Many modern parents cringe at the idea of raising their children with rules and structure. This generation of parents believes that children need to be empowered, be heard and be free-thinking in order to have a fulfilled life — or do they? What if all they needed was a bit of structure in their lives?
How the military does it
Colin Powell addressed an audience at TEDxMidAtlantic with his thoughts on kids and structure. "For the majority of my adult life, I've worked with young kids — teenagers with guns, I call them," he says. We bring them in the Army, and the first thing we do is put them in an environment of structure, put them in ranks, make them wear the same clothes and cut their hair off so they look alike."
Powell talks about how young recruits are taught to do right face/left face so they learn to obey instructions and learn the consequences of not obeying instructions. "It gives them structure," he says. "You would be amazed at what you can do with them once you put them in that structure. In 18 weeks they have a skill, they are mature. We need more of this kind of structure and respect in the lives of our children," he adds.
Begins at home
Powell feels that education begins at home. From the moment the mother first holds her baby, the child begins to understand love, structure and language. When you talk to your child, read to her and care for her basic needs, she realizes she can count on the simple structure of her home life. "Children need a network, to be part of a tribe, a community. It's so essential that we put this culture back into our families," Powell shares.
"A child who has not been read to is in danger when that child gets to school," shares Powell. "A child who doesn't know his or her colors, doesn't know how to tell time, how to tie his shoes and doesn't know how to do something that was drilled into me as a kid — [to] mind. Mind your manners, mind your adults, mind what you're saying. This is the way children are raised properly," he adds.
Gift of a good start
Powell shares his personal revelations about growing up in New York City schools and being a mediocre student at best. At the root of it all, he feels that he had a good, solid family and community support that helped him eventually find his place. Through ROTC he moved on to the Army, where he really found his passion. When children are given a good start, they have a better chance of succeeding at whatever they do. He likes to tell young kids to "always look for that which you do well, and that which you love doing. Anywhere you start in life, it's what you do with life that determines where you end up in life."
Providing kids with structure isn't about limiting their freedom. It gives them a solid foundation for building their future.