Posts Tagged ‘Children’s Activity

21
Mar
17

So, you coach girls. Why?

 

Small talk at a party: “So you coach gymnastics. Boys or girls? Why?” I’ve been asked this about a hundred times, and everyone is surprised when I say “girls.” I think most people just think that a guy coaches boys and a woman will coach girls.  Not true.

So why do I  coach girls? I’ve tried coaching boys; it didn’t go well. I found that I spent more time watching wrestling and saying things like “I can wait until you are ready to listen….” Than I did actually coaching. It takes a special kind of a person to coach boys. I am not that special.

My standard answer when people ask “why girls” is that “girls listen better, pay attention more, and are usually smarter”. Then the universe graced me with two sons. So, I can’t use the “smarter” quip anymore, but the rest was pretty true.

I started thinking about why the difference was seemingly such a no-brainer to me but so hard to explain to others. As usual I ran the self-conversation during a long car trip and made frequent stops to jot notes. Then I did a little organizing research. Here’s what I came up with:

I was raised by my mom. I had a lot of respect for her and I aspire to be a parent like she was. She was confident, decisive, and strong. I realized that many of the girls that I coach have those attributes but often they don’t know it. So, on one hand, I think I want to help them develop those skills. Boys, it seems, are naturally confident, usually decisive (not right or wrong but decisive) and they usually show strength at an earlier age.  But why?

The best I can determine is that in terms of evolution males have always been more independent, had to show strength, and provide for the smaller weaker gender. Females were dependent, had to rely on the protectors and providers for survival, but today those traditional gender roles and attributes are in gray areas as women have become more independent and strong. when it comes to society we are slow to accept this and often the discrimination of our beliefs is unfounded. A big boat is slow to turn around, and this belief that woman are the weaker sex is a big boat of old fashioned thinking.

Developmentally, there is some science to this as well. As fetuses develop, female brains are bathed in estrogen as early as 8 weeks after conception and the hormone bath develops brain areas that will be suited to language, communication, and emotion. While male babies are flooded with testosterone, which develops areas of the brain that focus on aggression and more base needs. As children grow, society reinforces this with subtle prejudicial statements like “she’s so girly” meaning dainty and innocent, and “boys will be boys” which means boys will be rough, uncontrollable and dangerous.

Society tells girls that they need to make the tribe happy, provide harmony, and develop relationships. Meanwhile boys are taught to stand up for themselves, be assertive and challenge the world.

How gymnastics plays a part in development

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One of many reasons I am proud to coach girls, here’s me with Bri Slonim. 

Because females traditionally have been protected from risk they have not had the benefit of learning from their failures. I believe that this is where sports, particularly gymnastics, has a great developmental benefit. I think that girls can be shown that they can approach perfection, seek to surpass their own perceived potential, and encouraged to take risks. I believe that in so doing, children (not just girls) are given an opportunity to assess their efforts, learn from their skinned knees, and get back to their feet, try again, and grow stronger. Nothing is better than gymnastics at showing you that you did not do your homework. Our sport will let you know when you don’t work hard enough, and it will let you know in no-uncertain terms.

My mother, by virtue of divorce and strict Hungarian parents she had to learn that if she wanted something, she had to work for it. She never took breaks, and when she had 3 sons she knew she had to teach us those very lessons and values. I think that as a pre-parent younger coach starting in the industry,  I felt a strong sense of mission to share that lesson with children growing up. I think I gravitated toward coaching girls because they seemed more eager to learn from me. Boys, at least by the impression they try to give off, already knew everything.

Now I have sons and I get to see behind the veil of masculinity that though boys may show bravado, inside they are still pretty insecure and squishy. I think that too is evolutionary. I know that if I had to coach boys again,  I would see it from a different perspective. I have learned that boys tend to overestimate their skills, while girls tend to underestimate themselves. I have always fought for the underdog, and maybe it’s the “Yes, you can do it”-ness of coaching girls that fulfills me.

I have written before about confidence and how we can help children develop it. I feel as strongly about independence and being self-secure*

Sports show us there are winners and learners and that we will not always be on the top of the podium at every meet. I cannot stand the meets and games that handout awards to every child. It doesn’t allow a child to assess any plan for success. It doesn’t validate their real effort, and it doesn’t imitate life at all.

So, I like coaching girls. I think I understand why, maybe I can’t explain it in a short 3o second chat, but I know that I can help make a difference. I believe that I should help to turn the boat and do my share to help the world see that women are just as strong, just as smart, just as assertive, just as capable, and just as good and anyone could ever ask. I think I owe that to my mom, who truly showed it to me.

 

 

*I hate the term “self-esteem” because it’s such a cliche. It has come to mean an entitled attitude of loving one’s self and feeling good. I use the term “self-secure” on purpose because it indicates a feeling of, though sometimes we may get frustrated with ourselves in action and habit, that we are comfortable knowing that we are good and functional in a positive way. It think it’s a healthy perspective on our self-image as opposed to a glossy “everything about me is great” feeling, that is a lie, at best.

 

 

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
Feb
17

Training Confident Kids (Part 2)

In the last post we covered how people can gain confidence by pushing the envelope of what is comfortable and what is a little out of the comfort box. Doing this frequently allows us to see things that would normally throw us into a fit of panic as only moderately stressful, and things that were stressful before are now simply acceptable.

That exposure to things outside our comfortable little world is a Macro plan. It’s a big idea, it’s something that we do that effects everything we do, everything we are and everything we think. It’s easy to sit back and say “I can do that pretty easily” but in fact the practice is effectively pushing, in small ways, everything we do. That’s not so easy. It’s a very large undertaking and requires a complete paradigm shift, a new way to see stress: as an acceptable challenge.

But there are other tactics coaches and parents can take to instill more confidence in our kids and athletes.

1: Allow children to intelligently and safely define their comfort box and it’s boundaries.

Explain to your children how and why things are done the way they are. This allows them to accept or deny the challenge. If I explain to a gymnast that the upcoming meet will require skills on the high beam, and the calendar allows this week to be on a floor height beam if next week goes to a medium height and up again the following week. If I explain that the skills and drills they’ve been doing apply to the new skill, and I give them the choice to decide in which level they will train today. They can evaluate the supporting reasons and make an appropriate decision.

It’s important to allow them in on some of the decision making because kids want to feel, a least a little, in control of their outcomes. When the progressions turn out to lead to success they are reinforced at making good choices and creating the successful outcome. This reinforces their confidence, not only in themselves but in the coach and the coaching process.

  1. Skinned knees are Okay

If, in the above scenario, the athlete decides to take an easier path, one that doesn’t step outside the comfort box too far; you have to be accepting of their error.  When the athlete, or anyone, experiences failure based on their own decisions it still reinforces the process and even fortifies the other un-chosen options that were available to the athlete. When they are not ready for the competition on the high beam, they (in conjunction with you, the coach) should reconsider the plan they made. Make amendments. And try again. At Gymfinity we have a saying; “Sometimes you win, and sometimes you learn.” Failure can be a powerful teacher.  Note: it’s imperative that we, when processing the re-evaluation of the plan, do not take away their power to make a new plan. We can offer advice, or personal anecdotes of when we faced similar issues, but we should not make the plan for them.

  1. Reading is fundamental

Every child was a winnerYou have to know what it looks like when your kids are pushing the envelope to a little discomfort and stretching the acceptable levels of stress. You also have to know the symptoms of when your kids are over their head.

Every kid is different. Some will be enjoying the thrill of pushing boundaries, others will appear nervous and tenuous. Just like watching people return from a rollercoaster ride; some are smiling and excited, some are tearful and look like they are done for the day.

In any case, you as the coach or parent, need to be sure the child knows that they are allowed to experience the exhilaration of being out of the box, but that you are there for when they are done playing. They should feel that they are free of judgement and criticism, until they feel more competent. In addition, for the times when they are  over their heads, they should still be aware that you are there as their safe harbor.

  1. Everything is a work in progress

Experiences should be created for every child to dabble outside their own comfort area. Occasionally throwing in a challenge keeps kids forward focused. It also allows them to check their progress on their own confidence. If, in the beam scenario above, I explain to the child that next week we will be on the medium beam for the new skill, then I unexpectedly put a stack of mats under a high beam to create an equal in height to a medium beam, I can challenge the gymnast to up the discomfort while still being within the plans of gradual growth. She may balk or she may accept the challenge. Balking means that she is still pretty firmly placed in her discomfort zone. Whereas trying the challenge means she is ready to progress.

  1. They’re looking at us

Our kids are always looking at us to see how a “real adult” handles the things they encounter in their day. We can actually allow the kids to hear us self-talk as we evaluate potential outcomes, the possibility of success or failure, repercussions of each, and the development of a plan of action. Again, what we show kids is what they learn.

In addition, we need to reinforce their efforts regardless of outcomes. A “nice try” or “good effort” goes a long way. I find myself frequently saying (following a failed attempt) “I see what you were trying to do, and I like that”.

Having a good plan and knowing things you can do to help a child is only part of the process. You will also need to know how to process the results of trips to the discomfort zone, and do so consistently. Questions I usually ask are: What did you learn? And what would have made that easier? Come up with questions that you can use to help them talk about and own their new found confidence.

Coaching, like parenting, is a paradox of urging children to dare risky things and the fear that they may not be successful. We also have to encourage risk while simultaneously being afraid that they may be totally safe. It’s often a fine line to balance upon.

I have stepped over my kids before to tell them what to do, I have pushed my agenda for growth without consulting the athlete, and I have also done it right several times as well. This is all very natural. Just like our kids we have failures too, and hopefully we learn from them. Yet if we do it right, we can develop confidence in our kids so they will be able to attempt and fail, many times if needed.

We will develop kids who can confidently make decisions about how to proceed in skill development, performance, maintenance, and growth.

Our kids will be powerful in mental, emotional and cognitive strength as well as being physically strong.

And best of all, our kids will not feel shame in failure because they will know that it is a means to an end. In so doing, they will never be afraid to try.

07
Feb
17

Training Confident Kids (part 1)

I had some people ask me questions regarding a past post discussing motivation and it’s relation to confidence.  Here is the first of a 2 part post on Confidence and how we get kids to be more confident.

As coaches, we always want the best for our athletes. We train them physically to be strong, flexible and powerful. We train them cognitively to know the skills, routines, and rules. And we train them emotionally to be strong, brave, and confident. Or do we?

For our discussion lets explain confidence in relation to our comfort level in doing things. Our comfort levels are depicted by a box. Within the box we have everything that we are comfortable with, things we do easily, people we know, experiences that range from typical to mundane. Right outside the box are new and different things.  Experiences that put us on edge, make us a little uncomfortable, new places, people, and things. Far away from the box are the things we are very unsure of; things we feel very uncomfortable with, things that make us stressed or nervous.

Confidence is developed by knowing we can perform or interact with the world in a way that is comfortable to us. Things we do that are within our comfort box can be done confidently and things outside might be done with less confidence.

While the majority of our lives occur within our comfort box, it’s only when we reach outside the walls of the box  that we can truly grow and learn. Our comfortable box is where we wish everything to be, but sadly, that is not reality. In the box, we often operate by rote memory, we do our routines and our day to day existence just seems to happen. Chicken or egg? Are we comfortable in that “box” because we do things there easily, or are things easy because we have the confidence to do them? The answer is both.

I remember as a young baseball player, I played 3rd base, shortstop, second base, and catcher. Our coaches rotated us, what seemed at times to be, randomly. It’s likely that they were trying to find our ideal position, the place where we were comfortable playing and where we would be the most effective for the team. But what it also did was allow us to “try” other positions; positions outside of our comfortable little boxes. This was imperative for expanding our proverbial comfort zone as players and as kids.

We are always being advised to “step outside the comfort zone”, or “think outside the box”. When we are confronted with occasional challenges, it allows us to expand our acceptable “zone” or, put another way, our “box” gets bigger and more of the world outside comes within.

When we are no longer afraid of stepping outside the comfort zone, we find that the space within, where we feel in control, becomes bigger. When our coaches moved us around, often unexpectedly, we found that we became a more confident team. I know personally that I gained a lot of confidence because I knew I could handle more than I originally had thought.

For another example, let’s take a gymnast learning a new skill. At first the skill is new and requires focus and a lot of effort. After practicing it for a bit it gets added to the repertoire and becomes “just another thing she can do.” It no longer causes her stress or discomfort, it has become “easy.” But, that same gymnast no longer trains that skill, it is possible for her to “lose” it. That’s obvious. But also, if that gymnast is not challenged with performing the skill in a new combinations, on a new apparatus, or in a performance situation, like a meet or a public demonstration, the skill again may equally be lost. Coaches have to allow that gymnast to perform the learned skills under pressure so that when that skill is needed in a meet performance  it falls within the skills in the comfort box. When it does, it reinforces confidence in performance and positions the athlete to seek more new skills and more growth.

Confidence come from challenges

Confidence come from challenges

Sometimes we can be asked to reach far away from the box; this is when we have greater discomfort over a task or skill. When we feel that we are over our head or incapable of performing, it manifests as a lack of confidence and the feeling can be so strong that we believe that we cannot be successful without the help of someone else.

When an athlete  has rarely been challenged to step outside their comfortable box and are then confronted with change or challenge, they often cannot adapt. Usually this person must rely on others to carry them or assist them through their tasks. I have seen this situation in several scenarios: kids who freeze up, suddenly cannot do more simple skills, or devolve progressions for new skills. There are other reasons that these outcomes may occur too, but it’s often the lack of confidence is the culprit.

Confident people have a larger comfort box and  it affords them a expanded ability to adapt and feel adept.  Also, by occasionally being challenged it allows for a greater tolerance for uncertainty, which means that the areas that cause panic are minimal. However, people with confidence are not fearless. They do experience fears but the fear is often mitigated by both feeling that they can accomplish things with a little  effort, and/or with minimal help. Confident people have either made choices to be challenged or had life throw them enough curve balls that they have learned that they have the capacity to hit any pitch. Or more easily put; they’ve learned, by adaptation, to figure out problems and conquer what once seemed daunting.

Next time: 5 things we can do to create more confidence in our kids.

09
Jan
17

Motor Boats and Trains

I have, for a long time, used the analogy of motorboats and trains when I speak to my team kids about motivation. As I raise my own children I realized how this also applies to anyone who may need a little flame placed under the backside.

I ask my team kids if they are a motor boat or a train. I explain to them that I want to help them, I am there as a resource and can provide them drills for skills, code application for routine development, and simple guidance as they progress through the sport, but I need to know what drives them. download

Are they a Train? Are they the type that needs to be pulled? The engine in front, pulling the trailing cars. The conductor sitting in the engine car and deciding where the train goes, how fast it travels, and when it can make stops? As an athlete, do they need me to pull them? Are they needing to tuck in behind me and have me call all the shots, determine the routines, the meets, the training and pull them forward?

Or are they a Motor Boat? Are they the type to be in the captain’s seat and determine direction but need a push from the engine that sits at the stern? Do they have direction and drive and just need the coach as a boost and occasional force?

I have often spoken about the development of the coach relationship with kids in the sport. When they are young, or lower level, the relationship is very much like a master and servant. The coach says “jump” and the gymnasts jump  until Simon says stop jumping, (that works particularly well if the coach’s name is Simon). All decisions are made by the coach, and the gymnast begins learning about how they will develop by seeing it planned out in front of them. In the mid-levels, around beginning optionals, the relationship becomes more like a partnership. The coach is still the primary director but the gymnast has input into their own development and performance. I often say, at this stage, that the coach says “jump” and the gymnasts now ask, “how high?” In later levels and ages, the coach relationship becomes more like a reference that the gymnast can come to for assistance. At this stage, the gymnast directs their pathway and the coach helps in facilitation. This is when the gymnast may ask “Should I jump?”. The relationship and the most effective coaching style evolve over time.

I any event the gymnast is going to need motivation, either internally or provided for them externally. This is true and applicable regardless of the relationship level with the coach. When the coach, boss, teacher, or parent, understands how the child is motivated they can better help the child move forward. Motor Boat or Train? Neither is preferred and degrees of both may be present, but it’s understanding at any given moment which vehicle you are driving that makes a coach more effective at any stage of the game.

12
Dec
16

The only Doctor I’ve ever trusted

One of my favorite shows during the holidays is How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Way back in 1957 Dr. Suess warned us all about the commercialization of Christmas, though we didn’t heed the warning he was prophetic.

I was talking to my children the other day, they’re 12 and 8 and now old enough to comprehend bigger concepts (Yay!), about what the “arms race” is and what it could mean for the world. In our discussion, I referenced The Butter Battle Book, published in 1984. Where the two opposing sides conflict over which is better; bread buttered side down or buttered side up. Again, Suess.

One of mine and my kid’s favorite books is the Lorax, that explains the potential outcome of the planet if we don’t take care of it. Originally published in 1971 and again, sadly unheeded.  But I got to thinking about the good Doctor and all that he has taught us, whether it sunk in or bounced off, the lessons are still most valuable. Let’s look at a few of the lessons as I have seen them while growing up:suess

I learned to be me. Suess asked me “Why fit in when you were born to stand out?” and I responded by living my life by my own standards. Sometimes looking like a fool, sometimes looking like a genius, sadly more the former than the latter. But we were all born to be ourselves and for us to play the important part we must play to make the world great, we need only be ourselves. We shouldn’t compare ourselves to others, or attempt to fit the restrictive frames others can picture us within. We make our choices to live how we live and by doing so, we can succeed by any standard. He even told us “Only you can control your future.” How right you are Doctor.

I also grew up believing that education was the key to my success.  I cannot impart that wisdom upon my own children enough. And of course Suess concurs, learning content is important, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go…” What high school graduate didn’t get a copy of Oh the Places You’ll Go (1990)? But who better to share the lesson that we get to choose; we have the awesome power to be amazing? As I am sure you’ve derived from previous posts, I firmly believe that we do. Thanks for that lesson Dr. Suess, Thank You beyond measure.

 

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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