My first memory of video games came when I was roughly 8 years old. My grandparents bought my sister and I the first Nintendo; it came with Super Mario Brothers and, for the hunting lovers out there—action-packed duck hunting.
Sure, we played the Nintendo, but the majority of my time was spent outdoors riding my mule or playing outdoor house— which included cow pies as dinner plates for my dining set. If you don’t know what a cow pie is, do your Google search. That is some good, old-fashioned country kid stuff right there.
Fun was something that we had to work at creating. We had to use our imagination and work at making our little imaginary world come to life. Growing up on a small hobby farm, the mules were a great way for us to learn how to read the body language of animals and communicate non-verbally with them. Those little lessons taught me how to assert myself in a situation, to stand my ground and follow through with the task that I wanted to achieve. If any of you have ever handled mules, then you understand how strong-willed they can be and, as a kid, I learned to have a will that was even stronger than that of my mule.
Playing outside with other kids afforded the opportunity to learn some pretty important life lessons, from basic problem solving and how to deal with personality conflicts. When my dad took me hunting, we would spent days afield hunting without success, and sometimes, success was simply a memory made together. This taught me delayed gratification, the reward lie ahead after the hard work had been put into the hunt.
Effort = Reward
Today, the landscape of childhood is vastly different. Kids are surrounded by technology: hand-held iPads, iPods, computers, videogames and televisions that will do pretty much everything … including surfing the Internet. In this ever-changing world, it is important that kids learn how to navigate this technology because it is the new way of life. But at what point did our society stop nurturing nature within our kids? All too often, electronics have become a full- time babysitter.
If you take a look around an airport, restaurant or watch a group of kids at play, most of their time is centered on being face down looking at a gadget—not at the world and not at each other.
All of this technology breeds a new culture of society that is used to instant gratification. If a kid wants to be a martial artist expert, they simply learn to master the game and they are now an expert. This is a stark contrast to putting in the time, physical and mental effort and commitment required to become a real martial artist.
Why would a kid want to go outdoors, where it can be cold to hunt deer, when at the tip of their fingers in the warmth of their own home they can virtually pursue not just one deer, but they can harvest as many as their controller will allow them to. Without effort, without energy, without discipline, they can become expert electronic hunters.
And have you noticed the attention span of kids these days? It seems to be decreasing. Watching a movie, skipping back and forth between segments, on and off line, in between games. Kids can channel surf like nothing I have ever seen before.
With all of this electronic immersion, where has personal interaction gone? Kids are missing the boat on learning to communicate and resolve personality conflicts, and they are not learning the value of teamwork and problem solving with the spirit of cooperation to create fun. This play is the foundation to the work ethic of the future. Overcoming these challenges grows adults that are also well-rounded and know how to problem solve and be successful.
A New Perspective
Let me clarify that I am not a parent. These are simply observations that I have made with the children in my life. With my growing concern, I contacted a good friend of mine, South Cox of Stalker Stickbows. Not only is South one of the most respected archer’s in the country, but he has a lot of experience raising children. With two step children that have recently graduated college, a son in high school and a new adopted family of three children at the ages 4, 5 and 7, he was the perfect person to talk about my concerns with where our electronic society is headed and, of course, to get input on nurturing nature in his own family.
The Cox family has taken a strong stand on electronics that I think other families should also consider adopting. Computers, iPhones, iPads are to be used at school only—and there are ZERO video games allowed. Television is allowed on the weekends in the form of age-appropriate movies, and there are strict limitations on time spent in front of the tube.
Perhaps as his children age and the needs of computers and cell phone increases, so will the family tolerance of them … but let me explain the beauty that is happening within his home.
Upon adoption, all three children were electronically dependent for entertainment. Flash-forward nearly 1 year later and his kids have learned a new way of life, a new opportunity at childhood that’s to be lived close to nature.
South’s newly adopted 7-year-old son is now the top reader in his class, and the praise he receives from that encouragement is fostering the desire to work harder, giving him a new found confidence that he did not have before. Instead of the hooked on electronics lifestyle, the Cox family can be found outdoors playing, reading a book or playing a game, together.
Another friend of mine has a 5-year-old son that was rather dependent upon electronics for entertainment. Trying to separate this said child from an iPad, iPhone or the television caused for more than a few tears. But guess what: With new restrictions in place—no iPad, no iPhone and limited movies—this kid is now picking up his paper and pencils and coloring, making forts, building Lego fortresses and using his imagination to entertain himself while interacting with the family.
Kristy's dad had her hunting and working with animals at a very young age ... and she continues to hunt with her father every chance she gets.
It’s Your Turn
As parents, family members and mentors, it is important that we nurture kids in nature and creativity. By doing so, you are literally altering the behavior of future generations and ensuring the continuation of our time-honored traditions.
Nurturing nature can be simple: Just say no to electronics. Each kid is going to enjoy different activities. Nurture your child’s interests, even if they are different from yours. Encourage them to do what they love, follow their spirit- led passions, regardless of what they might be. Nurture that love and encourage it.
When your home affords your child the opportunity to grow with their own interest, learning the basic foundation of a good work ethic through little kid life lessons, you will raise an adult that does not easily discourage, has a confident, can do attitude that communicates with others and is never reluctant to go the extra mile and put forth extra effort for a job well done—because they were raised to be that way.