Spirit is one of the foundational items on the Life Skills Report Card, located under the top category of Personal Care. Popular while it is to equate the term spirit with religion or cheerleading – I included it on the Life Skills Report Card to represent energy. When people’s energy levels are low we describe them as “dispirited”, when they are high we call them” inspired”.
Factor in the ways human health and happiness improves when people live highly inspired lives and it is easy to agree that human beings are hard-wired to be inspired. As with other foundational Life Skills, like interpersonal communication and safety, free will does not mean we get to choose the class – merely the amount of misery we endure until we improve our competency levels.
So how do we empower children with tools for excelling in this critical life skill arena of spirit? What skills did you learn? Who were your teachers? Who are they today?
“We’ve got spirit yes we do, we’ve got spirit how bout you?”
During my “oh so cool” high school years, chanting this popular cheerleading phrase held about as much attraction for me as singing nursery rhymes. As one of five sisters growing up in the era of feminism, I simply did not get the double standard of all-girl cheer squads cheering for all-boy athletic teams. Then God, in all her wisdom, gave me two daughters – one became a competitive gymnast and Captain for her high school cheer squad. The T-shirt she wore read:
“Athletes lift weights, cheerleaders lift athletes.”
Me of little faith. The mistake I made in high school was thinking female cheerleaders had the short end of the stick in the equation. Today, I know that encouraging others to persevere during times of struggle is even more personally inspiring than having others encourage me.
Today, I not only applaud cheerleaders singing their spirit song, I also possess deeper appreciation for the wisdom of my childhood nursery rhymes and sing them too.
“Love is like a magic penny, hold it fast and you won’t have any. Spend it and you’ll have so many, they’ll roll all over the floor.”
Before I was a mother, I fell completely for the idyllic picture television commercials provide of parents rocking infants for pleasure. Once I had my own baby, however, I learned the true Hollywood story. New parents rock babies because they are sleep deprived and teetering on the boundaries of sanity.
Google the word “exhausted” and you will very likely find a photo of a tear-faced, screaming toddler and a parent ready to take a hostage.
One night, when my eldest daughter was two, I boarded a red-eye flight from Seattle to DC believing that – being night time – she would sleep peacefully. Unfortunately, the plane departed later than scheduled and, having passed her routine bedtime, she spent the first hour kicking and crying instead. When a man on the flight hollered at me “Shut that baby up,” I glared back at him and asked – in a tone that made Dirty Harry’s “Make my day” delivery sound like Doris Day – “She’s two, what’s your excuse?”
Thank goodness airport security searched passengers for “all possible weapons” before boarding.
I would like to say that episode was sufficient for elevating the status of sleep on my personal list of priorities. The truth, however, is that it took the birth of my second daughter – and a short visit to a mental hospital – for me to truly get the message that sleep matters much.
Desiring to spare my daughters the pains of my own steep learning curve, I mandated “no electronics – only reading” – after 7:pm when they started grade school. Since the Harry Potter series had yet to be written, this actually served well for getting them to sleep on time. So while fellow parents debated means to get their children to rise and shine each morning, my girls simply woke on their own.
The discrepancy between my personal education in sleep deprivation and knowledge levels of fellow parents revealed itself most glaringly during their high school years and climaxed with an event called Grad Night. Popular in schools throughout the US, parent organized Grad Night celebrations aim to provide an alternative option to private parties and reduce death and injuries caused by underage drinking and driving. Grad Nights are typically all-night events and students are mandated to remain on campus till morning.
At my daughters’ school, I learned, students not only drove themselves to the event, they also drove themselves home.
Despite years of popularity and concern for teen safety, no one had ever made anyone aware that not sleeping for 24 hours impairs the functionality of the brain almost as much as two shots of alcohol. Fortunately God, in all her wisdom, spared my daughter the embarrassment of “mom” enlightening everyone by screaming from the school rooftop and graced me simply with the invitation to serve as Grad Night Chair. The year was 2005 and students have been required to be dropped off, and picked-up, from Grad-Night every year since.
Editors Note: Huge hugs to all the Sleep Coaches and Consultants educating individuals and families on the importance of sleep from the rooftops of Parenting 2.0. Special thanks to Michelle Winters who attended our P20 Talks 2013 Washington DC event and graciously lent her company logo to this month’s post.
The greatest burdens in life are not those we know, they are those we ignore, those we accept as “normal”. How tragic that human beings in any country need look no further than their children to find the greatest suffering.
Parenting 2.0’s International Backpack Free Friday’s public awareness campaign invites adults everywhere to stop and take a fresh look at children’s foundational health – their mandatory curriculum. Are they well-rested? Hydrated? Fed? What is their stress level? How heavy is their backpack?
An August 2008 WebMd.com article stated that the AAOC (American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgery) says a child shouldn’t carry a backpack that exceeds 15%-20% of their body weight.” It further shared that “A reasonable recommendation is a 10% cutoff weight for bodyweight. This will help reduce the risk of injury related to falls and relieve pain that comes from wearing giant backpacks loaded with school supplies.” With 10% as the more conservative target, here’s a breakdown by body weight for measuring how much your child should be lugging around in his backpack:
Child’s Weight Backpack Weight
50 pounds 5 pounds
75 pounds 7.5 pounds
100 pounds 10 pounds
125 pounds 12.5 pounds
150 pounds 15 pounds
Backpacks, however, are merely the tip of the iceburg – the problem we can see. During classtime – and yes permit me to acknowledge we are speaking about the “fortunate” children on the planet if they are in classrooms – backpacks are typically on the backs of chairs or in lockers. This is when children’s greater suffering continues – suffering that stems from being dehydrated, tired, emotionally stressed and hungry. While initially less obvious, all of these are well-documented to negatively impact every aspect of human functioning.
In my prior role as director of an academic tutoring club, I was shocked at the condition of children arriving for paid tutoring sessions – many parents took better care of their cars.
Where are our priorities? When will we focus attention on children’s readiness to learn rather than simply what they are learning?
Students who falter in school are more likely to embrace lives of crime and end up incarcerated. With incarceration considerably more expensive than school, isn’t it worth every adult taking a broad lens to means for improving children’s odds of educational success?
As the mother of two (now adult) daughters I know well the demands facing those on the front lines raising humanity. Be they parents or teachers, the fact is, they’re busy. Criticsm and complaints don’t inspire human beings to higher performance, they hinder it. Parenting 2.o is committed to lifting the burdens off children and schools by sharing the concept of Life Skills Report Cards year round and supporting adults performing the most important job on earth. Backpack Free Friday is the day we draw broader public attention to our activism and link arms to be the Change the World awaits. Thank you for joining us by sharing news of Backpack Free Friday forward.
This week American media clamored to cover the guilty verdict of one of the United States most notorious child molesters, ex Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky, and adults everywhere celebrated. Only when these same adults heed this call to educate all young children on how to protect themselves against child molesters, however, will they embrace the greater victory.
“Limits of tyrants are determined by those whom they oppress” Frederick Douglass brilliantly proclaimed. Children are regularly taught to stop, drop, and role, in the event their clothing catches fire, but the tragic truth is they are more likely to be the victim of molestation by someone they know.
One out of four females in the US, and one out of six males, is molested before the age of 18. This need not be. Education is key. It is time for those who truly care about children to take Life Skills out of parental junk drawers and illuminate them as distinct and critical skill sets – skill sets teachable by third party educators. On August 16th-18th, P20 is rising to the challenge by holding its first P20 Talks Conference in San Diego, CA. Make no mistake, if you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem. Every adult has a role in “Raising Humanity.” Be the Change. Register today.