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Related Thoughts on the Giuliano Stroe Story

Giuliano Stroe was discussed on my forum several months ago, but it wasn’t until this week that he became an Internet sensation. Earlier in the week, his story was featured on numerous sites including Yahoo. Within a matter of days, my inbox has filled with emails about the young boy.

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The messages that I’ve read indicate that there are mixed feelings regarding his development. Some parents labeled his upbringing as child abuse, while others asked how they could train their own children similarly. Some even thought I was training my kids like Giuliano. Based on the confusion and influx of questions, it is time to address the topic.

To begin, I am not here to judge this boy or his family. I know nothing about them other than what I’ve seen on a brief Youtube clip. I’d like to believe that this child is a young phenomenon. I hope that he isn’t being pushed to do something against his will. My comments within this entry do not apply to him specifically, but rather the broad topic of childhood development. It’s also worth noting that I am obviously impressed by Giuliano‘s ability.

Yet despite his ability, I hope that other parents do not try to replicate his early success. Kids need a chance to be kids. They need a chance to play and enjoy childhood. They should not be forced to exercise or train. Some may counter these statements by saying that it is better for a child to exercise than sit in front of the television.  I agree with this statement, but it is still just a partial response.  Almost any activity is better than sitting in front of the television.  What about practicing the alphabet, learning to count, learning to read and write, playing a musical instrument, working on various art projects, learning to become self sufficient, and learning to behave with proper manners.  Why doesn’t anyone mention these other pertinent tasks?   Childhood development includes much more than hanging from a pull-up bar. In my opinion, physical development ranks nowhere near the top of the priority list. Children must also advance socially, emotionally, cognitively, etc.

Over the years, I’ve met several young adults who were pushed into sports by their parents. After early success, they eventually burned out, and some even rebelled against their parents. Not only did their athletic pursuits fail, now they are dealing with damaged relationships that go far beyond the playing field. Many also deal with social problems. After years of being pushed and told that their best isn’t good enough, these young men are socially challenged, confused, and lacking in confidence. The candle that burns twice as bright often burns half as long.

Leading vs. Forcing

I have a three year old son and a 16 month old daughter. As I mentioned recently, they both love to play in the gym. They have been around professional athletes since day one. It is normal for them to see fighters at the house training. My son still thinks that everyone is a boxer. It’s the lifestyle that they have grown up around.

I never force my children to do anything however. They are far too young to be pushed into any physical activity. When my son comes to the gym, he is there to play. I don’t make him do anything. He keeps himself busy by copying those around him or creating his own games. Just the other day, he was playing a game with a pile of sandbags. He would climb to the top and then jump down to a punch shield. When I asked what he was doing, he said that he was pretending to jump to an island that was surrounded by alligators. It was all a big game to him. He laughed and giggled the entire time.

Leading by example is far different than forcing a youngster to perform an activity. Children imitate their parents. If you are active, there is a good chance that your children will follow the lead.

Children Are Not Financial Investments

I’m sure many who read this entry are familiar with the Richard Sandrak story. Refer to the clip below if a refresher is needed.

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As a young boy, Richard’s father was suspected of mixing steroids in with his supplements. The family then launched a supplement line, using the young boy’s picture to market the product line. Soon after, Richard’s father was jailed for assaulting the boy’s mother. It was not until his father was jailed that Richard was allowed to socialize with children his own age. Fortunately, Richard appears to be doing well now. It is sad though that any child would be raised in a manner that prevented him from playing with friends his own age.

After all, what happens if a child prodigy is injured? What if he doesn’t make it? There are far more failures than success stories. What happens then? Why aren’t parents spending as much time encouraging their toddlers to read and write? Could it be that some parents are living out their dreams through their children? Could it be that a father who didn’t make it wants to capture fame and fortune by living vicariously through his child?

It is pathetic to live your dreams through a child by forcing him into specific activities. You had your own chance at life. It isn’t your right to live out another life through your child. Leading from the front is different than abandoning your responsibility as a loving parent. If your child is destined to become a champion athlete, it will happen in time. You don’t need to jump start the process at age 3. Hanging from a pull-up bar at 3 isn’t going to be the deciding factor between success and failure when he is 18 years old.

Toddlers have limited attention spans. Any toddler who is training for hours on end is being forced to do so. I don’t care if he is smiling or not. Even terrible two toddlers have moments when they laugh or smile. That doesn’t mean they are doing something by choice. There is reason why almost every toddler class in existence is an hour or less. The last thing that anyone wants is a crowded room filled with over tired toddlers.

It is also worth noting that children advance exponentially in short periods of time. The difference between my son at age 2 and 3 is incredible. There are often significant changes in just a month or two.  Each month my daughter is able to say and do things that she couldn’t the month before.  It is incredible to witness.  Encouraging a child to work hard at a little league practice (in a sport that he chose) is far different from forcing your child to do something as a toddler. The difference between a 3 and 9 year old child could be calculated in dog years. It isn’t even close.

Final Thoughts

Personally, I don’t care if my children become future world champions or future piano players. I’ll support whatever it is they aspire to become.  If I can help, I will do everything in my power to assist, but I will never force them to do anything. My children are not financial investments. On the contrary, having children has only motivated me to work harder than ever before. My primary objective in life is to care for my children. I’d rather work hard so they can have a better life. I would never look to my child as a way to cash in.

Lastly, I’m not here to raise your kids. I am simply sharing my own thoughts on the general subject, but I can’t imagine that anyone would argue against letting a kid be a kid.

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21 comments

21 Comments so far

  1. Gordon October 29th, 2009 3:18 pm

    Ross, I agree 100%

    My 18 month old drums every day (on his little toy drum) because he sees his dad doing it (Chinese Lion Dance Drum). I have never pushed him to do so, he just loves to do it. People ask me if I am teaching him, because his skill is far beyond an 18 month old. My answer is ‘No’. Kids that age are sponges that absorbe so much when they are having fun and excited about what they are doing. Whether its swimming (which he loves as well) or any other activity I will always encourage and support his interests and passions. The joy on a child’s face when at play is worth more than anything else in the world.

  2. Todd Reinhard October 29th, 2009 3:22 pm

    Nice article, Champ. Keep on keeping on.

    Todd R.

  3. John Cintron October 29th, 2009 3:40 pm

    Ross

    Excellent article this how I feel when it comes to my daughter.She copies me doing bodyweight squats and pushups because I would do them while she was in her crib when she was very tiny so it seemed normal to her. If you ask my daughter to workout she automatically does squats. When I am leaving the house she will be like where are you going to workout. But I never push it on her.

  4. JD October 29th, 2009 4:43 pm

    Great post Ross!!

  5. Sean October 29th, 2009 5:39 pm

    I work as a therapist for teenagers with chemical dependency and I am glad that someone knows how to be a parent!

  6. Manveet October 29th, 2009 10:29 pm

    Although I’m not a father, I started playing sports at a really young age. I can’t ever recall my father pushing me when I was that young.

    Now I’m 25 years old and you can’t take me away from the gym or an active lifestyle. It’s impossible.

    Like Ross and many others have mentioned, kids absorb a ton from their parents (and not just hereditary material). If you are living an active lifestyle, chances are your kids will be following in your footsteps. Every parent wants the best for their child, but oftentimes they forget that it isn’t necessarily what the child hears but what he or she sees that has the most impact on them.

  7. levi October 29th, 2009 10:57 pm

    nice post ross. thanks.

  8. Tom Meehan October 30th, 2009 3:17 am

    Always love your posts on athletics and parenting since your approach is precisely what I think it should be. My daughter is 6 years old and likes to tell people that she exercises (not that she works out). I have told her that play IS exercise and moving is fun, which it should be. and she loves to exercise/play.

  9. Benny O'Neill October 30th, 2009 8:29 am

    I have to say that is seriously impressive. However I am against pushing the child to do it if that is the case. I have a 19month son and the only thing I will push him to do is find something he enjoys. If he likes football I will take him to practice and matches. If he’s going to be musical I’ll buy him an instrument and support him in that.
    I think its important for a child to find an interest and a parent to support that interest but not to pressure that child in any way to take the fun out of it.

  10. Michael Rodriguez October 30th, 2009 4:47 pm

    YOSH!!! Ross, you truly inspire me to continue to work my arse off in all I do, and become better for my family as well, especially my son. Man, I wish I lived up north with you, I bet it would be an awesome agony to train under you!!! Thanks Ross, keep it up!

  11. Jim Madden November 3rd, 2009 7:01 pm

    “My primary objective in life is to care for my children. I’d rather work hard so they can have a better life. I would never look to my child as a way to cash in.”

    Well said Ross. I’m a father of five beautiful little human beings, and I can say that you seriously get the point of it all.

    Thanks for your great products and, more importantly, doing your best to give the world your well-raised children!

    God bless

  12. Dan November 3rd, 2009 9:14 pm

    As a victim of someone who is pushed into to doing something I can understand and atest to what Ross is saying.

    You see, my step father loves guns and shooting. He got me interested at a young age. Back then though I was small, frail, and weak so I took up lifting in the 7th grade. My interest grew more and more untill shooting became nothing more than a minor little hobby that I do once in a while on the weekends because I like to see things like cans and other such garbage get blown around.

    My step father on the other hand doesn’t get why I don’t put as much attention on firearms and shooting as he does. He calls sights like this one and TMusclce “quires” and it just p*sses me off to the point that I want to harm him physically.

    Today, I have decided to quite competing as a wrestler and take up powerlifting and the highland games. I want to be everything opposite of my step father. That being said though, I have learned a valueable lesson from him: When I have kids, I want them to find an interest I don’t care what the hell it is but I will support them even if it goes against everything I believe in as someone who lifts and has made a lifestyle out of it.

    Ross I agree with you 100%, god speed.

    Dan

  13. Robert Troch November 7th, 2009 3:09 am

    Interest and pushing are one thing. Early specialization is another one. Specializing at an early age robs the kid of general motor development. Ill equipping him/her for later years. Tsk.

  14. Center January 23rd, 2010 9:52 pm

    Unfortunately this stuff happens with all kinds of activities, even with academics. Fortunately some kids are able to succeed in spite their parents, although their parents probably think it’s “because of”. Search the net for Patrick O’Sullivan. Pat’s with the Edmonton Oilers now but I have to believe he bears a few scars.

  15. Gerald May 9th, 2010 6:22 am

    Thanks Ross. I discovered your site because of your posts in You Tube. I enjoy your workout/equipment tips, and I’m glad to see that your discussions in this site go deeper than just workouts… discussions go to what workouts really are for… a more active, productive and supportive life with family.

    I myself am a father to be, and my wife and I often talk about our dreams for our kid to be. We’d kid each other saying that he/she will become my gym buddy. We do wish that he/she will be into sports or academics or the arts — passionate about something. We wish this because we want him/her to discover the many wonders life has to offer — something you don’t get to experience by just watching tv or playing xbox/ps3 all the time. But to your point, I guess the challenge is how to encourage without forcing, sharing without pushing.

    Thanks again!

  16. Richard Bartlett June 14th, 2010 12:32 pm

    Hi Ross,

    I agree with your principle statement that kids should be allowed to be kids. My own father was obsessed with training and that has influenced myself and at least two of my three sisters tremendously. Despite this, he has never forced it upon us, we just picked it up through wanting to emulate him.

    Giving children the opportunity to try different sports can only help them develop but the drive to improve should come from within them and not the parent. It’s arguably a difficult line to draw but one that should be aspired to. Great post.

  17. Harold January 19th, 2011 1:21 pm

    Excellent post. I am a single parent of three wonderful kids and the views you have stated closely match mine. Your kids are lucky to have such a thoughtful, considerate and supportive father. I salute you.

  18. Young Worker April 27th, 2011 6:46 am

    Hey Ross nice article I’m 11 and I workout quite a lot, but a healthy amount. You’re completely right when I was little I would, shadowbox and workout. But it was still a game to me. I would imagine I had a big fight going on and I would have to get buff like popeye. I still workout now but I’ve never been forced into it. If I did get forced I would probably be completely different now.

  19. Sal July 24th, 2011 8:58 am

    My view is, I guess, somewhat unique. First of all, with child obesity being on oh the World’s great modern struggles, being a shaped up, athletic child is a privilege from that perspective alone. Secondly, on the issue of pushing your child to do certain things, I would generally agree. You should inspire your child rather than push him into something. But there’s no way we can know what exactly happened here. My guess is that the kid loves being this semi-superhero character. Bottom line for me is – this is very much like every athletic 7 year old prodigy. There are 7 year old phenomenons in soccer, basketball and every other sport. The fact that this kid is into bodybuilding and gymnastics makes the difference in the eyes of a lot of people. Whether is it kids, teenagers or adults, there’s a lot of prejudice and misconception about bodybuilding with the common folk. Will I raise my kid like this? No. But I will do my best to interest him in athletics. God bless this kid’s talent, and let his parents take good and cautious care of him.

  20. Ray D September 23rd, 2011 1:33 pm

    Excellent article Ross. This reminds me of former Raider’s QB Todd Marinovich. He was pushed from a very young age to train as a QB by his father. He didn’t do kid’s things as you pointed out. After being picked number one he flamed out.Got into heavy drug use but now is doing art work. Not to say do not push children. A couple of nudges toward athletics, music, art is great. Sometimes they find things out they are really great at and becomes a fixture for the rest of their lives. But pushing a child where fun turns to work and misery a child is going to break and rebel as you have mentioned in your post.

  21. DoomRater October 22nd, 2013 3:13 pm

    Hi Ross, I find it almost amusing that one of your challenges in parenting will be unteaching your children some of the life assumptions they have made. That’s not to say some of the assumptions they made are bad ones at all, just teaching them that there’s more to life than exercising and getting them to experience the joys of painting, do-it-yourself projects, and SCIENCE! Of course figure out whether being creative is something they like or whether they wanna do things in a more traditional manner will come naturally as a result.

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