Thanks Brian for filling in while I'm taking care of my wife after surgery. She is doing well and getting better each day, but she is still in some pain whenever she has to move around. You use your abdominal muscles for everything!
Three Things Every Child Needs to Hear
Nielsen reports the average American watched over 5 hours of TV a day in Q4 2010. 5 hours? More than 20% of our day? That's not a whole family, that's per person. Where do people find the time?
I probably don't watch 5 hours of TV a week. It's not because I don't enjoy it, either. I do. I just enjoy other stuff more and I only have so much time to get all of that more-fun stuff done. You can only get so much sugar into that five pound bag. Between working at a Fortune 30 company, shuttling three boys with endless activities, giving my wife more attention than she wants and building a blog, TV just doesn't make the cut. I try to keep my man card current with a reasonable dose of ESPN, specifically College Football on Saturday. Even that has become a challenge, though. Saturdays are the best family days. Even when I do try to catch an evening show, it rarely happens. Last night for instance, I tried to watch a movie with the kids. It was a good movie, too, and action packed. No dice. Dad was sleeping 15 minutes in. I made it through the previews at least. That's not always been the case. Chalk it up as a victory.
One show we do watch regularly is the Biggest Loser. Have you seen this show? For the longest time, I thought the title was cruel. When I saw the previews of the seriously overweight contestants next to the Biggest Loser title screen, I thought it was another twisted reality show preying on its victims. Wrong. I was way off base. Instead, the Biggest Loser is truly inspiring. it gives my wife and I a wealth of teachable moments. The kids love it, too, which leaves the door wide open for us to address them.
The 60 minute show provides a window into very real physical and emotional struggles in peoples' lives. Lots of people (68% of US population according to CDC) are overweight for a variety of reasons. Pizza and Diet Coke are high on the list. For people to be that unhealthy, though, there tends to be something else going on. The Biggest Loser helps people overcome those issues, build self-esteem and learn they can overcome. Their past need not control them nor define them. Quite the opposite is true. Put in proper perspective, our past can be a source of strength.
The Biggest Loser has a typical reality show format, with character development followed by elimination challenge, closing with "the vote." One episode in particular stood out last month. After losing a significant amount of weight, both since the beginning of the show and for the current week, the contestant broke broke down and cried. He said "I just want my parents to be proud of me." Wow. Even in adulthood, children still want to know their parents are proud of them. We paused the show to chat.
Children, young and old, want to hear three things from their parents.
I love you.
There are no words more powerful in the English language. Kids need to know we love them unconditionally. They need to fully understand there is nothing we can do to make us love them more. Perhaps more important, there is also nothing they can do to make us love them less. Our children can't earn our love and they can't screw it up. They need the security to know our love for them is an always and forever thing.
I'm proud of you.
Children want to know we're proud of them. Pride, even pride in our children, is different from love. Kids fundamentally need to know that we are pleased, that we appreciate them for who they are. We can, and should be, proud of their accomplishments. Even more though, we need to express our appreciation for them as a person, without limitation. Saving our praise solely for achievements will leave kids believing they have to achieve our acceptance. Expressing your pride for their identify validates them in a way only their parents can. I still beam with pride when my mom or my wife says I'm proud of you.
You're good at...
Everyone excels at something. Find it. Share it. In our society, we're achievement driven, accomplishment focused. We reward the exceptional, always looking for flaws to improve. The flaws are there, for sure. So are the things to celebrate. Apparently, a large % of the US population is great at watching TV and focusing intently for long periods of time. If that's all you've got, congratulate their ability to focus (then help them find something more constructive). I can still remember being at a Boy Scout camp, being a better shot with the .22 Caliber rifle than my Dad. Was it true? Who knows. I know that's always been a proud moment for me and helped build my confidence.
When we stopped the show, we walked the boys through each point as we've done many times. We love them and always will. We're proud of them and there is nothing they can do to earn that. They're good at many things. Our oldest, quite the perfectionist, cried. In his own mind, nothing he does is ever good enough. On his last report card, he got 4 100s and 2 99s and he still wants to improve.
All children need to hear these things from their parents. Turn off the TV and tell them.
DadInAction is the father of three young boys, ages 10, 8 and 4, and has been married to his amazing wife for 12 years. He recently launched his own blog at DadInAction.com to chronicle the boys’ adventures.