Ever since I learned how to read, I have been infatuated with books. Reading is one of the greatest habits I have ever adopted.
And there are sports. From the time I could walk, I was playing some type of sport. I grew up amongst athletes, and it was their influence and example that shaped my life.
Charles Swindoll said, “Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children.” Reading and sports have a large holding in my memory bank. Along with the good, there is also a wide array of the bad. Maybe someday, I will share them as well. But not today.
Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.
I often wonder what will go into my son’s memory bank that he will carry throughout his life. But why should I wonder. I have an active part in his training. I might not know what he will do when he grows up, but I have a good idea of who he will be.
By example and through teaching, children need to be trained. For what they do in their youth is what they will carry with them into adulthood. It is not enough to leave their training in the hands of others. Parents must be the ones to train them.
It begins as a lump of steel. It gets forged with heat, so that it can be shaped. Then it gets ground down, filed down, and cut down. It experiences extreme heat and extreme cold. The steel continues to get stressed until it is hardened. Once the blade has its shape and its strength, then it can be polished.
The sword arm starts out in a similar way. It begins as a lump of flesh and bone, but in time it can be shaped. On the training grounds, it can be stressed until it hardens. And once it has its shape and strength, it can be the weapon that is worthy to wield the blade.
Without a sword arm, the sword is useless and dangerous. It could be a decoration on the wall, or it could be a grotesque tool in a clumsy hand. The sword’s true purpose can only be realized by the warrior trained to use it.
The pen is mightier than the sword. –Edward Bulwer-Lytton
It begins as a jumble of words and ideas. Thoughts fluttering in the ether waiting to be caught. Moved to paper, they begin to take shape. They begin to become solid. In the forge, they get ground, filed, and cut. All the superfluities removed. In time, once the process is completed, the result may be something beautiful and polished.
Just as a swordsman must prepare for the day of battle, so a writer must prepare. Daily practice. Daily study. The mind has to be shaped, and it has to be strengthened. The writer will experience extreme heat from the critics and extreme cold from the disinterested. If the writer can overcome these trials, the message can indeed be mighty.
A pen, not used as a decoration, can also be dangerous in the wrong hands. A reader’s mind has to be strong as well. This too can come from practice.
Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it. –Proverbs 22:6
It was a proud moment coming home from work when my son showed me a large pile of books and a new library card. This soon-to-be six year-old has a voracious appetite for reading and his skills are really accelerating. It is truly exciting to imagine the opportunities if he continues to cultivate this super-power throughout his lifetime.
I loved reading as a child but fell away from it as a teen. It wasn’t until a very boring field exercise in the Army that I started reading again. Once that bug infected me, I couldn’t stop. I developed my skill as a reader through fiction in those early days, and it truly has helped in my ability to read non-fiction. It was in those Army days, that I first began to realize that I, too, wanted to be a writer. But in order to be a good writer, a writer, as Epictetus says, has to write. And back then, I didn’t have the discipline to stick with it. I was arrogant and thought it would come naturally. What foolishness. It is on the training ground that a warrior learns the art that prepares him for battle. Likewise, it is in the training of daily practice, that a writer can master his art.
I have recently started asking some of the veteran associates I work with about their opinions on some of the new hires. The answers were rather similar and can be summed up in two statements, “they are no good” and “they have no work ethic.” Many of these new associates are fresh into adulthood. They are young and inexperienced, and they are viewed as “no good.” I see a few who stand out. They are quiet. They work hard. They show up to work every day. They are in the minority. What a shame. Is this an issue with today’s kids or has it always been this way? They have been thrust out into this world of adults, and they are not prepared.
I try to attend everyone of Alec’s wrestling practice. I am actively involved with the drills. I do it for two reasons. First, I want to make sure Alec understands what it is he is supposed to do and then that he does the work. The second is for his protection. I understand I may be overly protective of my five year old, but I have my reasons. He is one of the youngest in the group and has never wrestled before. With the exception of a few, the boys he wrestles against are bigger, stronger, and wilder. In addition, they lack discipline. Some of these boys have no qualms about applying a rear naked choke to get the advantage. Their actions are not malicious, but they don’t know any better and will do what is needed to win. If I see them or Alec break a rule that could cause an injury, I will not hesitate to stop and reset the action.
Of the boys on the team only about 25% have the ability sit and listen to their coaches’ instruction. One in particular seems to have made it a quest to disrupt the practice. The coaches are continuously telling him to sit down, to stop running, or to leave the other wrestlers alone. While this is taking place, his parents are sitting on the mat nearby not paying attention to their son’s antics. Whatever is on their phones happen to be more important. Do they think they can take a break from their duties as parents since the coach is now the babysitter? Are they not even remotely embarrassed? If this is the norm for practice, I can’t even imagine what the teachers in the classroom have to go through. If the behavior is not corrected now, what will happen in the future? As Frederick Douglass said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
Thinking of the future, what will these undisciplined children be like when they are much older? They used to be little terrors, and now they are growing up. Will they self-correct into model citizens. Will they recognize their parents’ lack of attention and go on to be better parents with their own children? One could hope, but that may be a bit naïve. Those children, if they survive to adulthood, if they don’t kill themselves or the ones around them, will likely continue to the pattern their parents set before them and raise a new generation of little terrors even more fragmented and torn than their predecessors. A land of undisciplined, unruly children turned to adults will not improve society. If they continue down this course, they will not make this world a better place.
Discipline your children, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to their death. -Proverbs 19:18
This is a plea for parents to wake up. Put your cell phones down and pay attention to your children. How can you expect them to pay attention when your lack of attention is the example they follow. Teach them discipline. Mete out a just punishment when they stray off the path. The rod of discipline can take many forms. Taking your kid off to the side during practice and stopping him from causing mayhem now may prevent him from getting kicked off the team in High School. A well-deserved spanking now is more preferable than the punishment found in a prison later. Be their parent. Be their teacher, and maybe we can have a hope for a better future.
Folly is bound up in the heart of the child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far away. –Proverbs 22:15