and my experience with my boys has led me to believe that we can never DEMAND respect from our children or FORCE them in to compliance with what we deem is “in their best interest.” The ONLY way we will have the ability to influence them is by patient persuasion, by selfless acts, by unconditional love, by being calm when they push our buttons, and by putting aside our own pride and hurt feelings.

And in just a few hours, THAT’S what I plan on doing.

Three Inning Rule, Three Inning Rule, THREE INNING RULE!

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2 Responses to The Three Inning Rule

  1. Krystal says:

    Hey Kyle –

    How did you get so dang smart?
    Love you bro.

    Your favorite sister 🙂

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