Several years ago I created this 2-page document to help me keep my kids on track. I find it hard to stay on top of a person, telling them what to do all the time, reminding etc. It drives me mental. I do not like to be the person to cause grief or strain, which really gets in the way of doing what a parent needs to do. I often turn to lists, charts, posters, etc to help defer the work and pain.
In the doc, I try to be fun or silly, but real and honest. I wanted it to be more than a list of instructions and more of a guide for life.
Kids going to school in the 80s and 90s did not get the same exposure to “bullying” as kids do now. The bully back then was a real stand-out kid, the stereotypical macho, hyper-aggressive, low-intellect, unhygienic, knuckle-dragging waste of human flesh. Well, that’s I looked at them.
Bruce Lee(李小龍, 1940-11-27 to 1973-07-20 [32yrs]) is a Martial Arts icon known throughout the world as one of the best –if not THE best– martial artist to ever live. He changed the game not only for martial arts training in North America, but also for how Asians are represented in Hollywood, inspiring countless people all over the planet to become actors, fighters, and teachers. He was my idol when I was in high school and remains an influential figure to me today.
He was an absolute boss; he trained literally all the time, even while driving. More than a sensational fighter he was also a movie and TV star, a passionate husband and father, a deep philosophical thinker and devourer of books. He developed his own styles: Jun Fan Gung Fu and later Jeet Kune Do, which are filled with his thoughts on not conforming to the rigidity of a single style and the exploration of what is most effective for the individual in any given situation. Perhaps he is even the founder of the now ultra-popular MMA sport.
How does this all apply to Parenting? Well, his philosophies on living up to your potential are timeless, ageless, and we should be teaching them to our kids. Bruce Lee was not about kicking ass or building muscles. Bruce Lee was about reaching deep inside yourself and dragging a better you to the surface.
Don’t let your kid do anything that will cause you to dislike them.
I have only ever heard this from one person: Dr. Jordan B. Peterson. I had to hear it a few times, in different lectures, for it to resonate with me. My first reaction was that it’s impossible to control a child’s behaviour, but the more I listened the more it made sense.
If you tell your kid you’re gonna do something, actually do it. Then the moment before you do it, remind them that you said you would.
This is not meant as an in-your-face kind of thing. This is meant as a demonstration of committing to your word. You said you would, and you did, and that builds trust in you. It will not take too long for them to recognize that you keep your word, for better or worse.
Don’t do anything that you’re not prepared to repeat a million times.
Can you make a funny voice or a crazy face? Before you pull out your special moves consider this: the child will ask you to do it until it is broken. Have you ever heard of a child watching the same movie back-to-back all day long, for weeks? They do it.
I get caught in this one all the time because I am always trying to be fun with kids. Naturally they want me to do that thing over and over again, but I don’t let them win.
Last night my boy, almost 3, woke up and came to our room talking about Mamá. He was fully alert, but we put him in our bed with us hoping he’d pass back out because it was close to midnight. He was too awake to fall back asleep quickly though. As he laid there trying, he would pop up suddenly start talking about his deep, random thoughts. I feigned sleep to encourage him to keep trying, and to my surprise he did keep trying.
After some time he started sitting up, looking around the darkened room, laying back down, then sitting up again to feel for me. When he found me he leaned forward and kissed me. He first got my shoulder, on the blanket, then he tried again and got my shoulder on my skin. He laid back down and continued feeling around for me. He found my beard and rubbed it so gently for a moment, then sat up and kissing me on my cheek. I couldn’t help it; I grabbed his head and kissed him back! I thought he’d really start talking now that I had enthusiastically confirmed that I was awake, but he just laid back down and put his hand on my shoulder.
A few moments later he rolled away and then I passed out.
This is the sweetest child I’ve ever met. He never fails to impress me.
You can’t really take my word too seriously on this topic because I seem to have lost my ability to talk to my kids. People always warned me from the moment my daughter was born that the teen years would be hell, and when the second one came along people found it amusing to point out just how much trouble I was in for. Hearing comments like that were laughable, and over time they angered me because I felt it was pretty obvious that I had a great relationship with my girls. To me, those people were flat out wrong. At least it were wrong at the time. That is until around the age of 8 (or thereabouts), for both of them. I once read that 8 years old is when girls start to diverge from their parents’ way of thinking – when they begin flexing their individuality, and that held true in my house. They began to really express their individual personalities at that time, and that was hard to deal with. I’ll admit that I didn’t deal with it very well, because I didn’t understand it and I wasn’t equipped to deal with it. I was also out of the country for five months around this time, and custody was split 50/50. Enough complications? Ugh.
I have found that the harder I try to hang onto what we once had the worse it becomes. That relationship is gone. Those little girls are gone. They’re young women now and they don’t have the same wants and needs anymore, so for me –the same guy, mostly– to continue on with them as though they’re still 8 (or younger) is a disservice to them. And to me. I have to adapt as they mature.
While you’re listening the only thing you should be thinking about is how what they’re telling you is –aside from paying attention, obviously– this question, “How does this make her feel?”
Kids are new – they don’t know until their taught. If you can identify how they’re feeling, say it as a sympathetic statement, or ask directly. If you translate their feelings into words they are now more equipped to express and eventually process (deal with) those feelings.
One of the challenges for the adult mind to deal with in these situations is to shut up. For us the problems kids deal with are simple, easy to solve or avoid, and largely inconsequential. We could easily deal with them in their shoes, but only if we had our adult brain and lifetime of experience. They don’t have those, so remember that. What they feel is real, regardless of your perception of it. To them, their feelings are their world; don’t deny them.