Strong Kid Strategy- How powerful after-school activities build young leaders

By: C. Dwight Bain, Nationally Certified Counselor & Certified Life Coach

There is a lot of talk these days about cutting back on budgets and eliminating afterschool activities for kids. Cutting out sports, music, drama and journalism to send students home early, often to an empty house, is a bad plan for countless reasons. Greater temptations, peer pressure, gangs and just an overall sense of disconnection and loneliness for these latch key kids. Yet the greatest risk of eliminating afterschool programs is the tremendous loss of character and leadership development from being part of a team or sharing in activities that stretch their thinking and creativity.

If you don’t think afterschool activities are a big deal, then let me challenge your thinking about the future. Picture it this way. Have you ever had a little experience that impacted you in a big way? Like the little things that build up and create immediate frustration, and maybe even ruin an otherwise good day. Traffic, your cell phone drops reception in the middle of an important call, the cleaners don’t get your power suit cleaned in time for a key meeting or you race to get the phone and discover it’s a computer trying to sell you something. Little pressures can build up and become major problems faster than you realize.

Kids grow up fast
Little kids grow up faster than we realize too. If we can help them find their creative ‘fit’ they will grow strong and avoid a lot of the temptations that come from feeling bored. It’s easy to take for granted that kids will grow up automatically well balanced, mature and be ready to lead when someone older is ready to retire. That is just not so. Nothing about parenting is easy, and families have more pressure than ever... and so do their kids. Since much of what we will live out in life we learned during our early childhood experiences it’s essential to make those as positive as possible. Childhood activities will shape a majority of our core values, so it’s essential to build these experiences into the lives of our kids or grandkids. Child psychologist James C. Dobson says it this way. “Values are not taught to children, they are caught by children.” Kids are continually learning by watching the adults around them.

Think about it- somewhere in a world of toy cars, video games and American Girl dolls is a future president, pastor, doctor, banker, teacher, sheriff or dentist. Before you get too scared about the future of these kids during this era of cutting out afterschool programs, I want to share some good news. I saw it in my home town of Orlando on a series of billboards that show the childhood photos of famous people who were positively influenced by the afterschool activities of the Boy’s & Girls Club

Touring afterschool options
I had a chance to tour several of these clubs with the director of our regional Boys & Girls Clubs. I learned these clubs aren’t just about positive afterschool activities, they are about ‘farming.’ Yes, I said farming. Because these dedicated programs plant good ideas into children, to build stronger character and ultimately a stronger community. I even had the chance to walk through the actual Boys Club I was a member of in Orlando almost 35 years ago, (when I was a member back then it was “no girls allowed.”) It was encouraging to see so many positive programs. A computer lab, competition swimming pool, craft rooms, after-school academic programs, and on and on. I was impressed. I saw programs that offered hope and a strong belief system. Instead of ignoring the needs of families under pressure, the Boys & Girls Clubs provides a well-structured place to grow into a balanced person and future leader.

From the President to superstar athletes, the Boy’s & Girls Club helps prepare thousands of young people for a better future every year. The important issues of youth development are laid out in a step-by-step way to help children across the bridge of life into adulthood. Their mission is to: “Help all youth, with special concern for those from disadvantaged circumstances, to develop the qualities needed to become responsible citizens and leaders”. The clubs are a “The positive place for kids.” I heard it put a bit more directly once from a local pastor years ago who said, “You need to reach into your community and help kids every time you have a chance now, or not get upset in a few years when they come to steal your car.”

Maybe your family is already a member of the local YMCA, www.centralfloridaymca.org/ or perhaps your kids go to an afterschool church character training program, or maybe they are plugged into a home school with access to incredible hands-on learning experiences. If your son or daughter is already involved in great afterschool sports or activities- wonderful! They are on track. However, if you know of a tired single mom who needs some support, why not tell her about the Boys & Girls Club or even better why not map out a year’s worth of personal development for a child you know? Providing a scholarship for a child at one of their 32 central Florida locations is better than buying one more super-charged monster video game. Besides, who wants another child growing up into a monster without values, (our world has enough of those already).

Key strategy to find a great resource for you kids
Here are some details about the Boys & Girls Club or you can visit http://www.bgccf.org/ to check out their programs for kids. If you are picking out an afterschool program other than the Boys & Girls Club, then consider using their great outline of 5 key areas to select a well-rounded way to build strength into your kids. Their Five Core Program Areas are:

1) Character & Leadership Development - Empower youth to become more global citizens who support and influence their Club and community, sustain meaningful relationships with others, develop a positive self-image and good character and respect their own and others’ cultural identities.

2) Education & Career Development - Enable youth to become proficient in basic educational disciplines, set goals, explore careers, prepare for employment and embrace technology to achieve success in a career.

3) Health & Life Skills - Develop young people’s capacity to engage in positive behaviors that nurture their own well-being, set personal goals and live successfully as self-sufficient adults.
4) The Arts - Encourage youth to develop their creativity and culture awareness through knowledge and appreciation of the visual arts, crafts, performing arts and creative writing.

5) Sports, Fitness & Recreation - Programs develop fitness, positive use of leisure time, skills for stress management, appreciation for the environment and social skills.

Remember, pay attention to small details today because they become big things later. And it’s more true in childhood development than in anything else. Little things done well in parenting today always leads a child into a better future, which is like giving yourself a gift for a more secure tomorrow.

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About the author-
Dwight Bain is dedicated to helping people achieve greater results. He is a Nationally Certified Counselor, Certified Life Coach and Certified Family Law Mediator in practice since 1984 with a primary focus on solving crisis events and managing major change. He is a professional member of the National Speakers Association and partners with media, major corporations and non-profit organizations to make a positive difference in our culture.

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