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Flying Lessons: 122 Strategies for Equipping Your Child to Face Life with Confidence and Competence Review by Donna Campos

By Gregg Steinberg, PhD
Thomas Nelson Publishers
PO Box 141000
Nashville, TN 37214

Flying Lessons is a book that offers 122 strategies for equipping children to be winners in life. Dr. Gregg Steinberg is considered an expert in the field of sports psychology and human performance. The 181-page book has fifty short chapters divided into six parts, each part highlighting one of six key emotional strengths: emotional awareness, emotional preparedness, emotional engagement, emotional bravado, emotional drive, and emotional balance. The book blends fictional stories with biographical accounts of people many children will recognize, such as Tiger Woods, Tom Hanks, Michael Jordan, Christopher Reeve, Theodore Roosevelt, Pablo Picasso, and more. Each chapter concludes with interactive activities for a broad range of ages. The book uses techniques such as visualization, positive thinking, and relaxation to build such character traits as integrity, ethics, sportsmanship, and emotional and mental toughness. The activities will require basic school supplies as well as one-on-one discussions with parents. The book is ideal for ages 11 and up, and the parent can either work through the chapters in order or jump around to specific chapters as necessary.

This book is all about success. Since it is written by someone very involved in sports, one might expect it to be filled with sportsmanship goals, but it includes sports, music, and academic goals and builds to success in every area of life. The idea that success is directly connected to our emotions and that emotions control performance is found throughout the book. We did not find reference to our heavenly Father bestowing gifts and strengths upon us, although there are activities to help a child determine his or her strengths and to build goals. The book is ideal for middle school students who desire to find direction in life, and the hands-on parenting involved will build the parent-child relationship as the child learns how to control his or her emotions.

The underlying idea of the book is a good one--that emotions control performance and that children should gain control of those emotions. And we found several of the activities to be positive and interesting, such as listing values, personal strengths, and goals, as these are important steps for preteen children who are beginning to find their place in God's plan. We enjoyed making scrapbooks of personal successes and starting a best friend's journal; our 15-year-old found both of these to be wonderful additions to her journaling time. We added more Biblical connections and stressed personal successes that were grounded in giving to others and acts of service. Finally, the book provides many opportunities for valuable discussions with your child.

On the negative side, we did not approve of the activities for learning visualization techniques. On such activity involved videotaping or simply watching another individual completing a task the child wishes to master and then having the child visualize himself doing the task. We prefer to teach our children to compete only with themselves, and we believe this activity could lead to a slippery slope of envy. Probably most aggravating to our family, though, was the idea of creating positive superstitions. Any encouragement toward superstitions is objectionable in our home. Perhaps a mere change in the wording could have made us more comfortable, but I do not believe I need to teach my children that taking certain steps before an event will increase their chances of success. References to Buddhist proverbs, Ghandi's path to self-realization, Native American proverbs, and Carl Jung were all missed opportunities to direct a child toward the Bible and a Christian worldview. Although the book has positive merits, the general idea of directing our children ultimately toward success is a bit presumptuous and not necessarily in line with Biblical teachings, where servanthood is our goal, not worldly success.

The book's title, Flying Lessons, grabbed our attention and gave us hope that it would help us teach our children to be confident in a world that often degrades homeschooled children. Many of the activities will make a difference for growing children trying to set goals and find their own gifts and strengths. Parents can certainly use the helpful activities and build their own ties to the Bible and Christianity. However, many wonderful opportunities were missed in this book. The author references the beauty in nature without crediting God for His Creation; he teaches parents to assist their children in realizing their gifts and talents but fails to point toward God as the giver of such gifts; and he points to success and perfection as ultimate goals in life when Christian parents know that only Christ offers true perfection. Success for our children will be in finding their God-given strengths and using them in service for Him rather than themselves.

Product review by Donna Campos, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, August 2007