Did you spend time during this past weekend enjoying sporting events in person or on television? I was able to do both.

I’m speaking in Atlanta and Alpharetta, GA, today and tomorrow so I flew in early to spend time with my family. On Saturday, I enjoyed watching my niece coach her high school volleyball team during a tournament.

Volleyball has changed a lot since I played and coached. Athletes are much more talented. Plays have become more complex. Games are scored differently and rules have changed, too. Even if I could still play, without being totally versed in those, I’d be a significant detriment to any team.

After the volleyball action, lunch, and running a few errands, we arrived back at my brother’s home. Because we’re fans of the Big Ten and he lives where the SEC is an important division, the television was on for hours, but tuned only to football games. Dave knew which stations had which games and he deftly moved between them to keep checking the action. I lost track of how many different games he was keeping track of and how many minutes we watched football.

Do you know what made it possible to enjoy so many games at the same time? No, I’m not thinking of cable or the remote, although both are relevant. It was the fact that the rules were identical across games. Dave changed channels and we went from the Big Ten to the SEC to some independent teams. It didn’t matter. From this stadium to that. From this set of officials to that. It didn’t matter. The rules were the same.

Every team we watched this weekend will play a different team next weekend. The teams be in different stadiums with different officials. It won’t matter. Football is football at the college level. Fans know what to expect. More importantly, players and coaches do, too.

Can you imagine what football or any other sport would be like if the rules and expectations changed according to the host? It would be a mess! Players wouldn’t know what would constitute a foul. If the size of fields changed or the heights of tennis or volleyball nets changed, players might be good at home and not on the road. Confusion would reign. Doubts in their ability would grow. Frustration and anger would build.

It can be the same in life, can’t it? When our children and we are treated consistently and know what to expect, we experience freedom. We’re confident and more able to take appropriate risks. If we have to move between people and places with different expectations, policies, and rules, we can become confused and discouraged. We might become angry. We may not know how to behave, especially initially.

There are times when our children and we can’t be in control and others set rules and policies. We can help children handle these times as well as possible. We can, too. I recognize how challenging these types of situations can be. What frustrates me, maybe more, are times when we could choose to be consistent with other adults and children and we’re not. Then we wonder why others don’t feel safe with us and can’t be secure and consistently successful.

There may not be much to wonder about. When people experience stress, are tentative, and get frustrated, let’s examine whether different policies, rules, and expectations are a part of the reason. If they are, let’s change what we can. Now. Okay? Great.