10 Ways To De-Sissyfy Your Kid Part 2

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6. Danger Jumping!
One of the basic human fears is that of falling, which is also referred to as ground engagement. Most young kids are fearless and later fears are conditioned into them via the parent. This begins at a young age from constant admonishments to …be careful or you might get hurt! Falling down is natural for small children, their bodies are pliable, resilient, and for the most part they bounce back up with no lasting damage. I often observe parents over-reacting to their child’s fall, making a big fuss based upon their own fears, which leads to the kid believing something much worse happened than actually occurred. Way back when, I read about the Gracie jiujitsu family (and later some Russian articles) which described a system of “baby-tossing”. In my former gym, I have a photo of Helio Gracie tossing one of his infant sons to his brother, Carlos. It’s claimed this practice builds not only fearlessness but tremendous courage in a child and I believe this to be true. From the time he was able to sit up by himself, I tossed Zak high in the air, by myself or to others. I also held him upside-down by the feet and swung him around my body or between my legs in his baby seat, like a kettlebell swing. The fear of falling seriously holds kids back in contact sports. As a coach, I saw kids everyday holding themselves back, tentative and afraid of getting hurt. Ironically, these fearful children were usually the first to get hurt, despite their tentativeness.

One way of building confidence and fearlessness into a child is a practice I call Danger Jumping! Kids who haven’t yet been negatively programmed LOVE to jump off stuff. The way I worked it with my kids in our bi-level living room was I’d have the kids jumping off the dining room railing ten feet down onto the couch, which I’d covered with extra pillows to break their falls. Sometimes we’d take all the cushions off the couch, along with all the throw pillows in the house, form a big pile, and they’d jump right into that. My kids became so fearless they trained themselves to jump down nearly a complete flight of stairs…without injury. One game we’d play was Indiana Jones and the Temple of Death! where I’d grab a large stability ball (so big it barely fit into the stair well) and rolled it down from the top step just behind the kid tearing down the stairs. The goal was getting to the bottom before getting hit by the ball and their minds, the ball was a gigantic granite boulder, just like in the movie, on the verge of crushing them. You’ve got to move quickly to get down a flight of stairs before a stability ball!

7. Encourage your kid to self-locomote
Don’t be so quick to give them rides! Make them walk, ride their bikes or even run to the store. Too many parents mollycoddle and provide taxi service when the best thing is for their kids to move themselves.

8. Teach your kid to swim
Fear of water is another basic human fear. Newborn babies instinctively know to hold their breath and paddle and bob in water. They are unafraid and even comfortable in a liquid medium. Very soon, they lose that comfort, becoming more scared as young children. There are so many needless drownings, so easily prevented by teaching kids the rudiments of swimming. There are limitless fun, fitness games you can play in the pool, including diving for coins, lap swimming under water and towing things around the pool.

9. Get your city kids out in the woods
My son was a genuine city kid and had never been out in the wilderness. When he was in 3rd grade, I took him on an extended canoe trip, camping out on the river banks each night. The first night or two he was terrified of the unfamiliar noises. I realized then just how good it was for him to get out of the city and experience some of the natural world. By the trip’s end he was inured to the sounds of the forest and its creatures and I know he was better for it. Take your sons and daughters canoing, camping, hiking and fishing. Teach them how to build fires, make shelters and locate water. By the same token, if you live in a rural area, get your kid into the big city and let him see and hear what life is like in the concrete jungle. As a youthful rube from Carlisle PA, I was at once attracted but intimidated by the big city life and strange ways of Philadelphia. I got street-wise the hard way…it would have been so much easier if I’d had a parent or mentor help me with street smarts.

10. Create good health habits
Nothing will make your kid into a simpering, whiny little brat like a steady diet of sugar, denatured foods and soft drinks. You’ll never prevent your kid from eating crap, so don’t bother trying. By totally restricting them, you’ll make treats the forbidden fruit and they’ll sneak them absolutely every chance they get. Better to dole them out in limited amounts. I believe the best thing is to provide plenty of healthy foods, giving them ample opportunity to eat good stuff. This means regular mealtimes where they sit down to a table and good food is provided. And if they’re not hungry, don’t make them eat–but don’t give them anything else. I guarantee they’ll eat the next meal. So many parents are afraid to let their kid get a little hungry, instilling a fear of, and intolerance for, hunger in the child. Parents over-feed their kids and may get emotional managing their own hunger, so that the kid can grow up feeling panicky about the issue. At some of my friends’ homes, so many options are provided to the kids regarding what to eat, it sounds like a restaurant and the mother plays short-order cook. I say,

“This is what’s for dinner and you don’t have to eat it if you don’t want to but their ain’t anything else.”

Kids end up respecting meal time more and feeling more gratitude for it. I’m not going to expound on dietetics, but I encourage plenty of protein and fat for growing children and keeping simple carbohydrates to a minimum. Kids need plenty of saturated fat for their developing brains, nervous and immune systems. This means lots of cream, eggs, milk, meat and cheese. Get their little asses off the couch. One of my standard rules was that for every 30-minutes of physical activity, they would buy one hour of television or video games. If they wanted more time, they had to get more active. For kids playing on sports teams, this doesn’t apply. They’re already so active with their school sports, the extra t.v. doesn’t seem to hurt them.

I don’t claim to be the best parent or know everything (and much of what I know was learned by trial-and-error) but anyone who knows my son, Zak, can attest that he is truly a physical specimen and world-class athlete. What I’ve described worked well for him and will for you as well.


Submitted by DMorgan on Wed, 02/04/2009 - 1:24pm.