This Christmas, my 3 year old daughter received the present she has been asking for all year, her very own hula hoop. It is a fancy affair and comes in 6 sections so that it can be re-sized for smaller kids. With great anticipation she pranced to the center of the room. Hoop at the ready, with a quick glance around to make sure we were all paying attention, she whipped it around her waist while wiggling her body in all directions. The hoop dropped almost immediately to the ground. For a few seconds there was silence, then the crying began, "I can't do it!" she said and came rushing over to Mommy.
My wife and I were not terribly surprised since in our 40s neither of us can spin the hoop for more than a few rotations ourselves. My wife explained to our distraught daughter that with anything new, it takes time and effort to become good at it. "You just need to practice more." she said. With that brilliant parental advice in hand she returned to the center of the floor and proceeded to spin and drop the hula hoop over and over again. The rest of us, my wife, I and my son returned to our own projects like getting another cinnamon roll or refilling our coffee.
About 20 minutes later we were called back to observe her progress. She had been practicing constantly and without any guidance from us (since we don't really know how to teach hula hooping anyway) she had achieved the form and speed necessary to keep the hoop going. We could see from the look on her face how proud she was of her accomplishment.
Fantastic! good for her, but how does this help her get a job? Well, unless she is trying out for Cirque du Soleil or planning to be an Olympic gymnast the hooping is probably not going to be valuable on her resume. However, following a brief parenting/praising error on my part when I called her a "hula hoop genius", my wife and I were able to focus on some of the aspects of the experience we hope she takes with her through her life. We praised her for her persistence. Telling how great she was for continuing to pick up the hoop and spin it again and again even when she was not able to do it well. We pointed out that through her "dedicated" practice she became better at it. We told her that she was super for working so hard on her own to learn how to do the hula hoop.
If our three year old develops any one of the traits above thanks to the hula hoop, it will be great for both her career and her life. Persistence, never giving up? What employer would not love to see that kind of attitude. Knowing that if she practices hard enough she can learn something new is a tremendous confidence builder. Life, school and jobs are full of challenges and we are all confronted with new situations on a regular basis. Feeling that since she mastered the hula hoop she can do anything would be a wonderful takeaway. And finally, as she was left to figure out the problem of form and technique all on her own, and did it! Self-confidence, problem-solving, a belief in her own abilities and potential.
Of the 5 traits identified in "The world's most attractive employers and what they look for in our kids", communication, maturity, confidence, problem-solving and team work, it is pretty amazing that the humble hula hoop can contribute to two of them, confidence and problem-solving. Maybe we should all take a spin?