If more parents focused on character over performance, then we would not need signs like this.
I coach middle school cross country, which is not a glamorous job, but it is uniquely rewarding. For young distance runners, the hardest part is embracing the pain that creates stronger legs and faster times. I try to make practices and meets fun, but there is no way of getting around the fact that running really fast for 15-20 minutes is going to be painful, especially for growing little bodies.
Most of the kids who run cross country learn that without a healthy dose of pain every day they will not improve. No pain, no gain. Convincing kids of this is no easy task, but over time the sport tends to naturally reward those who fight through physical pain and emotional weakness.
When a young person develops some mental and physical toughness, they are growing up well. It’s incredibly rewarding to see the progress that these kids make over a season.
Some of my fellow coaches, Doug and Jennifer Meyer, use a fairy tale metaphor when explaining the need to persevere over a long distance. It also applies to many of life’s challenges that require stamina.
Parenting is a distance run, after all.
Somewhere in the middle of the race, there is a big bad wolf lurking around the corner. He will try to get you to slow down.
He sneaks up next to you and says things like, “Slow down. You’re hurting yourself. This is crazy. What’s the point of this? It’s not like you can win the race. You’re not very fast. Doesn’t this hurt? Just take it easy. No one will notice.”
The wolf doesn’t want you to work hard to achieve your goals. Continue reading “The Distance Run”
It takes more than a poster to motivate kids. Ask any schoolteacher. Early in their careers, young teachers will spend their own hard-earned cash on motivational posters for their classrooms, and soon thereafter they realize that those stylish platitudes are only good for the companies that sell motivational posters.
Motivating kids, especially teenagers, is a perilous endeavor. There is no easy way, and there is no formula. What works once may not work again. And it’s a fine line between motivating and discouraging.
Nevertheless, there are some principles that should help you be a better motivator without being a manipulator. Ready to strategize?
First Things First: What to Think About Before You Say Anything
- Remember back to when you were that age? Envision yourself, not as a littler adult, but as the actual you back then. Remember the one that made all sorts of mistakes and knew very little about anything? Remember that your child is not a little adult; he or she has a lot to learn, and that’s normal. Your job is to teach and train.
- Don’t compare your best days with your child’s worst days. Keep in mind that kids will have really bad days when they forget everything, feel lousy, and make all sorts of mental and physical mistakes. Give them those days. Consider the average days instead.
- Be honest, positively honest. Prepare to give some tough love in a positive way. Think about the great aspects of your child’s behavior and counterbalance all those good things in your mind before you confront your child. Have a positive attitude about your motivation from start to finish.
How to Confront for a Change Continue reading “Tips for Motivating Young Teens”
It’s likely that you are being a great parent even when you aren’t thinking about it. You may be doing a heck of a job of training your children without even trying to do so. Unaware, you can parent well. Unfortunately, that door swings both ways. You can be a terrible parent without thinking about it (most lousy parents never think about it).
Whether you are directly or indirectly parenting, it is perpetual. This is the good news and the bad news. You are a role model all day every day. It never ends. Even after your child has left the home and has a family of his or her own. Children will always look to their parents.
Parenting is tacit. Sometimes you are totally oblivious to the fact that you are parenting intensely. In fact, the most powerful moments as a parent are often when you least expect it. You are imprinting yourself — your values, your beliefs, your actions, your attitudes — deeply into the impressionable clay that is your growing child. And yet, it may not feel like you are molding anything. You are just living with your kids. You are tired. It’s just every day life. And yet, your child is soaking up everything you say and is reading your body language very carefully. Continue reading “Perpetual Parenting”
The car is where the best stories have a chance to run and really stretch out their legs freely. It’s where sarcasm bursts up out of nowhere and cracks everyone up. It’s where kids break into tears after a horrible day at school. It’s where questions are posed, debates develop, and problems get solved. The car is the setting of some of our very best moments in life.
It’s why Jerry Seinfeld’s website Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee is so good. Each episode begins with Jerry picking up another comedian and driving around in a car. It’s a little awkward at first, but very quickly the conversation gets cookin’. Continue reading “Kids in Cars Talking Life”
A friend recently posted on Facebook a picture of her three young children helping their dad build a deck. The seven year-old boy was using a power drill to sink a deck screw.
Another woman posts a picture of her two kids 6 feet high up in the branches of an old oak tree. One is climbing with a garden hose in her hand, while another is hanging upside down.
You’ve all seen pics on social media that make you think, “Isn’t that dangerous for a little kid? Is he old enough for that? Is that safe?”
Those are excellent questions for every parent to ask about every activity. We should always be concerned about the safety of our children, but the real question is in how you respond to those questions.
Do you always choose the safest option?
In my opinion, always erring on the side of safety is a mistake. It seems like the safest way to raise kids, but it’s not. Failing to give young kids experiences with dangerous things will only increase their chances of being hurt later in life.
You are never done parenting.
There is never enough time, energy, money, or wisdom to do it all right.
Parenting is incessant, and perfection is impossible.
No professor will give you an A for all that you did for your children this semester.
No counselor will tell you that you can now celebrate because you have accomplished all the objectives of parenting.
No PTA will give you an award for excellence.
However, you can try to keep it simple and just do your best one day at a time.
Keeping it simple, for me, looks like this.
If I am doing those three things moderately well today, then I am doing something truly great.
I am being a good parent.
I am not perfect, but I am doing something very good well.
Kids spend well over 40 HOURS per week in front of electronic screens, but less than 40 MINUTES per week in nature. Screens are ruling teens.
A major component of growing up is learning to deal with long waits and unexpected delays, yet nearly everything is now available in an instant. If we are going to prepare our kids for the best things in life, we need to teach them to wait and reward them for being patient. Kids need opportunities to practice patience that are followed by rewards for sticking with it to the end—whether it’s a 500-piece puzzle or a friendship with a neighbor that takes a long time to develop.
Once again, the push-button culture is working against kids. They are constantly given immediate, customized, positive feedback from their cell phones, iPods, video games, YouTube, and Facebook. These are places where they can hit pause, fast-forward, or reset any time they like with no consequences. But in real life, and especially in the natural world, there are no fast-forward or reset buttons. In order to experience a sunset, you have to watch for a while. A computer cannot simulate that experience.
The Need for Nature
Richard Louv, author of the best-selling book Last Child in the Woods, understands this problem more than anyone, and loves children enough to cry out for them, “Let the children play outdoors!” His books and lectures have inspired a national movement that wants to leave no child inside. He encourages all families to embrace the nature that is in their local community. “For children,” he writes, “nature comes in many forms. A pet that lives and dies; a worn path through the woods; a fort nested in stinging nettles—whatever shape nature takes, it offers each child an older, larger world separate from parents. Nature offers healing for a child.”1
Louv explains how our children’s generation is suffering from what he calls “nature deficit disorder,” a preventable ailment of the body, mind, and soul. Kids just don’t go outdoors anymore. Continue reading “Take Your Kids Outdoors”
Yes, parents need to keep kids mentally active and productive in the summer. Growing up well requires hard work and intellectual development year round.
However, parents also need to help kids enjoy life fully, and that absolutely requires fun — the sort of fun that is a little dangerous and a whole lot dirty, wet, and sweaty.
The best kind of play requires kids to focus every ounce of their mental, emotional, and physical energy into that activity, and it should not include a digital screen. Video games are fine, but that’s not the best sort of play. It should look something like this.
So, this summer, consider what your family can do that is outside-the-theme-park fun. What can you get your kids to do that is requires movement, creativity, mental focus, and courage. What fun activities require all the senses? Here are a few ideas.