“Be Home Before The Street Lights Come On”

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By SSG James Miller, Assistant Center Commander
US Army Recruiting Center Knoxville


In my job as an Army recruiter, I see more and more high school aged kids who do not meet the physical standards to become a soldier. When I ask these kids what kind of activities they participate in, their answers overwhelmingly include: sitting at home and playing video games or playing on their smart phones.

Being a father of two young children, I find it extremely upsetting that the level of physical activity of this generation is practically non-existent. “Be home before the street lights come on,” is a phrase that has disappeared from our vocabulary. We, as parents, need to take responsibility and ensure that our children are not denied the opportunity to live a long and healthy life. There have been numerous studies showing that physical activity extends life, and it must begin with our younger generation. 

We have become so reliant on technology, that we are willing to neglect our health in order to embrace the convenience that technology affords. Many of us growing up prior to all these great technological innovations had no choice but to be active. I remember as a child that in order to talk to my friends, I had to physically go and find them. If I wanted to hang out with my friends, I either got on my bicycle, or I walked to each and every friend’s house, until I found someone home. There were many days when I would spend the whole evening doing nothing but walking or riding my bicycle, because those friends were either not home or had other obligations. Today, we hold entire conversations with multiple friends without leaving the couch. This constant inactivity has to change.

In my job as an Army recruiter, I see more and more high school aged kids who do not meet the physical standards to become a soldier. 

What can we do to remedy this? In my own experience, I have found that little changes make big differences. One activity that we do in my family is a family work day. This activity is not meant to punish, but, it is rather meant to get the kids off the couch. We have a larger-than-normal flower bed Around our house. It is the responsibility of the children to maintain this flower bed each weekend under the supervision of the parents. This task gives the children a sense of accomplishment, and it keeps them active. Once the flowers start blooming, the children are able to reap the rewards of their efforts. In my experience, the children eventually want to do the work, and they often work extra to try to make their flower bed as beautiful as they can.

Adult’s lives today are hectic, and it may seem like too much of an unnecessary burden to find the extra time to spend with our children. The question may arise, “When do I have the time?” The simple answer to this is to include your children in your busy lives. If you have errands to run, like grocery shopping, include your kids. Those 30 minutes of walking around the grocery store will make a difference. This time can also help strengthen your relationship with your child. With my two children, my wife and I take turns getting a child out of the home.  What works best for us is splitting the errands on the weekends between the two of us, each taking one of the children. This gets our tasks done more quickly and improves our relationships with the children. This has become such a routine in our home, that our children argue over who gets to go with daddy or mommy.

The long-term benefits of these activities will pay off. If you do not have the time to make your children get up and get out, you need to take a look at yourself and not blame your children.

All it takes is finding an activity your kids are interested in and spending a couple of hours on the weekends to get them started. We, as parents, need to get more involved in our kids’ lives. Sometimes, it may be hard to tell your children to put the phone or game controller down, and go outside, but we are their parents, and it is our obligation to direct them in the right way. If your child is suffering from laziness, the only person you can blame is yourself. Change has to start with the parents. As parents, we need to take back control of our children’s lives. The children may not like it at first, but they will thank us later.

SSG James Miller is a 24 year veteran of the U.S. Army currently serving as an Army recruiter in Knoxville Most importantly, the father of two wonderful children and husband to a great wife.

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