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Parents of NBA’s Zeller Brothers Share Parenting Secrets

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Shawn Brown - 700 Club Producer

Luke, Tyler, and Cody Zeller have been turning heads in the basketball world since high school. All three earned basketball scholarships to prestigious universities, and made it to the NBA. How did each of them reach their potential? In Raising Boys the Zeller Way, their parents Steve and Lorri Zeller, provide an inside look at the principles they used to teach their sons to be men.

“We have to pinch ourselves every day to think that, you know, that they’re having the success that they’re having on the court, but we’re even more proud of them for the kind of men that they are off the court and the lives that they’re leading, said Lorri.”

“They’ve been given that platform. And yeah, we are very proud of the way they’ve taken that platform and they –God’s able to use them with that platform He’s given them, said Steve.”

Luke is now retired from the NBA, but Tyler, plays for the Boston Celtics, and Cody for the Charlotte Hornets.  They say they definitely use basketball as a platform and credit their parents for teaching them how to use their faith.

“Absolutely. I mean, I’ve had opportunities to, you know, speak places or even just say hi to kids. And so it’s a great platform. It’s something I love to use and hopefully I can be a good role model for people, said Tyler.”

“They taught us, you know, without the Lord I wouldn’t be here. So all the accolades and all the attention I get isn’t for me. I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t 7’ tall, I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t athletic. I didn’t do anything to get that, you know. So, you know, I don’t deserve a lot of the credit that I get. You know, so I try to direct it towards the Lord, said Cody.”

So what are some of the principles Steve and Lorri use to raise three star athletes? Lorri says, unconditional love is at the top of the list.

“I think one of the things that we feel really strongly about is performance-based love. So many times kids get the feeling that, you know, if I didn’t play well today, that I’m going to disappoint you as a parent. Or you don’t love me as much as you would if I had scored 20 points. And it’s really important for kids to know that, you know, as a parent, that you love them regardless.”

That’s a lesson Steve learned the hard way while on a 4-hour trip home from a tournament with Luke. Where he decided to highlight what he was doing wrong.  

 “You know, he should’ve thrown this pass. You should’ve shot this shot, you should’ve, you know, talked to the teammate. You should’ve ran this play. I look over at that 6th grader with that big frame and he’s looking down at his shoes. And he goes, was there anything I did right this weekend? I had chewed on him for 3 total hours. And from that point on, it was kind of a quiet ride for the last hour and I made a pact with myself that I would ask—or I would say one positive thing after the game, said Steve.”

Shawn: Talk about the importance of disciplining our kids and disciplining them the right way.

“You know, I read an article once that talked about kids have friends. You know, they have buddies that they’re going to hang around with at school. But what they need is parents. They need somebody to set those boundaries and, you know, so people need to step up and be that parent. You know, their personalities are developed by the time they’re 5 years old. And you really—that’s a really important time to get a hold of them, you know, so that they know what their rules and stuff are. It’s –we have people say oh, you know, my 3-year-old, my 4-year-old runs the household. And while you think it’s cute when they’re 3 or 4, it won’t be cute when they’re 15, said Lorri.”

The Zellers say that raising boys can be tough, but they want readers to know that through consistency and a foundation of faith you too can be successful.  

“In the book you’ll get all 5 voices. You get all the commentary back from the boys. And it’s one of the things that we love about the book, said Steve.

“I really think our faith had everything to do with raising our boys. Because it was really the foundation by, you know, what we –what we did in our household. What I like best about our book, is it’s –it’s kind of an owner’s manual. It’s kind of a guideline of what worked for us and some of the models that we did when we raised our boys. And so, you know, again, we’re not perfect parents, it’s what worked for us, but this can be a guideline for them to read and maybe give them some ideas. And then it’s up to the parents, you know, you be your child’s hero, you know, you step in there and be that –that unconditional, consistent, fun loving, parent that is there for them, said Steve.

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