Michael Phelps is the greatest Olympic champion of all time. As of this writing, he’s won 23 Olympic medals! What’s his secret that could benefit parents trying to raise porn-immune kids?

According to an article written by Carmine Gallo for Forbes, Phelps’ coach, Bob Bowman, says Michael’s success is not due to his sheer talent or his incredible 80” wingspan. It’s because for years he has practiced 3 daily habits–Bowman’s “Golden Rules.” These habits can help your kids achieve their goals, too.

Especially the goal of living a life free from the trap of pornography’s lies and addiction. And that’s not easy in today’s world! Consider the following:

PYMBlog Olympic boy(1)

The Realities

  • Your kids are growing up in a world polluted with negative and false messages about sexuality; a world where porn is normalized, joked about and talked about in every middle school cafeteria.
  • Kids have unprecedented access to internet pornography and it’s normal for even good kids to get pulled in to viewing it.
  • Your kids are growing up at a time when according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the average child spends 7 hours a day on entertainment media from a variety of sources, including televisions, computers, phones and tablets.
  • Excessive screen time is not without negative consequences. The AAP warns that:

“Studies have shown that excessive media use can lead to attention problems, school difficulties, sleep and eating disorders, and obesity. In addition, the Internet and cell phones can provide platforms for illicit and risky behaviors.”

With all of this entertainment and titillating content to pull them in, it goes without saying that kids need a game plan and self-discipline to navigate the distractions and pitfalls of the virtual world they live in.

Advice from an Olympic champion can only help! Here are Michael Phelps’ 3 Golden Rules (and one Bonus!) that we’ve built upon to help kids live a porn-free life :

Golden Rule #1: Vision

Michael Phelps’ coach was clear about the goals or vision for practice each day. Do your kids have a clear vision of what they need to do each day to protect their brain from the negative (but enticing) messages of pornography? How do you remind them to keep their brains clean?

  • Give your kids a vision and a plan for what they’ll view that day. Consider taking some time (maybe a Sunday evening like we do), to help your kids plan their work, studies, service and entertainment. By planning media and entertainment, you also mindfully control it. Make sure your family includes some form of recreation that you do together.
  • Establish a daily time limit with your kids for entertainment and video games. The AAP recommends only 1 to 2 hours of high quality screen time per day. Consider using a system of tokens or marbles to moderate your kids’ screen time.
  • Take the #DeviceFreeDinner Challenge: Common Sense Media has begun a #DeviceFreeDinner campaign. Watch this hilarious spot that will be airing during the Olympics. And take the challenge!

Golden Rule #2: Mental Rehearsal

In order to achieve the status of an Olympic champion, Michael Phelps rehearsed his races in his mind for months ahead. His coach says that you must “program your internal viewfinder.” (That sounds a lot like installing an internal filter!) Phelps got very good at this skill. He also rehearses what he will do to overcome obstacles.

Bowman states:”The brain cannot distinguish between something that’s vividly imagined and something that’s real.”

Give kids a plan or a vision for dealing with pornography exposure and help them rehearse it. If they are accidentally exposed, what should they do? Be clear and specific. One idea is the CAN DO Plan from the book Good Pictures Bad Pictures. You can get a free download by clicking on the poster image below.

A big part of mental rehearsal for kids (and Olympic champions!) is not just what to do when exposed, but what to do when those memories of the exposure keeping popping back up in their minds. Kids can mentally rehearse how to distract their brain. They can practice thinking of something else that is exciting for them. For more helpful tips, read Teach Kids Two Ways to “Forget” Porn.

Golden Rule #3: Practice, Practice, Practice

Michael Phelps’ coach stressed that practice is essential to achieving what you want.

According to Bob Bowman, “The wonderful result of practice is that you have literally programmed your brain for peak performance.”

Kids can practice controlling their thoughts. They can practice using and strengthening their thinking brain. With practice, they can program their brains to reject pornography. For more tips, read Ultimate Parent Hack: Teach Kids to Use Their Thinking Brain.

Golden Rule #4 (Bonus from PYM!): Help Your Kids Develop Grit and a Growth Mindset

According to Angela Lee Duckworth, a researcher who wanted to find out what predicts success across a wide range of human endeavor, “Grit is passion and perseverance for very long term goals.” When it comes to predicting success, grit is more important than IQ, social intelligence, good looks or physical health. It’s even more important than talent.


Albert Einstein summed it up like this:

“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”


How to Help Kids Develop Grit and a Growth Mindset

Kids will need perseverance, determination and grit to look away from enticing images and videos. The good news is that we can all develop grit! How?

  • Teach about and encourage a growth mindset— the belief that the ability to learn anything is not set in concrete. It can change with effort. According to Duckworth, kids who understand this truth are not as discouraged by failure. They see it as a necessary part of growth.
  • Reward and encourage effort, not just achievement. When kids are praised for effort and perseverance, they focus on their own growth and not just pleasing others. They become much less fearful of failure. Bob Bowman says he focuses his athletes on the process and not the outcome. In other words, you can’t control the outcome of any one race, but you can control yourself, your thoughts and your decisions.
  • Share your own stories of failure and growth. When kids understand how you got through a tough time and dealt with disappointment, they see the benefits of grit and perseverance. One study shows that passing down families stories is the best way to build resilient kids!

Get more specific tips to help your kids develop grit by reading 3 Secrets to Raising Kids Who Persevere.

Use the Rules of an Olympic Champion to Inspire Your Kids!

The Olympics can be exciting and inspiring to watch! And a great opportunity to teach kids the Golden Rules of vision, mental rehearsal, practice (and grit!). Kids will need all of these to navigate the distractions of living in a pornifed world. And with your great coaching, they CAN DO it!

You’re doing better than you think! Keep up the good coaching work and remember–here at Protect Young Minds we are cheering you on!

Please help us cheer on other parents by SHARING this article!


Kristen Jenson
Kristen A. Jenson is the founder of Protect Young Minds and author of Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today's Young Kids. Kristen enjoys speaking, writing and anything else that will help empower kids to reject pornography. Kristen earned a bachelor’s degree in English Literature, and a master’s degree in Organizational Communication. Kristen currently lives with her husband in Washington State, where she enjoys growing a vegetable garden, watching Masterpiece Theater, and taking long walks with friends who tolerate her incessant talking about you know what. Above all else, her husband and three children are her greatest treasures.