Be the Coach, Not the Warden


Do you ever have days where you feel like all you do is reprimand everyone in your house? Last weekend I had one of those days. I felt like all I did was chase after everyone and say things like “Stop jumping on the couch!” “Don’t hug the toilet!” “We aren’t having any more chocolate milk!” At the end of the day my husband looked at me with exhaustion in his eyes- nobody was having fun.

As I laid my head down that night I wondered why the day had felt so brutal. Was it a phase we are in? Was the kiddo particularly fiesty? Were we experiencing a little cabin fever? And then it hit me. Sure, the kiddo was probably pushing the boundaries a little harder than usual, but mostly we had spent the day being really great wardens and really terrible coaches.

Just before we became parents somebody shared that advice with me: “Be the coach, not the warden” and it has stuck with me ever since. A coach is focused on training somebody so that they improve at a skill and hopefully reach a goal. It’s all about development and relationship and progress.

When I think of great coaches, there are a few things qualities that come to mind:

  • They are able to get the athlete to believe in themselves.
  • They are great life teachers- carrying lessons from the court into life.
  • They keep the game in perspective.
  • They do not let their ego get tied up in the outcome.
  • They are flexible and great communicators.
  • They keep the learning environment safe.
  • They are passionate about what they do.
  • They continually challenge their athletes to push their limits.

These qualities of a great coach are all qualities I hope to have as a parent. I want to build my child’s confidence about who he is and what he can do. I want to use small moments to teach him bigger life lessons. I want to help him keep things in perspective- what really matters and what doesn’t. I have to remember that his failures are not about me. I want to be flexible and lead well and help him to feel safe to explore. I want to be passionate about parenting well. I want to push him to grow.

And while a warden may share some of these qualities- their objective is so different. A warden is focused on keeping the peace, maintaining control, and enforcing the rules. It’s an important job, but it shouldn’t be our approach to parenting. So I’m ready to turn in my badge and pick up my whistle. Who’s with me?


Mandy was born and raised in Shreveport and married her best friend, Dustin, in 2008. When they moved to Baton Rouge in 2010 for graduate school, they had no idea how much this city would change their lives. After meeting some incredibly inspiring people, they decided to become foster parents in 2011 and adopted their bundle of energy, Joseph, in 2014. Mandy works part time as the Safe Families for Children Coordinator, a program that aims to support and stabilize families who are experiencing a crisis. She spends the rest of her time managing Joseph's therapies for autism and living out the gift and honor of being a mom. When she has a few minutes of spare time, Mandy loves to bake, draw, hit the pavement for a run, or even better- NAP!


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