Send your Kids to School with PFD

Don’t send your kids to school without their PFD...

If you were out on the water this Summer you know the importance of wearing a Personal Floatation Device. Wouldn’t it be nice if parents had something like this that their child could use at school? Not a floaty vest, but something that can both help kids to protect themselves and provide comfort to concerned parents at the start of a new school year? Well read on moms and dads, and I will explain how you can cue your child for success with their own DIY PFD.

Working as a personal safety and martial arts instructor in some of Toronto’s most challenging areas for almost 25 years has taught me a lot about who succeeds and who doesn’t. Coaching and parenting throughout that time has also helped me to know a little bit about what works and what doesn’t when you try to steer kids toward success. I have found that more often than not what work best are often the simplest things.

The P in our PFD stands for Pride. Whether I am teaching traditional Martial Arts at my studio or an Anti-Bullying clinic at a local school, I tend to focus less on outcomes and more on participants having a strong sense of pride in their effort. Harkening back to the days when a craftsman would proudly stamp their name on their productions, I encourage all students of mine to practice and present everything they do as if their name was stamped all over it. Taking the approach that everything you do or produce is a reflection of who you really are at that moment (or at least the way the rest of the world is going to perceive you) I feel encourages students to take greater care over what they are doing as well as accept greater responsibility for the results. Whether it means encouraging them to make a better effort on their room, take more time on homework, or to be more careful in the way they do their chores, when you help kids to focus on being proud of their effort you are helping them to focus on something that they can control. After that the outcomes usually take care of themselves.

F is for Focus. One of my mantras is the old saw: where your attention goes, your energy flows. Helping kids keep their minds focused in today’s distraction rich environment can be challenging, but it is definitely possible. One of the easiest ways to do this is simply to regulate (that is to say control) their use of the most distracting thing in their lives: technology. Whether it is phone calls, Facebook, texts, tweets, T.V.’s, CD’S, MP3’s, or DVD’s the allure of technology is as hard to resist as the time one wastes on it is impossible to recover. Your regulating their use of these things helps your kids to understand priorities, how to manage their time, as well as the nature of rewards. Once you have their minds off their technology, help them put it on something else, like the idea that every day’s efforts are like steps down a path. To make sure that they end up where they want to be, kids need to learn to focus on every step they take because every step is leading somewhere.

D is for Discipline. My idea of discipline is simply the ability to do what one needs to do, when and how one needs to do it, whether one feels like doing it or not. Discipline is an essential element that makes the difference between having potential or skill, inspiration or ability, and promise or results. Because it often involves choosing to do what is necessary for long term gain over what is immediately gratifying, discipline often requires an act of will from either the parent or the child. As such, maintaining ones willpower is extremely important. After almost three decades observing people struggle with the discipline of the martial arts I have come to understand that willpower breaks down under predictable circumstances. I use the acronym PHALT to remind students that the times when one is in Pain, Hunger, Anger, Loneliness, or Tired are the times to be extra aware of what is driving their decision making. To avoid getting into these types of situations it is important for parents as for their children to care for their bodies and minds by getting enough rest, recreation, as well as exercise and nutrition. When you are at your best your discipline and your decisions tend to be better.

Encouraging your child to adopt this PFD mindset might make the difference between them (and you) struggling to survive this year, and them bobbing safely through the choppy waters of a new year. Help them to try it out and see how it feels. You’ll both feel better that they have it on.

About the Author:
Richard Verlaan is a martial arts instructor at York AMA, writer, husband and father of two based in Toronto, Ontario. For over 23 years he has been coaching adults, kids and parents to be their best through the attitude, philosophy and physical training involved in martial arts. Annually he teaches well over 5000 students through his own school as well as through workshops and seminars at TDSB, TCDSB, and private schools. Know as an engaging teacher, he also works with adults at his studio as well as in his work in corporate training, and executive coaching. His studio website is He can be reached by e-mail at

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