Friday, December 08, 2006

"Mind, Body & Spirit" -> Train Up A Child

It is rather ironic that I basically played every sport under the sun actively as a child, and yet I don't do this any more.

As a matter of fact, how many adults do you see in soccer, baseball, volleyball, and track? There are some, but these sports certainly aren't the choice of older males and females.

Somehow, we think that by allowing our children to play these sports, they will become

a. Happier
b. More well adjusted
c. Smarter

However, I'm not sure if this happens at all. If you played football in high school, you have a tendency to simply sit on the couch and watch football. The sport of participation becomes the sport of watching.

We certainly don't walk around in the business world (except in a few strange companies) and say, "well he had an advantage growing up, his parents put him into football at an early age, therefore he is successful today."

I'm not sure that watching a bunch of football did anything for anybody.

Instead, why don't we prepare our kids in the way that they need to go once they pass the age of 21?

Am I saying that sports are bad? Absolutely not. I look around me, and there is an amazing lack of physical activity everywhere that I look. The solution to this is not "more adult football." The solution to this is more adult swimming, running and walking.

The fundamental issue with most of my peers is that they don't do any physical activity at all. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention do surveys every once in a while to determine how many people exercise.

Back in 2000, there survey said that 74% of Americans don't get the necessary exercise they need. This improved radically in 2003 to 55% of the population not getting enough exercise. How did this radical change happen? The CDC decided to widen their definition of what was acceptable exercise!

So take the range, somewhere between 74-55% of the population simply does not get enough exercise.

Would you assume that it is the "football, basketball and baseball kids" that are now well trained as adults?

I would say no, and believe that the scripture have the answer.

Proverbs 22:6 (New International Version)

6 Train [a] a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.

We are training our children to be dysfunctional.

Not that we are totally missing the boat. After all, we do require some training in things like math. However, it strikes me that we are missing vast chunks of the educational background, and our children are suffering for it.

What should we be training our children?

1. How to stay physically fit. What is the balance of weightlifting, to walking, to running that you'll need to do for the rest of your life.

2. How do you save for the future. How do you plan for retirement?

3. How do you work in teams? How do you persuade people? How do you make goals?

4. How do you play a musical instrument?

I can hear many people saying, "wait a minute, my child doesn't want to do that." Or perhaps they think that the child will pick it up naturally later on.

I think this is highly unlikely.

In the seminal paper by Ericcson on how true experts are made, it is clear that a willingness by the parent to train a child was paramount, regardless of "talent."

To quote the paper:

Many parents of precocious children were convinced of the great importance of very early systematic training and attribute the remarkable abilities of their children to the training and not to inherent talent.

If you read up on expert performance of musicians, you will find that many children were (shudder) FORCED to practice because they didn't want to practice naturally.

The net of all of this?

Children don't naturally want to do what is right for them. Often times we need to force them to do things that are good for their bodies. However, we see, given enough time and not "over forcing" them to do something, eventually they take the lessons from early childhood and turn it into something that will benefit them for a life time.

What is our responsibilities as parents and adults?

The process is very simply, and it has often been called the "WOW-NOW-HOW" model.

We need to come up with visions for our children of how they should be in the future. (The WOW.)

We need to bluntly access their state today. (The NOW.)

Then we need to assess the way to get there. (The HOW.)

I'll cover an example of this in a future post, but for now, start thinking of what you would like to have for your child in the future.

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