Are you all enjoying some lazy summer days? Here at bradenbell.com, we find summer afternoons to be the very best time of year. It is our favorite time of year. While you are lazing (or to those of you who are hanging on to your sanity for dear life because school is not quite out yet, while you are hanging) I had a thought to toss out.
When I was young, my dad had a friend who had been partially paralyzed, I think by polio, but I'm not sure. This man's left arm was shriveled and withered from the disease. As part of his therapy, he was told to lift weights. His right arm was fine and so he lifted weights with his right arm over and over and over. So, he had a massive right arm. His left arm was functional; he could use it but preferred not to because it was uncomfortable. And so, his right arm got bigger and bigger and his left arm continued to atrophy, becoming basically useless by the end of his life.
This became a metaphor in our home and I can't count the number of times my dad would say something like, "You're using right arm here. How about the left." By that he meant that even though I didn't like sports, maybe I needed to learn how to play basketball, or go on a scout trip in spite of my distaste for camping, or take a math class that would challenge my right brain and so on.
I have learned how very wise my dad was. To the extent I listened to him, I reaped a lot of benefits. To the extent I didn't, I have lived to wish I had.
Culturally, we seem to have slipped into a place where working the right arm is the dominant ideal. At one time, I think we might have embraced the idea that doing hard things was good for us, that pushing our boundaries was a healthy thing.
While we pay lip service to that idea, I don't think that many people's lives are structured in a way that demonstrate this idea. Most of us, myself included, spend a lot of time working on the those right arms and avoiding completely things that are uncomfortable for us, things that challenge and push us.
Because of this, I think it's even more important to push our children a bit when they are young. Insist that they do things that challenge them, whether or not they like them. Perhaps even especially if they don't like them.
One mother I know has a child who is very musical, loves theatre and the arts. He hates sports. She signed him for a football clinic and made him go even though he didn't like it. I thought that was brilliant. It's good and healthy to stretch yourself a bit, to learn about something you don't necessarily like. This will help him in his socialization and give him common ground with other boys and men who do like football. And it worked a part of him that is not usually worked. She didn't try to force him to become someone he's not--just gave him a new level of experience. I think he'll thank her some day.
At any rate, I would submit that teachers and parents can help their children a great deal by acknowledging their strengths and giving them chances to grow in those areas, but also by stretching them, but exposing them to things they may not like.
Beyond the emotional benefits of this, it's good preparation for life. Most of us encounter things about life that we have to do, whether or not we like them or are good at them--these things might come at work or at home, in any number of responsibilities. So it's good to learn how to do them and do them as well as we can.
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