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Parenting & The Hard-Easy Principle

By Stephen C. Schultz


The sun was peaking over the snow capped mountain. The morning sky was awash in a brilliant amber color. Mornings often bring an unexpected gift.

For some odd reason, my 15 year old daughter Emma and her friend Ramzie enjoy having me drive them to school so they don’t have to ride the bus. I don’t really mind, it is fun hearing them talk about their days in high school. They tell me that most of all, they like “70’s on 7”, the 1970’s music channel on the satellite radio in my car. So, as the typical awkward dad, I talk about and share stories of my time as a teen listening to the likes of Led Zeplin, Boston, Van Halen, Journey etc, etc, etc!




As we were winding our way through town, I happened to hear an infomercial talking about a local radio program that will be discussing the benefits of walking to school vs riding the bus. My focus immediately shifted to the radio since I happened to have two anti-bus culprits right there with me.


The report continued to mention that more and more students are riding to school even when they are within walking distance. Parents are understandably concerned about safety, but the safety risks probably don’t outweigh the health benefits; both physically and emotionally. Over the last twenty years, the number of students riding to school has doubled.


It was mentioned that:
  • Walking improves academic performance
  • Walking provides life experience
  • Walking gets children and teens outside
  • Walking provides consistent daily exercise


So, immediately the question flashes across my mind,


“Why am I driving them to school?”


Maybe it’s time for the old dad lecture about the “Hard - Easy Principle”. I became familiar with the Hard-Easy Principle while growing up in Eugene, Oregon. This principle was made popular by legendary University of Oregon Track & Field coach Bill Bowerman. He would have his athletes alternate their work outs with a hard day and then an easier day. This would give the body time to rejuvenate after a tough workout.


Over the years, I have modified the “Hard-Easy Principle” just a bit as I have shared it with my kids. It has morphed into a principle I share when there needs to be a discussion around homework, baseball or volleyball practice, doing family chores, dealing with teachers or navigating adolescent communication in high school.


My version simply says that anytime we have something to accomplish or get done, if we take the “Easy” way first, it will be “Hard” later.  If we do the “Hard” thing first, it will be “Easy” later.


For example, it’s hard to come home from school and study. It’s easy to have a snack and watch TV. So, if you watch TV and sit around not doing homework, it’s much harder to get it done later. If we do the hard thing first, it’s usually easier later. This principle applies to many situations in life.


So, I had this conversation with my daughter and her friend. They listened politely and even rolled their eyes once or twice. Did the discussion sink in? I don’t know. Is it a principle they will apply to their lives? I don’t know that either.



Some parents find themselves in the painful situation of having a child head down a destructive path. In those situations, it's a difficult and emotional process to finally realize that there needs to be some type of intervention. At some point, you know in your heart that simply waiting for them to "grow up" will not change the course your son or daughter is on. Fortunately, there are options for families and the earlier the intervention, the better chance parents have of realizing a cost effective home based solution. Should there be a need for a more clinically enhanced structure, programs like RedCliff Ascent, Discovery Ranch for Girls, Discovery Ranch for Boys, Discovery Academy and Oxbow Academy may be an appropriate solution.

Parenting is a funny thing. Parents teach the lessons that have influenced their lives in one way or another throughout their life. They want to share the knowledge and experience so their children can learn as well. But, we all know, many of life's lessons we learn through our own experience. For parents of teens, this reality is full of mixed emotions. It seems the “Hard-Easy Principle” never goes away.

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