Matt Heath is a radio host on Radio Hauraki and Herald columnist

Matt Heath: When a mother sticks up for her famous son

Letting kids fight their own battles is how they become survivors.
Ben Stokes is man enough to handle a few crass jibes. Photo / Getty Images
Ben Stokes is man enough to handle a few crass jibes. Photo / Getty Images

The Press Council has ruled against this column on the grounds it was unfair to Deborah Stokes. The full Press Council decision can be found here.

We all want our kids to live happy lives. Free from the pain we had growing up. We don't want people calling them names, throwing their lunch on the roof or sticking their head down toilets. However, we do want them to grow up tough. Functional humans who can stick up for themselves.

While it's hard watching your kids experience the heartaches, hard knocks and humiliations that we all did, it was those three Hs that made us who we are.

If we fight all their fights and take all the bad times away what will our kids become? Not us. Which would be a disaster because most of us are great. Overly protective parenting can backfire no matter how old your kids are.

If you're not careful, while you're trying to protect them you'll pile on the humiliation you were trying to save them from.

Recently I was on the end of some heartwarming parental over-protection. I'm the host of the Radio Hauraki Breakfast, along with my friend Jeremy Wells. After the Twenty20 World Cup final we made a few comments about Kiwi-born English cricketer Ben Stokes. We talked about his pre-game comments: "I'd much rather be doing that last over thing than sitting there watching and hoping whoever bowls it gets us through."

We suggested he might not be feeling that way any more after being smashed for four sixes in a row by West Indian Carlos Brathwaite. England lost the game and Ben Stokes was briefly renamed Ben Chokes.

He is a fantastic player. We should be proud he was born here. It would be great if he played for New Zealand. But on this occasion, Ben got smashed for 24 runs from four balls and his team lost the final. That's something that doesn't happen every day, and the kind of thing hosts make jokes about on the radio.

Ben Stokes' mum got wind of our comments and rang our studio to stick up for her 24-year-old son. I answered her call live on air thinking she was ringing up for a competition. When we found out she was ringing to make a complaint about us, we thought it would be funny to tell her she wasn't on air so our listeners could hear someone have a go at us.

In my opinion, Ben Stokes' mum was being an overly protective parent. She'd heard some people had made jokes about her son and wanted to stick it to us. Good on her.

But she shouldn't have. Ben will be fine. He's a great cricket player, a professional. Who cares what some dicks on a New Zealand radio station think? A parental attempt to right things ended up bringing additional global humiliation on her son.

I reckon there is a lesson here for all us parents. Fighting your kids' battles rarely helps. When our children get knocked back emotionally or physically, we should be there in a supporting role. Hugs. Food. Kisses. But if your 5-year-old child gets in a fight at school, you can't go down and punch the other 5-year-old in the face or let down thetyres of the other parents' car (as much as you might love to).

Within reason, kids have to fight their own battles. That's how they become resilient like we all are. You won't always be around for them. You could get hit by a bus tomorrow. Your kids need to stand up for themselves today.

Give them love, support, advice and a safe home - but don't ring up a radio station on air because someone called your boy "Ben Chokes".

• Radio Hauraki hosts Matt Heath and Jeremy Wells were last week reprimanded by NZME for airing the conversation with Ben Stokes' mother, despite assuring her it was off air.

Debate on this article is now closed.

- NZ Herald

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Matt Heath is a radio host on Radio Hauraki and Herald columnist

Matt Heath is a breakfast radio host on Radio Hauraki, and a television producer, writer and director. He made a name for himself with Back of The Y Masterpiece Television, Balls of Steel UK and the feature film The Devil Dared Me To. Matt was guitarist and singer for the band Deja Voodoo which released two top twenty albums. He is currently a producer on Best Bits, a cricket commentator for The Alternative Commentary Collective, and the director of Vinewood Motion Graphics. Matt is a father of two living in Auckland City.

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