Practice that is inspired by enthusiastic play lays down habits of discipline.
Take my 15-year-old son, Jack, for instance. I gave him an AquaSkipper last Christmas. It is an aluminum contraption, with hydrofoil wings and fiberglass springs, that allows you to fly across the water by hopping up and down on pedals. Last summer, he assembled it and took it for its maiden voyage on our favorite lake. He sank — many times. But he kept at it. He began to get better. Jack’s persistence with the AquaSkipper spilled over into other areas of his life.
Too many parents, teachers, and coaches make the mistake of jumping in at this point — skipping steps 1 and 2. When problems arise, they ask the child to try harder, to practice, practice, practice. Asking a child with ADD to try harder is like asking a nearsighted person to squint harder. Eyeglasses work better. Creating a connected childhood and opening up opportunities to play provide the eyeglasses. Once they are in place, the cycle of excellence runs on automatic pilot.
Step Four: Help Him Master a Problem