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.
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.
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.
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.