Cats in the Cradle: Balancing Cerebral and Physical Activity Role Modelling

As I was taking advantage of the weekend, I reminded myself of just how important it is to ensure that cerebral activity is broken up by either exercise or some form of work involving physical activity...

On the Friday night, I found myself feeling relatively washed out after another hectic week of appointments and activities. A lot of these involved meetings, document preparation and generally required very little physical activity apart from possibly walking between events. Under normal circumstances, I find myself engaged in some form of activity over weekends that is worked based requiring mental focus. This work usually involves accessing my personal device or computer. I was determined to use the weekend to at least break this cycle in some small way.

Consequently, I made a conscious decision to embark on completing a series of manual jobs around the O'Connell house that needed to be attended to and had been pushed down the priority list. Furthermore, I made a decision to limit my online access. By the end of the weekend I felt recharged and energised.

It is really important that families ensure that their sons find a balance between online activity and physical activity. Recently I was speaking to a dad who in his words dragged his son kicking and screaming for a bike ride. While the initial 10 minutes appeared far from welcomed by his son; the end result was a boy who loved the ride. This decision broke the cycle of sedentary activity; got everyone out of the house and as such everyone's ICT devices were not the focus for the afternoon. Why did this activity work? The answer is simple it took a parent to model what they wanted; a change in environment from internal TV or device based to a physical outdoor activity. I witness this many times over each weekend when I see families bring their son to our playing fields to run off some of their energy.


Some of you may be aware of the song by Harry Chapin "Cats in the Cradle". If not, you may wish to listen to it some time. Essentially the song is about a young boy watching how his father operates exemplified by the lyrics:

"He learned to walk while I was away, and he was talking' 'fore I knew it, and as he grew: he'd say "I'm gonna be like you, Dad"

The message is that we must role model to our boys at school and at home. If we fail to do so how will they accept the importance of balance in their life? This is why Scotch ensures sport is compulsory and that we provide a breadth of co-curricular offerings.

Recently, I have had several conversations with parents regarding their perception that their son has become addicted to gaming or simply addicted to social media and device usage.

We cannot avoid the use of ICT, nor should we. This is the reality of the world within which our boys now operate. What we have to do is ensure that ICT and associated activities are simply seen as part of a balanced lifestyle.

The Centre for Disease Control in the US also highlight why physical activity and getting outside is so important. Physical activity assists with:

  • Building and maintaining healthy bones and muscles
  • Reducing the risk of developing obesity and chronic diseases, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, in future years
  • Reducing feelings of depression and anxiety and promotes psychological well-being
  • Is associated with helping to improve students' academic performance, including, academic achievement and grades and academic behaviour, such as concentration and attentiveness in the classroom.

As with most things in life, moderation is the key. A simple way to address over usage of ICT or social media is to set usage times with your sons and stick to what is agreed. In essence, it is all about having meaningful conversations with boys in order to shape their way of operating.

We must be the role models of desired behavior. If our boys never see us display the type of behavior we value, then how else will they ever come to understand the importance of a balanced life style? Balance incorporates getting out and about and experiencing more than just a virtual representation of life on a TV or computer screen.