The (Ideal) Role of Adults During Development
I decided to post this because I believe that out of fear we believe we should control children. I believed this once myself. Now, before you “tough love” parents get your panties all up in a bunch, let me first clarify as a non-parent, but someone who has worked with many, many children and has discussed child development at length with hundreds of parents. I believe in consequences. I just don’t believe in helicpoter parents (or coaches or teachers).
Fact: It is patently impossible to control another human beings every movement, given that we all have free will.
Fact: Children are ill-equipped, especially during the younger years, but all the way through adolescence, to fully consider the implications of their actions. Notice I didn’t say that they were un-equipped, just ill-equipped.
Now, how do we reconcile these two statements? Well, we can just realize that every human’s path is his or her own, and that our role as coaches, teachers, parents is simply to guide and to provide lessons / information about possible consequences for different choices.
Now, from my world, I can tell you what I have grown into doing with the kids I work with (I did not always approach things like this, judging from early video of some of my programs):
I get them in to my gym / room / field and immediately create a sense of play and discovery, by just putting those kinds of thoughts into my own head (for those of you that still think play is frivolous, read my other posts!).
Then, we begin to “explore”. In my realm of physical fitness, we may explore pushups or squatting, or pulling, in different situations.
I ask them questions about how the movements feel, and how they think they could be more effective. Depending on how robust the answers are, I may give a little more or a little less guidance. Kids that don’t seem to be getting it, sometimes I pair up with kids who are a little further along. We make it clear that I am the coach and therefore final authority, but I want them as much as possible to find things on their own.
When they find the “right” pattern (this just means the safest, most efficient pattern, really): I let them know, and we talk about how it felt for them. I then make sure they know that they still need to continue to repeat it the same way many times before it’s “solid”. Then they know that the repetition isn’t busy work, but a necessary part or their development. Their “challenge” is to not waver in their commitment to efficiency of movement during that repetition. This make repetition fun.
When I see a mistake once, I leave it alone and see if they correct on their own. If it continues to be repeated, I remind them of a better choice. If it still continues to repeat, I discuss with them how I can better do my job.
Notice I say “if it is repeated”. The mistake is a mistake. It has it’s own identity, and so does the child. The two need not be confused.
I also try to realize that children do not work for me. I work for them (as a group, not individually, silly!). Part of my responsibility as the employee of all children is to sometimes direct them, and sometimes sit back to let them find their own path toward what success means for them.
This is, as my friend Brian Grasso (who I will never get tired of hearing speak) always says: “The Art of Coaching”
Parents, teachers, and coaches should always employ this art. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t consequences for actions. In fact, I have kicked a fair number of kids out of class, and have had a fair number of kids sit out during my years as a coacheducatortrainer (I’m never sure what my title should be). The key is to make sure that you are really dealing with a disruptive behavior problem as opposed to just a kid who annoys you.
Imagine if this approach were incorporated more into education?
Imagine if this approach were used more in creating a love for movement in our children (to avoid the so-called youth obesity epidemic)?
I can say that this approach is probably the right one, not because I invented it (I surely did not), but because I have used other approaches, and have grown into this approach. But, as a humble man, I must (as we all must) consider the possibility that I am an idiot or simply misinformed. What do you think?