Requirements versus Electives

By Sifu Mark T. Moy
©2009

Parents often tell me that they have a hard time juggling all of the activities of their children. I think that children should have fun, be exposed to a lot of experiences, and enjoy their youth.

But – eventually they’ll be on their own, living in a world that is highly competitive, being influenced by bad peer pressure, and surrounded by temptations.

A quote from Mac Bledsoe (http://www.parentingwithdignity.com/):
“Our children will make all of the most important decisions in their lives – on their own. As parents, the only thing we can do is teach them how to make good decisions.”

To be successful in life, kids need to be equipped and trained with skills and character traits that will help them make good decisions, the courage to resist bad peer pressure, and the ability to set and achieve their goals.

“As the twig is bent, so grows the tree.”

I believe that just like an academic school curriculum, life has electives and requirements.  Electives are generally fun and optional, but not required for graduation. Requirements are necessary for success.

My formula for success:

1.  Discover my intrinsic strengths. What are my natural talents and interests?  I should be an ‘A’ student at my core strengths.
“I want to major in my majors.”

2.  Acknowledge my weaknesses.  I should at least be competent, not fail, at my high-impact weaknesses.  These are areas that will significantly impact my performance.

3.  Courageously face and deal with my fears.  I need to be in environments and around people that are challenging-in-a-good-way and that will stretch my comfort zone.  People that encourage and inspire me to do my best.  “Man sharpens on man.”

4.  Develop self-discipline; the act of controlling and managing my impulses and behavior.

5.  Be a good finisher.  Good intentions and setting goals isn’t enough.  Completion of the goal requires commitment, resilience and endurance.  I need to develop a strong work ethic.

6.  Take ownership of my thoughts, words, attitudes and actions.

7.  Deliberately choose to be a person of integrity and good character; trustworthy, loyal, compassionate.

As a parent, this all comes down to value and prioritizing.  What’s the return on investment of our time and money, compared to the fruit cultivated in our child by that activity?

The key, in my opinion, is to identify the specific activities and environments that will prepare our children to be successful as a teenager and adult.

Imagine two refrigerators…

One fridge has the activities that will purposefully model, equip and train your child with the characteristics that you feel are important.  This is nutritious, real food.

The other fridge holds all the electives and optional activities. These are fun but not fundamental to success.  Dessert is good but will not nourish me.

I’m not saying that kids shouldn’t do fun things just for fun.  I am saying that our natural inclination is to seek pleasure and instant gratification, and avoid discomfort and hard work.  There should be a healthy balance between activities that cultivate necessary life-skills, and activities that are fun-for-fun’s-sake.

Ultimately, we want our kids to become strong and courageous adults of good character, who use their power in a just manner, and make a difference in their spheres of influence.  To be empowered and taught how to stand up to bad peer pressure and use their strength “To do the right thing, not the popular thing.”

Moy Academy is dedicated to teach kids how to, “Get strong in a good way, and use their strength to help others.”