Archive for the 'Gymnastics and Cheer Business' Category

13
Jun
17

My addressing the graduating class of 2017.

Every year we get hit by “Graduation Season”. Kids leaving middle or high school and going on to college or, kids leaving college and stepping out into the big ol’ world. I have been to a few graduation ceremonies and I always think how encouraging it is to have such amazing speakers talking to these transitioning kids at the point where they are ready for their next chapter of life. One day”, I joke with my friends, some important school will call me to do the speech and they will give me a Honorary Degree, I’ll get to keep that weird floppy hat. But to-date no school has called so I have resigned to printing my speech here. Enjoy.

Congratulations on reaching a lifetime milestone. Your work from this point will not beJ Orkowski addresses class of 2017 harder or easier, just different, and likely more fun. In any case, always know that there are friends around you that will share the burdens and friends who will be there to help celebrate the victories. There is always someone who can guide you, advise you, and support you. Everyday and every way. Usually you call them Mom or Dad, but today I would like to be your adviser and offer you this advice.

As you move into this next phase of life there 10 quick but important bits of advice that will make your efforts easier if you understand them, or more difficult if you ignore them.

First ground rule: your life is made up of your own perceptions. How you choose to perceive the world is how the world is. If it seems like a constant battle, you have waged that war. If it seems like bliss, it is you that has calmed those raging seas. Your experience through life will be only as difficult as you want to make it. Choose to see things as controllable.

Next; life might seem to be broken and falling apart, but as a friend of mine says “Maybe life is falling together.” As I mentioned perception before, it is on you to see the world as under your control and direct the construction or destruction of all around you. You are stepping into a very powerful position because the future is dependent on what you make it. Trust that life will turn out as it is supposed to, it’s a process.

  1. Live your days enjoying the beauty and complexity of our world. Don’t waste your energy and time complaining about what could have, should have, or might have been. You have beautiful opportunities all around you, act on them, and live your adventure. Remember that only you can assign meaning to things. If they are important to you, care for them, nurture them and make them important to the world.

Next rule: you can handle more than you think that you are capable. People are asked how they made it through after suffering a mishap or set-back. And many reply that they just kept on living. Personal, financial, emotional, professional setbacks will happen and you will weather them and survive because you have strength that even you mom didn’t know you had.

  1. That being said; know that it is impossible to be angry and grateful at the same time. One cannot be appreciative and feel deep sorrow simultaneously. So look for things to be grateful for. Make it a habit to appreciate life as it happens for you.

Ground rule number 6: Be happy you are having problems. The only people who don’t have problems are the ones who don’t do anything. If you are having difficulties it is because you are living in forward motion. Your adventure will always have ups and downs. Appreciating the downs makes the ups just that more glorious.

  1. And again, know that your attitude should be based on how you want the world, how you want life, to be. Don’t set your attitude by what other have handed you. That only leads to being frustrated and unhappy. The way you grow from loss or defeat is to keep your attitude based on learning and progress. No one every grew from being stagnant and defeated.
  2. When other people feed you their opinions, allow them to feed your mind not starve your spirit. Learn from what people say, do, and feel. But speak your own words, think your own thoughts, and feel your own heart. You are what matters in your world to be sure, but know that giving of yourself will not only make your world a better place, but will change the life of so many others as well. Giving to others is an amazing feeling, selfishly set out to give yourself that joy as much as possible.
  3. Always do what is right by your own principles. Doing the right thing will give you strength and allow you to share your strength with others. Doing things, the easy way may make life smoother right now, but easy and right are often very different choices. Choose the long term right over the short-term simple.

And lastly, feel free to break a few rules, shoot the sacred cows, challenge traditions. The world needs new thinking, thinking from outside the box, from outside the comfort zone. Do not fear doing things differently. Everything that is done today was once thought surely insane years ago.

So there are 10 ground rules to move forward with healthy perspective and guarantee your own success:

  1. Choose to see life as controllable
  2. Trust that life will turn out as it’s supposed to, though it might need a few tweaks.
  3. If things are important to you, give them everything you have, love, nurture, and protect them with every part of your being.
  4. You can and will win at this game called life, even when you seem to be losing, remember that you have strength that even you mom didn’t know you had.
  5. Create the habit to appreciate life as it happens for you. Being appreciative allows us to enjoy every day.
  6. Problems just indicate that you are working your way to the top. People without problems are the ones happy to stay on the bottom.
  7. Keep your attitude positive. Other people can affect your life only as much as you allow them.
  8. Be advised by other people and things but think your own thoughts and be your own person. Develop a set of rules and principle that will never falter.
  9. Make decisions based on what is right for the longest time for the most people. Don’t decide to do it the easy way or the quickest way, that almost always turns out badly.
  10. And lastly, don’t be afraid to be different. The only people who have changed the world are the ones who refused to think like everyone else.

No go forth, go on to your next adventure, live you dream, build your world, and always remember that you will not adventure alone. Share your life with friends, family, and the world. Now show us all what you can do.

30
May
17

Being Reasonably Fit

Being fit as a trend or short term is not healthy, in fact it’s just the opposite. We have to know the reason we maintain a healthy lifestyle. We should be able to have healthy pursuits in a way that our happiness is not impeded. This is exactly why “getting healthy” as a new year’s resolution never works; we obsessively push ourselves to be unhappy out of guilt and shame until we just give up and validate our poor self-image. Sounds odd for me to say, but sometimes chasing a healthy lifestyle is not what people need.

To clarify, it’s the chasing, the never satisfied, pursuit of being fit that is the problem. Fitness, like all things, needs to be balanced with being happy and living a satisfied life.

I try to stay healthy. I run a few days a week and as a former competitive athlete I sign up for a few races each season, just to add meaning to my exercise. But there are some people who go too far. Training 7 days a week, obsession with calorie free, carb free, flavor free food (that always seem to be posted in food photos online) that seems to add salt to the wound, but not really because the diet is also salt free. Geesh.

The right motivation

landscape-1445011678-rbk100115fitbitessay-002I have a friend that posts every run on social media. I always felt that social media was great for staying in touch with friends you don’t see every day, but having to review the training plan for old college pals seems weird. I’ll see him face to face in the future and we’ll talk, he’ll say, I saw what you’ve been up to online, and I’ll say, I see you can do an 8-minute mile. Perfect, all caught up. I often wonder if he, or countless others would continue working out if they couldn’t post a “Look-at-me” on Facebook. I feel that it’s like the gymnasts I train doing the sport just to hear applause at meets. The focus in fitness needs to be the same as the focus in the gym; pushing your own potential and maintaining a healthy and highly functional body.

Information vs. Obsession

I have been around label readers, calorie counters, sodium intake monitors, and fat analyzers before and I believe that sometimes it is valuable and necessary to compare products to make good decisions. I commend people, like my wife, who take the time to look and read before deciding. Our FDA has done a good job of requiring the labeling of ingredients and nutrition information on products even though most people don’t read it. However, though I commend those people who do make decisions based on that information, I also believe that, for some, it can go too far. Reading everything on the label, only choosing based off a particular quality often leaves out an important factor…. taste. I have long been a follower of the middle path, leaning toward neither extreme. Though I look at labels when comparing types of butter, I won’t avoid butter because it’s “unhealthy”. It’s also delicious and though I don’t slather it on everything-Paula Dean style- I do occasionally like to cook with it.  Choices.

There is more to life than working out

I’ve been around people who only seem to have conversations about their workouts and I can tell you, it’s boring. I’m even in the workout business, and I find it boring. There is so much that people can share that make conversations enjoyable, why stick to only one topic. It’s likely due to one of 2 reasons. Option 1; they are obsessed. Every waking thought is a delusional fear about how they will die instantly if they do not push maximal training, run faster and further, lift more weight and more times, take another boot camp or spin class, and even eliminate anything enjoyable from their diet. That type of obsession is not only potentially harmful but often really tedious to your friends who just wanted to order a pizza and watch a movie.

Option 2: they are insecure about their body or their training and they want you to validate that they are OK or that they look good. I make it a point to never comment on either thing. The closest they get from me is “Well, how are you feeling?”

Walking the walk

If we want to help other people feel healthy, and don’t get me wrong, that is one of my industry’s driving forces, then we need to lead by example. We need to walk the walk of the talk we talk. Being obsessed or shoving diet choices down other people’s throats will cause them to rear back from health rather than embracing it. Not to mention it makes our lives less enjoyable to be unable to occasionally have a treat without guilt. Your body doesn’t implode if you have a cheat day, or even a cheat week. If you have clear and precise thoughts on what is healthy and what is not, then your diet can be made on choices and smart thinking not binge, purge, and self-hatred. Diets in moderation allow a healthy lifestyle and an enjoyable life.

If you can discern between staying fit and obsessively working out, then you will not only feel and look great but others will see you as the result of healthy pursuits rather than the poster child for crazy obsessive fitness.

24
May
17

Lessons from a ghostly guide

This year the team traveled to New Orleans for the Jazz Invite. It was a great meet, and a lot of fun. But one of the highlights for me was the “Ghost Tour” we took through downtown New Orleans. I went with a few team girls, their parents, and some strangers on a walking tour of the French Quarter and areas outside the Quarter.

Our guide was a long haired, trench coat wearing Cajun. He spoke English but would occasionally spout out a word in French/Creole and then admonish us with a look of disdain for not understanding . As we walked he spoke of the city’s rich history from slave trading to torture, from heroic battles to voodoo rituals. It was creepy, at times, but even more, it was fascinating. As he spoke he would beg us to understand “his city” and it’s growing pains. He would stare into the eyes of one of the group as he spoke, and underline his comments with “Do you see?”  He was weird and creepy, but we were so

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Here I am, freaked out,  in the seance room of a ghostly hotel.

engaged all through the tour that the time seemed to pass too soon.  In fact, the next day (during some free time) I went back to a few of the sites on my own, in the safe light of day, to see more of the historic area. But my favorite part was that night, when the tour was over, about 11 pm. The group dispersed. All but the Gymfinity portion of the tour had gone on to experience the nightlife of the Quarter. Our guide stayed and answered questions and followed up with us until it was just too late to be out. His responses covered architecture, history, and of course, the paranormal. But as we reached the end of the night, he made one more comment to our girls. I, for one, felt that his closure was worth the full price of admission.

He told the girls that they needed to understand that each one of them was their Great Great GrandMama’s dream. Those women, from so many generations ago, dreamed of a day when their offspring would be allowed the strength and freedom to become the people that they wanted to be. A world, or a time, when those future girls could live out their lives however they wished. He explained that today’s generation of young women have more opportunities than any generation that went before them, and he wanted to be sure that their for-bearers efforts were not delivered in vane.

He asked them if they were good in school? He told them that their ancestors would be ashamed of them if they didn’t use the tools they are given to make their lives extraordinary. The past generations could only imagine, in their wildest dreams, the day when a young woman would be allowed to challenge the world unfettered and unencumbered by the belief that she was incapable simply because of her gender. He stared into their eyes and asked if they saw that these old women worked, sweat, and bled for these girl’s ability to live that once only dreamed of life. He asked them if they wanted to make their Great Great GrandMama’s dreams come true. If they wanted to make those long-gone women proud of them. He wanted to know if they thought that what they were doing would allow those generations to feel that their own lives were validated. He explained that by living the embodiment of their grand-generation’s dreams that they would allow those spirits to rest. Were they willing to live their lives in a way that would allow that?

I had 5 team girls there, from age 10 to 17, and each one stood with their jaws clenched, their arms tight, and their spine strong and tall. Their posture answered his questions; Yes, they saw it. They knew that their lives, like all of us, are the embodiment of our ancestors dreams.

What a beautiful message to these young women and what a great end to the night, and some of the best ghost stories I have ever heard. That wild, weird, trench coat wearing Cajun, hit a nerve with each of us. My girls went home knowing that they had dreams to live up to, and not only their own. Powerful.

I love when life places people, in unexpected places, to teach us lessons. Page back through these posts to read about the time I got a dose of reality from meeting Picasso in, of all places, San Jose California. (page down from here). https://gymfinity.wordpress.com/page/10/

02
May
17

Advice to the new Gymfinity parent

Way back many years ago, when the world found out that Steph and I were expecting our first baby, people stepped up to advise us. People who had kids and had already done the baby thing made themselves available for Steph and I who were feeling pretty anxious about being parents.  “Sleep when they sleep, sometimes let them cry, don’t give him potato chips…..J”, and other nuggets of advice really helped us out.  In that spirit, I wanted to offer some advice to parents that might be considering joining the program at Gymfinity.  I am a parent, and I get the parenting concerns. My kids have been in our program and in other sports too, I have seen the best and the worst of kids activity options. I am a coach too, I have answered many questions and concerns over the years, so I feel particularly qualified to offer a few “remembers” to you here. So here are 10 things you should know about your time at  Gymfinity.

  1. Remember that coaches are people too.

We work for you and we have goals and aspirations for your kids just like you do. We have knowledge of skill and a basic understanding of child psychology, but we are human. There will be times when we say something that may be misconstrued, but we are not mean people. We might forget to return a call, that doesn’t mean we don’t like you or your child. We might ask your child to work hard, that doesn’t mean we don’t understand that they are human too and sometimes get frustrated or tired.

  1. Remember that this is for your child’s development

Our program naturally provides skill and confidence, but we also have the goal of teaching kids to think. Analytically, like why do I lose balance when I wave my arms? Critically, like I know that I can do it but I want a mat under the beam too. And independently, like asking for consideration like a mat or permission to try a new and different skill. We want them to be able to not only do gymnastics but to understand gymnastics and how to think things through. Gymnastics is a great vehicle for understanding many broader concepts outside the skills they are taught.

  1. Remember that coaches very rarely bite

We know that some kids are shy, but we need them to communicate with us and share their fears, goals, and concerns. When we better understand your child, we can better serve them. Shy works for a 6-year-old, on an 8-year-old it can be tolerable, but after that we need kids to speak up for themselves. This is a goal for us, to have every child in our program be able to speak their mind.

  1. Remember that we really do like your kid

There will sometimes be occasions when we tell your child that they are doing something wrong. There will be times when they may be corrected and they feel like we picking on them when we make corrections. We are not. Once we get to know a kid we generally like them, that’s why we are in this business. Our job is to be critical and to make corrections, sometimes it may make your child feel deflated. Through correcting and applied effort, together, we will get your child to feel great about their outcome. It may take a while, and it will require patience on all sides.

  1. Remember that we are striving to surpass your expectations

Our staff is background checked, safety trained, and under constant supervision. Every one of us has a required amount of continuing training credits that we must fulfill each year to stay on staff. We travel to seminars, clinics, and conventions to learn to be the best we can. We bring in national and international trainers in our industry to teach us to be better teachers. We will never stop trying to be better than we are right now, but if we don’t live up to our reputation or your expectations we will gladly help you pack and move to another program.

  1. Remember that Gymnastics is not the world.

It’s close, but c’mon. In the end, it’s a game. It’s a sport that you play for as long as you can and you hope it leads to good things while having an amazing time. If your child struggles with a skill, or they have a rough performance it does not diminish their effort. The game has ups and downs, like life, and sometimes it makes us smile, sometimes it makes us cry. These are both OK. Don’t value your child on how well they compare to anyone else, nobody is like your child. They are wonderful, warts and all. Just know that they may be great at this. They may not.

  1. Remember that Gymnastics can be the world.

When your child is in a sport like gymnastics, it can feel like it’s everything to them. Some of our kids go on to do college gymnastics and some become coaches too. When I was a young gymnast it was how I identified myself. It was why I didn’t party in school. It was why I did my homework. It was what I wanted to do my whole life. If my mom would have told me when I was younger that it was not important, I think I would have been crushed, or in the least, resented her for saying it. Should they choose this sport, let them love it.

  1. Remember that you hired us to do this.

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    We’re here to help

You hired us to provide your child with something. Some want their kids to develop confidence, some want their kids to be more coordinated, some want their kids to make friends in a positive place with good fun and fit objectives. Let us do that for you. This is what we know. We’ve been in this business for many years (I started coaching before some of the parents that bring their kids here were born). You came in, saw the program, met us and tried us on. Be sure you let us do what you expected us to do. Sometimes it’s hard to let go, but trust us. It will be worth it.

  1. Yes, we know your child is special.

Every child has the right to feel special. But when we have a group of children in a class, we try to make every child feel loved and appreciated. No one is entitled to be special-er than anyone else. Part of the process of growing up is sometimes taking a backseat to someone else on occasion. Everyone will get their turn in the front seat. It’s OK. Re-read number 4.

  1. Remember that even honeymoons end.

When a child starts a new program, they usually have a great time for the first few weeks running on the novelty alone. The gym is great, the teacher is awesome, the class is their favorite thing ever! But then the novelty wears off. It’s still a great class but they may not seem as excited. This is pretty typical. There are stages to their involvement, the first is the honeymoon, and everything is amazing. The second can be a slow down, motivation is lessened and they seem to have lost a little interest. Kids may seem to lose some of the passion when they are getting ready to come to class, but they do fine once they’re here. This is a time when your encouragement and support is needed to deliver a little bump to get to Stage 3. The third phase is a renewed interest and an acceptance that this is THEIR class and they are now a part of a bigger program. They feel at home and their renewed efforts start to produce skills and smiles. It’s phases one and three when they are doing cartwheels all over the house. The only time cartwheels stop is phase 2 and when they leave for college (sometimes not even then).

It’s often a new experience and it takes some getting used to. But thankfully there are veterans around who can offer advice and guidance on this journey. Many of the parents of kids in your child’s class started out with questions too, it’s OK to talk to them. And, as always, feel free to ask us, we are always available for you.

18
Apr
17

How we do things here.

A few weeks ago I was having a discussion with my team kids. We do a Word of the Week that focuses on character and motivation and the word was “Role Model”. I explained that it wasn’t the words that were important, it was the concept. The concept that, good or bad, other people are observing us and we are showing them what WE are like. I explained to the girls about a study that was done involving monkeys and I actually wrote about it in a prior post about 5 years ago. Here is a clip from that post:

The first is a study of monkeys placed in a cage with a set of stairs. If any monkey stepped on the top stair the entire floor surface was given an electrical shock (minor, but uncomfortable). The monkeys started to think communally and punish any other monkey who attempted to climb the stairs, even if they did not reach the top. The offending chimp was pulled to the ground and physically punished.  When some of the chimps were replaced, the remaining monkeys were quick to “teach” the new inmates about the repercussions of the top stair. Over time the trigger was deactivated. Still no one was allowed to reach the top step. When all of the original monkeys were rotated out, the beatings still continued because the remaining monkeys, who had learned the lesson from other monkeys though never experienced the shock personally, felt compelled to teach the new simians.

The study demonstrates that culture begets culture. It shows how we have no problem teaching the new kids, or new monkeys for that matter, that this is how we do things here.

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Level 8’s, February 2017, New Orleans Jazz Invite.

I explained to the team how we present ourselves matters very much. When younger kids in classes look to the top-level kids; they are evaluating how it looks to be a team member, a high level, or even how to be a teenager. I asked them how many times they said hello to a class kid, or how many times they watched a younger gymnast and commented on their effort or their skill. I explained how much impact it would have on a little gymnast to be recognized for trying, by someone like them. I asked them if they knew how many kids ask us if, in our pro shop, they can get leotards like “the big girls” wear. What would it mean to compliment an up-and-comer on their new leo? I asked them if they remembered when they would play gymnastics at home and they got to be a team girl for a day. They remembered because it wasn’t that long ago that their role models were on the team, and they were just starting out. It was only a few years back when they dreamed of being in This group.

We talked about what they show the other kids in the gym when they have a tantrum, or when they cry because the training is sometimes hard. Is this how we do things here? And we talked about how they joke with, and support each other as team mates, how they cheer when one gets a new skill, or how they get loud when pumping up a team mate to “go for it”. Is that how we do things here?

The gist of the conversation is that everyone is being watched and evaluated every minute. Every one of them is teaching new generations how to behave and what to expect as they progress. Every one of them is showing our parents in the lobby that this is the program that they have their kids in, good or bad.

Now, I can honestly say that I have never been more proud of our team. They get it. They know they are evaluated by class kids, parents, and young team kids too. They represent themselves, their families, their team, and their gym with pride. They are not only great gymnasts but they show everyone that they are great people as well. After all, that is how we do things here.

07
Mar
17

Shamrocks are not lucky (for your diet)

 A while ago, my team kids asked me if I had a Shamrock Shake yet this year. I explained that I read that the shakes at that establishment contain a chemical that is also found in leather softener and so, I don’t think I’ll be indulging in a minty green shake this year, unless I make it.  ( not to mention that many shake recipes contain a chemical called  Castoreum provides added sweetness, but it comes from the anal gland of a beaver. No kidding)

I wasn’t wrong. Much of the food at fast food establishments is laced with the least likely (and least explicable) of ingredients. But so are many other foods we frequently consume.

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McDonalds fries vs KFC fries after 3 years.

Did you know that a fast food burger will remain unchanged for approximately 14 years if left uneaten? There is such a low content of water and natural ingredients that the “real beef” burger doesn’t even spoil.  Oddly enough the French Fries at most fast food establishments are also resistant to age. They usually rot out in about 3 years, but you have to ask; if bacteria won’t eat away this “food” why would I?

Did you know that due to the high levels of High Fructose Corn Syrup the soda we drink at fast food places will damage our stomach walls, debilitate our vital organs, and strip our teeth of enamel? In fact it may be safer you nuzzle up to and eat straight an entire bowl of sugar rather than suffer the consequences of the substitute. HFCS also keeps us from quenching a thirst, that’s why we can finish off that “Thirsty-Two” ounce pop and still be…. Well… thirsty.  But it does satisfy our consumer bone. We feel that there is value in being able to refill a drink for free, when in truth, that might be the worst thing you can do.

And don’t get me started on the dispensers. Most places that have “serve yourself” dispensers have been found to have trace levels of fecal e.coli evident on their surfaces. That means that most places have nozzles touched by people who don’t clean their hands after using the toilet. Mmmm. Still thirsty?

Did you know that breakfast is just as bad as a shake? We have, in the past, often traveled to meets and had to resort to a quick grab and go breakfast at a fast food stop. But we hardly will ever do that again since we found that most places substitute eggs with something called Premium Egg Blend, a chemical mixture that has many of the same ingredients as my soap and shower gel, namely glycerin. Though eating glycerin won’t kill me, it’s good to know that if I’m really late, I can eat half my breakfast and shave with the other half.

Did you know that when you eat beef from a fast food place, or even a large chain family dining restaurant, that you are likely filling up on ground up bits of over 100 different cows? Usually the less choice cuts are ground and combined with fat and chemicals, then shaped into patties and sent off.  I have had friends tell me that they would rather eat at this fast food place than that place because at least this place uses “real” beef. It may be real, but it’s not any more appealing when you know the process.

Did you know that in Wisconsin, we have access to real cheese? Unfortunately, you won’t find it on you McBurger or Whopper. Fast food cheese is less than half dairy product and mostly oil, chemical and preservative. I recently went to visit a gymnast that graduated into college and we went to eat. When my food came out I looked at the cheese and asked “what is that?” We here are pretty spoiled by having access to real cheese, when the rest of the country has to eat that mystery orange square they call cheese. But don’t be fooled, it’s still mystery square at the corner fast food place.

Did you know that we are tricked into eating sand when we order spicy fast food? It’s true, most fast food chili’s or Tex-Mex menus use and ingredient called silicon dioxide in their recipes. It makes the taco or chicken nugget taste a little peppery and manufacturers don’t have to use as much real food, higher cost, ingredients. Now, I’ve gotten sand in my mouth before, but never once did I think “mmm. Chalupa!”

Ok, I’m grossing myself out, and probably you too. So here are a few more remaining thoughts to leave you with:

Did you know that most fast food chicken nuggets are not chicken but comprised of fats, bone, nerves and “additional tissue”.

Did you know that fast food salads are usually laced with saturated fats and high levels of sodium. The intention is not to offer a healthy option, it’s to make to thirsty enough to order the free-refill-extra-large soda.”

Did you know that much of fast food is laced with coloring and dyes that have been shown to change behavior in children. Kids frequently exposed to these chemical colors often become irritable, hyperactive, and bad-tempered.

Did you know that the caloric intake from one small meal provides us the equivalent of what we would burn on a 4 hour hike. So to maintain a healthy balance or intake and output, remember to allow for 4 hours of activity following the consumption of a small burger, small fries, and a small pop.

Did you know that honestly, I have been no stranger to the ordering queue at fast food places. I grew up on McDonalds, Burger King, Arby’s, and others. But as I grew and became educated I have made more informed decisions. I am a firm believer in the philosophy of moderation. I don’t eat fast food 6 times a week anymore, maybe once every other week. But I stay away from the pop, the chicken nuggets, and the shakes.

So, no on the shamrock shake this year. But I did find this yummy, healthy, natural substitute that I made at home. I plan on bringing it to the team and fooling them into loving spinach shakes. If you are interested in the outcome of my switcheroo, comment below.

21
Nov
16

Gratitude is in the Attitude

Recently, my wife and I had this discussion:

  • Why does our son seem so ungrateful, he thinks he is so much more important than anyone around him?
  • Other people tell, us how wonderful he is but we don’t have the privilege of seeing that behavior at home
  • Where did we go wrong, I feel like I have failed because I did not teach him gratitude, and that makes me sad?
  • Do you think he realizes that Mom cooked this food for him?
  • Do you think he appreciates that we both work to be able to provide this food?
  • I wonder if it is possible to offer him opportunities that may help him discover that the world awaits his service, not the other way around

imagesWe had the discussion at the table, and right there, sitting and pouting because he was required to eat more vegetables than bread, was our son.

It got me thinking about this season, and how we can all do a better job of teaching gratitude for our plentiful lives before, during, and after Thanksgiving. Research has shown us that raising kids to appreciate all that is done for them can provide real benefits including greater life satisfaction, better performance in school, more adept at making lifetime direction choices, and even enhanced self-esteem, (which millennial parents believe is an entitlement).  In fact, a study conducted by Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, Davis, reveals that cultivating gratitude can increase happiness levels by around 25 percent. Other studies have shown that kids who practice grateful thinking have more positive attitudes toward school and family.

So what can a parent do that might impart this lesson? Here are a few ideas.

  • It seems so simple, but if, each day, we actually say out loud, something that we are grateful for: “I’m so glad the weather has been nice for so long”, “I really appreciate those guys working on the highway-the road will be nice when they are finished”, etc. We set an expectation for our kids to notice things too.
  • Don’t be sucked in by Black Friday, Buy Local Saturday, and Cyber Monday: Of course we want to give our kids everything they want, but when we do they often lose where it came from. It becomes about acquisition and not about function, fun, or appreciation.
  • Allow them to earn their wants: They will want more toys, more candy, more of something. Give them the opportunity to share the responsibility for attaining it. Maybe through chores, maybe through saving allowance, they can help out. If they can share in that they will feel it is more earned, more valuable, and more important. Keep an eye on their screens too. At this time of year everyone is telling them that they NEED more toys, candy and stuff. A young mind often cannot understand the avalanche of marketing and can become depressed or overwhelmed by the “holiday spirit.”
  • Give them an assignment; have them hand write a note to someone whom has been nice to them, helped them, or in other way made their life happier. Have them spell it out, why are they grateful? In fact make it an annual tradition. Having been a teacher and a coach, I cannot tell you how much it impacts us when a student or athlete says thanks. Give that gift this year, don’t do it in conjunction with a “gift for teacher” mentality, it’s not a holiday thing, it’s a “for-no-other-reason-than-I appreciate-you” reason.
  • We have heard about how valuable the lesson is when our children have the opportunity to help a person in need; and I would never suggest that we do not do that. But what about helping out someone who doesn’t need help? What can be gained by helping a neighbor rake leaves, load a truck, shovel snow? It feels good to have someone say “thank you” when you know you didn’t have to do it, you just wanted to.
  • Demand politeness and respect; I cringe every time I see someone’s child ungratefully receive a good deed. A door being held, a sneeze in public, or a person having to side step the child in the aisle at Target should be answered with a “thank you”, a “bless you” or an “excuse me.” I insist that my children carry out these all-to-uncommon niceties. One time I had my son go to the next aisle to apologize to the person that had to dodge his silliness in the toy department. I feel that strongly about it.
  • I used to play with my children (still do) when they complained about something. “I hate these shoes” was answered with “How do you think that makes the shoes feel?” It usually, at least, starts a conversation to get to the bottom of the statement the child made, but I always believed that looking at things from both sides would lead to empathy and as a child I believed that all my toys had feelings, (I’m not sure I was wrong).

So, this year I have set a goal to have my children adopt an attitude of greater gratitude. How about this, let’s not tell the kids. How about all of us parents secretly plan on doing this together? Wow, imagine what we could do.




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