Dec 22 2010

Boys Gone Wild – It Takes a Village at the Family Fun Center

Summary – Not all boys are destructive, but nearly every destructive person is a boy. That’s not a value judgment it’s just a reality.

sky high sports foam pit

If you want to see why the world is the way it is just go hang out a family entertainment center and watch the action.

In San Jose there’s a killer place called Sky High Sports. It’s a huge industrial space with 30 foot ceilings that’s been converted into a trampoline facility. The main room is the size of a basketball court. The entire floor is made up of a interlocked grid of trampolines. The walls are at 30 degree angles and they too are made of trampolines. So basically you can run, bounce, jump, flip and ricochet to your heart’s content.

There’s another smaller trampoline room with the same configuration that is set up for dodgeball games that they run every ten minutes.

Next to that is the seven and under trampoline room and next to that is the foam pit. And the foam pit is where this story begins and ends.

The foam pit has three lanes. Each lane is clearly marked with a colorful mat  – lane 1, lane 2, and lane 3. Each lane has two trampoline sections. So basically you make two or more big bounces and then launch yourself into the pit. You climb out the same way so everyone must wait for the previous person to get out before they can do their run.

The kids are all lined up, perhaps four or five at each lane. Mostly girls in the four to nine age range.

Suddenly a boy comes running across. He bounces and leaps across all three lanes and then back again and then launches himself in the middle of the pit. His friend soon follows. They’re perhaps nine years old. They climb out of the pit, bounce around again and then launch themselves into the pit a second time.

The girls, who have been patiently waiting their turn, just stand there in silence. However I’m pissed.

“Hey, you two! There is a line here. Everyone takes their turn. Go to the end if you want to jump.”

They seem genuinely surprised. However, I can’t tell if they are surprised to learn that there are three lines of people waiting their turn, or that someone actually held them accountable for their behavior. It’s a tough call.

sky high sports foam pit

Now I’ve been here at least five times and this is one of the most predictable occurrences. Without fail a boy or two, usually age five to nine, will just blast through and jump into the pit – sometimes three times before someone forces them to stop. Now, not every boy does this, this is a small minority – perhaps five or ten percent at most – but it is ALWAYS a boy and NEVER ever a girl.

The girls always take their turn, are in tune with their environment, and generally just “get it’. However a small minority of the boys treat the world as theirs and are completely oblivious to anyone else’s needs.

Compounding the problem is the absence of their parents. Without exception, the boys who just run over the other kids have no adult supervision. I have no idea if these two situations are related, could be complete coincidence as my sample of subjects is so small, but I do know it shifts the parenting responsibilities to others if they aren’t around. That’s assuming they would even notice or say anything if they were present.

Now being the parent of a shy girl I’m especially sensitive to this. If another kid is taking advantage of my daughter she just let’s it happen. She’ll rarely speak up and defend her interests or territory. Someday she will, but at seven years old she’s no match for a rambunctious nine-year old boy who just takes whatever he wants.

Unfortunately, this is the norm for girls. They just suffer in silence. So I say what they don’t have the courage or confidence to say which is “knock it off and get in line”.

So what does this have to do with the state of the world? Everything. Pretty much every problem in the world can be directly linked to an errant boys behavior. If someone’s being shot, stabbed, beaten or raped, good money says it’s a boy (man) doing it. If someone ruining fortunes and swindling investors it’s probably a man who thinks only of themselves. If someone dumping waste in the river or polluting the skies without restraint, it’s probably a man who treats the word as his personal trashcan.

Now granted, men hold the vast majority of positions of authority and power in the world so they have far more opportunities than women to fuck things up, and there are plenty of powerful women who behave like sociopaths, but this dynamic is played out all over the word though every culture and ever ethnic and socioeconomic group. Rich or poor, black or white, it’s the dudes who are messing things up.

If someone shoots their own children and then turns the gun on themselves, it’s a guy doing it. Rampage at the office leaving a dozen coworkers dead or injured, yep it’s a guy. If you’re getting cold cocked, having your leg peed on at a concert, or having your car window smashed with a bat, there’s guy’s appendage attached to the other end.

So what about these rambunctious boys at the trampoline place that just cut in front and pay no attention to social etiquette? Are they tomorrow headlines? Probably not. They’ll most likely get a clue eventually and turn out fine. But behind every male criminal is a boy who at one point was mostly indistinguishable from his peers. He was just a kid. His parents never thought their son would grow up to rob a bank, stab a stranger or deal meth. No one does.

Now male energy is a wonderful thing. It’s what got us out of the caves and across the oceans. It’s what drove most of our modern inventions. It’s a restlessness and confidence that enables men to take great chances, to disregard convention and to be willing to destroy what they have in the attempt to make something new from the pieces. I’m a guy and I get it. It does feel good to shake things up.

Yet, if you line up all the first grade boys at any school in any city in America, it’s absolutely certain than some will end up in prison because they never learned to control their male energy.

This is why I think it’s important for adults to level the playing field, not only with their own children’s abilities, but throughout society as well.

I know my daughter is shy and has trouble asserting herself, so we give that area a little extra attention. Same with her teacher. She’s doesn’t need any help in being shy. She’s got that one down quite well.

Other parents have the opposite dynamic with a bold and fearless child who will take whatever they want. So they’ll need to focus on giving them attention is the areas they are lacking such as empathy, sharing, and observing social cues.

But parents can’t accomplish this on their own. This is where the painfully cheesy, yet accurate “it takes a village” concept comes in. I shouldn’t have to school these kids on etiquette but I will if I have to. We all should. Every parent should be looking out for all the children in their immediate area, not just their own. If a kid’s bullying it’s your job to step in whether it involves your child or not. If a child is putting themselves in harm’s way or acting rude, foolish, or destructive it’s your job to say something.

It’s also a two-way street as I also expect other parents to treat my daughter the same way. If she’s out of line, and I’m not there, then yes, as an adult, it’s your responsibility to say something. Don’t just let her play with broken glass, go into a dangerous crawl space, or tease another child. She’s only seven. Her ability to assess risk and to fully comprehend and predict consequences doesn’t mature until age twenty-five. That’s a long, long, ways away.

So that’s my wish. Let’s all step up a bit and not be afraid to get involved. There are things that all parents agree upon that involve safety, kindness, and fairness. There is nothing wrong with drawing the line on those issues.

And if you don’t like us interfering with your “parenting”, then get your act together and pay attention to what your kid is doing. We all see the consequences when parents shift their responsibilities on to society. It’s not pretty and often ends with the proper authorities.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

File Under: Teaching Young Boys to Control Their Inconsiderate Behavior – It Takes a Village to Raise a Child, Especially When Their Real Parent is Slacking Off


Dec 22 2010

Let’s Talk About Death. Or Not.

Summary: Kids can handle the truth. They can handle death.  It’s adults than need happy stories to ease their discomfort.

When it comes to the big “D” parents just fall apart. They use euphemisms and abstractions when explaining it to their children. To complicate matters, most parents believe in some kind of life after death. Most think they will go to Heaven. I’m not going to argue about whether this is true or not.  Will your child visit grandma in heaven after they die? Perhaps, but you don’t know that and it’s not useful information. What you do know for sure is that grandma is dead because she got too old to live anymore. You can’t visit her and she’s not coming back. Death is forever. If you are dead you cannot enjoy any of things this world has to offer. This is good, helpful information that a child can process and act upon. Spinning happy tales to ease a child’s mind does nothing to help them grasp this simple concept. Children need to know that if they do something profoundly reckless and stupid it could kill them and if they are dead they will never see mommy and daddy again, they won’t eat ice cream, and won’t be able to see, feel or think anything. They will be gone forever. This is all any one of us know for certain. The rest is speculation.

This is how my daughter’s been raised. She has a simple and truthful idea about what happens when something dies. She doesn’t think it’s in a better place or that her dead pet fish is watching over her from the heavens. It’s dead. It’s not coming back. End of story. She also knows that should she die, it’s all over for her as well. She’s not coming back to visit us and she will never do fun things on earth again.

This is not mean. Only adults think this is mean. A child will readily accept the facts and just move on.

What if you told your child that if they didn’t brush their teeth that their teeth will rot and fall out, BUT, they will get them all back when they go to heaven and they will be able to eat ice cream all day and never have to brush their teeth again. Yippee! What wonderful and fantastic story to easy their mind about the consequences of ignoring proper oral hygiene.

I don’t think there is a single parent walking this earth who would think this is good advice. No one would say that because brushing your teeth is important and a child needs to understand the consequences of poor oral hygiene. Yet most people believe this to be more or less true. They will get all their teeth back, eat ice cream all day and never have to brush their teeth ever again. So why don’t they downplay the risks of bad brushing by telling their child that it ultimately doesn’t matter because they get them all back when they go to heaven?

“Well, because children need to brush their teeth. It’s important!”

Exactly.

Some people believe that god will provide. Not in a general way, but in a very specific, tangible and measurable way. When I was in seventh grade I would go to this Wednesday evening Christian event for teenage boys. I went because my best friend,  who was a Christian, went and I just wanted to hang out. We did an activity, listened to some god stuff and then did what we all really came to do, which was play basketball. One day the counselor is telling us a story about how his bank account was dangerously low. He wouldn’t be able to pay his bills. He prayed and prayed for guidance and support. At the end of the month when he balanced his checkbook he discovered that there was an extra $200 in his account. His conclusion? God put extra money in his account because he had faith. My conclusion? You did your math wrong, you always had $200 more than you thought, but you just now noticed it. I couldn’t believe a full-grown adult was behaving this way.

Now, for argument’s sake, let’s say his version of events was true. God somehow manipulated the data at the bank in a way that would make it seem as if an extra $200 did appear in his account. He changed all the data to account for this money somehow, including a paper trail of where it came from. Maybe he materialized a cashed check from a seemingly real, yet complete imaginary and untraceable account. Who knows, but god put the money there.

Now who would you want giving your child financial advice? Me, a twelve-year-old boy, who stresses good accounting and living within your means, or the Christian counselor, a full-grown adult, who teaches prayer as a means for balancing your checkbook. Every parent would pick me. Even the born again ones.

Why? Because being able to handle finances properly is important.

You see this every day, across the entire world. No matter what their faith, when the consequences are serious, people demand, as well as give, the hard tangible truth.

Most people believe in some sort of spiritual being that not only influences the world but will directly shape events for the people who have faith in his power. This is why athletes and armies pray for victory, Grammy winners thank god, and people pray for guidance and relief.

Yet, who do they go to when they are sick? A priest? A cleric? Nope they head right to the hospital and seek out someone who can implement specific treatments with tangible, measurable results- someone who deals in facts and reason and has the training and tools to help them. Sure, they may also pray on the side, but only after they’ve done all the other stuff they know should do.

Who fixes your car? A Shaman? How about your taxes? Do you go to H&R Block or a prayer circle to make sure they are filed correctly?

You can see where I’m going with this. When it’s time to actually accomplish something specific, people keep their faith in check and focus on what options are really available to them. You don’t turn to the Bible to figure out if your child is dyslexic or has delayed language abilities. You got to a speech therapist. You don’t  look to god for guidance to buy a new home. You look at your finances, check the interest rates and with the help of your mortgage broker you massage the numbers. If it’s financially feasible, you do it. If not, you don’t. There is no ambiguity to the process.

People of the most devote faith do this every day when they need to deal with real life. They save the god stuff for church or when it’s time to regroup and reflect. And they do just fine. They adjust and get on with it. They don’t mourn the loss of a fanciful tale that makes everything seem mystical. They don’t pout that buying a home is not cloaked in magic and mystery or that getting a cast for their broken arm is just not spiritual enough.

Children are the ultimate dealers. They handle things way better than adults. And unlike adults they have a very easy time accepting the truth. So Grandma’s dead. Yes, it’s sad. A child adjusts and moves on. It’s the adults that fall to pieces and have to come up with alternate realities to easy their pain. She’s in a better place. Everything happens for a reason. She’s watching us from heaven right now. I can feel her spirit. She lived a full life and it was just her time.

Kids don’t need this. So don’t justify your avoidance of the truth and cloak death in euphemisms for the sake of you children. The reality is you do it for your own benefit, not your kids.

This is not about abandoning your faith. This is not anti-god. This is about the right tool for the job. Religion is fine for discussing metaphorical and existential concepts. It can work fine for exploring issues of morality. It can provide guidance and strength in the darkest of times. The world’s most important civil rights movement was fueled by faith and faith has continued to grow and spread while great empires continue to crumble. But faith is not so good when dealing with situations where you need  immediate concrete information that you can act upon.

We all demand the truth every day. Whether it’s diagnosing your chest pain in the emergency room or just wanting to know what aisle the cheddar cheese is on, you want a simple, truthful answer.

So I ask you, why should death be any different?

File Under: Teaching Kids About Death – How to Explain Death and Dying To Children – Explaining Death from a Human Secularist View Point – Death, Faith and Religion


Dec 22 2010

The Curses and Blessings of The Human Male Mind

Summary: Male energy is a wonderful and silly thing. Well, at least I think so.

A couple of years ago I’m walking out to waves to go surf. It’s low tide so it’s a pretty long walk along rock reef that’s full of nooks and pits. I’m up to my knees when I see a two foot salmon dart across my path.

So what was my first instinct? Stab it with my surfboard. The impulse was clear and strong. I even cocked my arm back. It all happened within milliseconds.

Now here’s the funny part. I’ve been a vegetarian for 24 years and I’ve been allergic to fish for 27 years. So I have no interest in killing a fish nor any use for dead one. Not only that, to replace my surfboard should I snap the nose off, would cost over $400. Even with all these factors, my initial instinct when presented with a wild fish swimming across my path was to kill it – or more specifically, spear it with my surfboard.

Now of course, I didn’t stab the fish. But in the first fractions of a second that’s what my brain was primed to do.

If I see a ball rolling or flying by, my instinct is to catch it. Rock in my path? Well of course I’m going to kick it. If I see a bottle sitting on a wall I want to knock it off with a stone.

I don’t always do it, but that is the very first thing that pops into my head and I can feel my brain and body instantly prepare for those actions.

I can no more stop my eyes from tracking a moving ball than a dog can stop themselves from following a stick. It’s hardwired into our most primitive brain structures.

My partner never feels these impulses. She can walk right past a rock in the gutter and not have the slightest desire to kick it. She can watch a ball roll right past her and off a cliff and not feel anything. Fast object are something to avoid, not track and catch. Fire doesn’t excite, nor do explosions.

Not wanting to play with fire? How can anyone not like to play with fire? If we’re in a restaurant with candlelight settings I always check to see how hot the holder is. Then I pass my fingers through the flames. Then maybe hold my hand over the top to see how long I can hold it there before I feel the burn. I don’t know why, I just do it. It calls to me.

My partner, however, never plays with flame and fire. It doesn’t even cross her mind. I know, shocking isn’t it?

Give me a firecracker and I immediately start thinking of all the things I could blow up. I’m forty-four years old, have a seven-year old daughter, I’m self-employed and been with the same woman for twenty-two years. Yet, I still get excited over a firecracker.

I like filling the kitchen with dry ice fog. It never gets old. Putting a chunk on a metal spoon and listening to it “scream” as it turns from a solid to a gas always cracks me up.

I like spitting off a bridge or cliff.

I like to bend something until it breaks. I’m actually not trying to break it. I’m just curious how far it can bend until it does break.

I like big industrial machines that perform little simple tasks. It cracks me up to see a  four thousand pound machine the size of a living room who’s only job is to put a paper label on a six-ounce can of tomato paste. It’s hilarious and also amazing. It’s ingenious yet wonderfully excessive.

I like watching guys hurt themselves doing foolish things.

I like the sound of a Les Paul through a Marshal stack and MMA fights.

However, these things do nothing for my partner. Right now she’s watching a Lifetime Channel movie about some woman who has a dad who thinks he’s Santa. I’m serious, someone made that movie. And someone’s actually watching it. Now if it was a Cohen Brothers movie about a man who thinks he’s Santa I’m sure it would rock, but Lifetime movies are basically after school specials for women. Everything about them repels me including, but not limited to, the lighting, the framing, the sets, the soft focus, the music, the editing, and the dialog. My sensibilities are offended by Lifetime production methods. I’m so disinterested I don’t even want to be in the same room as I can’t help but mock it – which would be very unfair to her.

So I wrote this blog post instead. Which is way more manly that watching a Lifetime movie.

Yes, male energy is a wonderful and silly thing indeed.

File Under: The Curses and Blessings of The Human Male Mind – How Guys Think – Men and Women Thing Differently


Dec 19 2010

Help, Is There a Smart Ass In the House?

Summary: Everyone needs a smart ass friend who will just tell it like it is.

This story takes place two years ago at Blue Ball Park. Yes, that’s a funny name, and no it isn’t the real name. The real name is Anna Jean Cummings. I know, not much better.

The common name is a slang term for vasocongestion of the testicles due to prolonged and unsatisfied sexual excitement, and the official name sounds like a James Bond girl or perhaps a humorous name to use for a crank call.

Either way, the county was doomed to have a name charged with sexual innuendo.

Blue Ball Park gets its name from the giant eight foot diameter blue concrete balls they installed all over the park. The park has some majestic hills and they scattered them around to make it look like they are moving downward. It’s a cool effect and it’s a signature feature of the park. Hence the name Blue Ball.

Anyway, back to the story.

My daughter loves dogs, but only the concept of dogs. She has a large selection of stuffed dogs and lots of extras including a dog dish, a couple of leashes, some chew toys and a dog bed. She frequently sets up elaborate pet shop scenarios and will dress up like a dog from time to time herself.

When she’s in dog character she’ll walk around on all fours, bark, eat from her bowl, play fetch, and will nuzzle up to you to have her head scratched.

However, she’s afraid of real dogs. Well, not so much afraid as uncomfortable around them. Anxious, you could say.

Now Blue ball park has a lot of dogs – some on leashes, some running free.

One day one comes up to my daughter pretty quickly the way dogs tend to do. She naturally freezes up and I step in to help her relax.

“Oh you don’t have to worry about my dog, she’s very friendly”

“I’m sure she is but my daughter’s nervous around dogs”

“Oh, but my dog is great around children. She would never hurt anyone.”

“That’s probably true, but my daughter doesn’t like dogs coming up to her.”

“It’s ok, you can pet her. She’s very friendly.”

As expected my daughter is still stiff and uncomfortable and in no hurry to pet her dog. I’m also losing my patience with this woman.

“Look, I know your dog is probably great, but my daughter is not comfortable around dogs and every child who’s had their face ripped off by a neighborhood dog has the same story. The dog is always friendly, has never hurt anyone in the past, but for some reason the dog just snapped this time and attacked. I’m not going to force my daughter to pet your dog to prove how safe and wonderful she is.”

At this point the woman takes this as a personal challenge. An affront to her dog’s benign character.

“My dog is the absolute sweetest dog. She’s grown up with all three of my children and I’ve never once worried about their safety. They’ve known her their whole life. They love her and she’s part of the family!”

Just then my surf buddy chimes in.

“So, did the dog breast feed your kids too?”

She stopped dead in her tracks. There was a few seconds of silence and then she walked away with her dog.

Everyone needs a smart ass friend who has the balls to just say the stuff most people only think.

Logic, reason, and politeness were the wrong tools for the job in this situation. She needed a good old fashioned smart ass remark to shut her down. A verbal beat down on the playground.

My buddy provided the honors.

I still smile every time when I think of that day and the image of her dog breast feeding her children.

File Under: Reason and Logic Versus Smart Ass Remarks – Choosing the Right Verbal Tool for The Job – Dealing With Overzealous Dog Owners  Who Can’t Separate Their Egos from Their Dog’s


Dec 19 2010

Girls Love Basketball Just as Much as Boys – At Least at First

Summary: How I became a parent PE volunteer for my daughter’s class and my surprise at how much little girls love basketball.

For seven years we (ie. my partner) had a rule. She gets to sleep in on Saturdays and I take care of our daughter and keep her out of her hair. Since Saturdays were also father/daughter adventure day, this meant that I couldn’t surf on that day.

Now you’d think that surfing six days a week would be enough. Well it’s not, especially when we get back to back swells that hit on a Saturday. One such Saturday was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. I got one text after another from my buddies about how epic it was. On Sunday I paddle out and the swell had already dropped by half and switched to the north.

“Dude, you should have been here yesterday. Can’t you just switch days or something?”

I just couldn’t take it anymore. I needed my Saturdays back.

I also felt the rule was out dated as my daughter is much older now and a million times easier to deal with. These days we’re generally well rested, our sex doesn’t get interrupted anymore, and my partner has plenty of time to relax and watch her favorite shows, read, and surf the web.

However, the bulk of my schedule is the same as I’m the sole income provider. All I really do is work, take care of my daughter and surf. That’s it. I don’t smoke, drink or do drugs. I don’t watch sports or hang out with “the boys”. I never take a vacation unless it’s with my family. I’m frugal and don’t squander money on dumb hobbies or gambling. I’m not into cars, motorcycles, planes, or any other time consuming and expensive passions. I’m a hard working, clean living family guy and I like it that way. So after seven years of skipping Saturday’s I’d had it. I should be able surf every day. It’s my one vice and it’s a very healthy one at that.

So I sat my partner down and started to explain the situation. Naturally she flew off the handle. She went into full defensive mode and then straight into attack mode.

“Wait and let me finish. I think you’ll like what I have to say. Listen first, then you can respond.”

“Ummm, ok. Go. I’m waiting.”

Her arms were crossed, her eyes were wild and dilated, and she looked like she was going to rip my head off. But she was going to give me the courtesy of fair hearing first. And then she’d rip my head off.

I told her that I couldn’t handle our arrangement anymore. I was very unhappy and getting resentful. I need to surf every day. That’s it. That’s all I do and I want it every day. In return I offered her a weekday instead. One day a week I would get our daughter ready for school, make her lunch, take her to class, the works. I would also pick her up from school. This would allow me to surf everyday because instead of doing dawn patrol on that day I would surf swing shift after I dropped our daughter off. It took her some time to fully understand what I was saying, and how superior a weekday sleep-in was to a weekend sleep-in, but she ultimately agreed. She picked Wednesday because every other Wednesday was laundry day and that would be a perfect day not to have to deal with parenting stuff.

So how does this tie into basketball?

Since I was now picking my daughter up every Wednesday at 3pm, I decided to show up early at 2:30 and be a parent volunteer for PE. This worked great all around because I got to help out a bit, get a more intimate view of how my daughter’s school works, and also beat the pick-up time rush hour traffic. I’d much rather play outside that sit in a caravan of cars.

At our school they have PE at the end of the day, which works really nice as the kids are less spazzy when they come home.

The second grade class is exceptionally large and composed of four and half classes with the half being a second-third combo. This size cluster was evident in Kindergarten and has continued to ripple through the school as they age.

The kids are dived into groups. My daughter’s in group one and every day the teachers rotate to a different group and organize that day’s activities. Unfortunately, group one’s Wednesday teacher is really into dance so that’s what I end up doing most of the time. It’s not so much the dance itself – though foot stomping square dancing is a bit tiresome – it’s that there is not a lot for me to do unless a kid is missing a partner.

Ok, it really is the dance mostly. It would be fine if we mixed it up a bit, but the teacher has a lifelong interest in this stuff and she wants to share it. The kids do their best to follow along.

“All right…now two steps forward…now two steps back…dos si do…now promenade…form a circle…now to the left…now back to the right..ok what’s going on here? Does this look like a circle? Every one spread out. Why are you by yourself? Who’s your partner? Ok everyone back to your original positions. Not that position, the one where we line up facing your partner. Do you remember who your partner was? No? Well somebody must be your partner or else someone else has two. Who has two partners? Ok, which one was your original partner? You don’t know. Does anyone remember? Excuse me I’m talking now.”

It’s much like herding cats and this folk dance is as silly to do as it is to look at. It’s also really hard. It’s pretty advanced stuff for second graders who didn’t grow up on a farm in the 1890′s. Even I struggle to remember the patterns and all the names for the moves. Of course, I suck at dancing all around, so maybe I shouldn’t say “even I”. I’m just better at faking it because I’ve got an additional 37 years life experience years on these kids. Now, add some thumping fiddle music on the boom box and it takes a toll on my psyche.

Anyway, on a few lucky days, either due to a substitute teacher or a switch in laundry day, we didn’t do dance and instead did basketball. Not a full game of basketball, just some free play basic dribbling and hoops.

Most of the boys take off and start shooting. Some are quite good.

The girls on the other hand, are struggling.

It’s clear they don’t have the upper body strength to even get the ball over the rim. It’s just one air ball after another. Their dribbling is really sloppy as well, but there is one girl who is completely lost. She’s very shy and petite and she’s off to the side slapping the ball as if she was spanking it. Whack, whack, roll away. Whack, whack, roll away. I’m surprised she didn’t fracture her wrist. No one can sustain that type of trauma for long.

“I notice you’re slapping the ball. I know that’s what it looks like when other people are doing it but they’re not really doing a slapping motion.”

I do a slap dribble to show that even an adult can’t dribble that way.

“See, even I can’t do it that way and I’m much bigger. Dribbling a basketball is really a pushing motion. You push the ball down. Then you follow it. See what’s happening? So I push and follow it down and then follow it back up. Then I push it down again. Down and up, down and up. My hand it right next to the ball the whole time. The closer your hand the better. Here, you try now.”

She nails it on her first try and does her longest and most in control dribble yet.

“Excellent! Perfect. Feels better on your wrist doesn’t it?”

She’s shy and introverted, and I’m only around one day a week, so she never answers me when I speak to her. But the big smile on her face, and the ah-ha twinkle in her eyes tell me everything I need to know.

“Do you want to try to shoot now?”

She shakes her head.

“Want to keep practicing your dribbling?”

She nods.

“Ok, I’ll be over there with the other girls if you need me or want to shoot”.

I walk over to the girls. They still haven’t made a single basket. Most of the time it’s a good foot below the rim and just rolls away into the grass.

“Ok, I’m going to show you a method that will allow to get the ball high enough to get in the basket. Take the ball in both hands like this. Now bend your knees a bit and swing the ball between your legs and then toss it up. This is called underhand. It’s a totally legitimate way to shoot a basket ball. Pros are allowed to do it if they want. So it’s not cheating or wrong. It’s just another way to shoot a ball. Here, you try.”

The first girl tosses it. Swish. She flashes a huge grin.

“I’m next!”

The next girl gets the ball up but it bounces off the rim.

“That was really close. Try again.”

The next one’s a clean shot off the backboard and it drops right in.

There’s five girls in the group and they are pumped. They start practicing right way. After using a better technique for their strength level, they went from hopeless air balls to hitting at least 25% of their shots in five minutes.

We don’t have enough basketballs for everyone one, so one’s using an old soccer ball and one’s using an asymmetrical red rubber kickball with the typical bulge on one side.

The tiniest girl is using a brand new huge thick-skinned basketball. It takes all her strength to get past the rim.

“Would you like to change to something smaller.”

She just shakes her head and keeps on throwing – which is what I expected. She may be small and quite but she’s focused and competitive and has no problems setting boundaries. Even if it means she spends most of her time chasing the ball into the grass.

So that’s it. A little bit of instruction and a group of girls kicked their high failure rate, thus ensuring that they will continue to enjoy basketball for as long as they choose rather than losing interest because they suck. Which would be most unfortunate because at seven years old, they are going to suck at a lot of things.

File Under: Basketball Teaching Techniques That Accommodate Different Strength, Coordination and Skill Levels Among Boys and Girls


Dec 18 2010

The Science Behind Children’s Appetites – The Multiple Stomach Chamber Theory

Summary: The shocking truth about why your child has limited room for broccoli but seemingly infinite room for desert.

So I’m feeding my daughter dinner.

“I’m full. I want some more pasta.”

“But you still have more broccoli left.”

“I’m just full for broccoli. I’m not full for pasta.”

Huh? How is this possible. It doesn’t make any sense, yet every kid I’ve met has the same problem. They get full very easily when eating vegetables but still have room for pasta. And when they’re completely full of pasta, they are still hungry for desert.

And then inspiration struck. Children must have multiple stomach chambers that are designed to hold only specific foods. As they get older these chambers combine until there is only one chamber left. This is why an adult can get completely full of broccoli and really be completely full. They will not be hungry for anything else.

Children are born with their skull in separate pieces so they can get through he birth canal without fracturing their head. The pieces slowly grow together as they age. Children also start out with no teeth, then get baby teeth, and then those fall out and are replaced by adult ones. So it’s entirely within reason that they are born with a fractured stomach that slowly grows together and is ultimately replaced with an adult one as well.

Below is a diagram outlining this theory.

multiple stomach  chamber theory chart

As you can see, a child has four stomach chambers – a small one for vegetables, a bigger one for pasta, an even bigger one for cheese, and a giant one which is for deserts. So a child can easily max out their vegetable chamber and thus be too full for broccoli, but could still easily hold more pasta. If a child doesn’t fill all of their chambers, they will still feel hungry.

On the other hand, an adult’s stomach is one chamber and doesn’t make a distinction on content. It can be filled with anything until it can’t hold anymore. At this point the adult will say “I’m full, I just can’t eat anymore” and they will really mean it.

However a child may only be full of one kind of food yet have ample space for other types of food.

I know, I’m shocked as you are.

File Under: Why Kids Feel Full But Still Want Desert