Cue Mom watching son enthusiastically practice his latest athletic feat.
This scene plays out nightly at my house, as I'm sure it does in thousands of homes across the country. Ever since my kids started watching the hugely popular television show American Ninja Warrior, they now view playgrounds, the backyard and even our own living room as potential obstacle courses.
My couch and recliners have turned into a modified version of the Sonic Curve, and the trees in my backyard have ropes dangling from branches to mimic the Rope Swing. Like so many other kids, my daughter and son have spent countless hours watching and copying the moves of the real-life superheroes on the show.
While I'm forever indebted to the creators of American Ninja Warrior for providing a media option that has kept my kids entertained throughout the summer, the life lessons they learn from each episode are most important of all.
1. Fitness is Fun1 of 6
Parents are always looking for ways to encourage their children to exercise. It seems American Ninja Warrior has heeded this call by inspiring kids of all ages to get up off the couch and move their bodies. The show's producers have done an amazing job of telling the stories of the competitors who were once just sitting at home, too, before deciding, "I'm going to do this."
"Kids always try to mimic what they see on TV, and this show gives them such a clear-cut way to do it," says Jessie Graff (pictured above), professional stuntwoman and the first woman to complete Stage Two of American Ninja Warrior: USA vs. the World.
Photo by The Riker Brothers
2. Teamwork Matters2 of 6
Teaching kids about teamwork is most effective when they can see it in action. The show's competitors repeatedly demonstrate admirable sportsmanship and genuine appreciation for one another. Yes, they've all trained extremely hard to make their debut on the course--with the ultimate goal of winning--but teamwork and respect are what the show is really about.
"Somehow we've magically set this precedent that when you are doing the show, you support everyone else," Graff says. "We remind kids that it's cool to be supportive."
3. Failure Teaches Lessons, Too3 of 6
It seems counterintuitive to want your kids to fail, but allowing them to stumble from time to time teaches them to be resilient and recover from mistakes. That's the American Ninja Warrior journey. The competitors who come on the show understand that you try--and fail--many times until it works. They don't give up. In fact, it's quite common to hear a competitor get up and shout out to the crowd, "I'll be back next year."
4. Success Takes Time4 of 6
These athletes have put in countless hours of physically and mentally demanding work, often waiting years to hear the news that they have been chosen for the show. This dedication, perseverance and drive teaches kids the importance of remaining steadfast in their quest to reach a goal.
5. Yes, You Can!5 of 6
Finally, American Ninja Warrior has done an outstanding job of showing that though athletes may come from different backgrounds, they all arrive on the same stage. Their hard work sends the message that kids can do anything, too. Ultimately, they are all connected by one core belief: "Yes, I can."