I Can Be Courageous! I CAN develop my COURAGE muscle!

Next month’s theme: I CAN BE COURAGEOUS!

Training in the martial arts is all about overcoming obstacles. Whether defending oneself against an attack, or fighting an inner voice that keeps us from being the best we can be, we are overcoming obstacles.

Every time we want to make a change, whether in our behavior or in our mindset, it takes courage. It is always easier to continue on the path we’ve always been on, keeping the habits that we’ve become comfortable with.

This month we’re asking parents to spend time helping their children develop courage in different ways.

If you can become aware yourself when you allow fear or insecurity to cause you to hesitate, or not do something you really want to do, you will be better able to model courage for (and talk about it with) your kids. Even though we aren’t developing awareness for our challenges this month, we encourage you to do exactly that.

We want to be guided by love in how we live our lives. Many think the opposite of love is hate. In truth, the opposite of love is fear. If we can get a handle on our own fears, we can better help our children navigate and overcome their fears.

Going deeper

Adults, I’d like to encourage you to go deeper in eliminating fear having control over your life. Journaling is a great way to get to know who we are and what makes us tick. If we look at our negative emotions, there is often a fear underlying them. If we find a fear that is behind whatever negative emotion we’re trying to deal with, we can then tackle the fear. 

Many fears can be overcome just by looking at them, and seeing the lie behind the fear. For  instance, behind many fears is a lie that we’re not good enough, that we aren’t worthy, that we aren’t loved. So tackle the lie and know that you ARE good enough, you ARE worthy and you ARE loved! You may find your fear evaporate, and with it the negative emotion.

Obviously, this has limited application — but be brave and use it where is applies!

Having courage to overcome our fear enables us to try new things, grow, and thrive.  

The stronger our “courage” muscle becomes, the less impact fear will have over our lives. The best way to develop our “courage” muscle is to exercise it!  Just to clarify: we’re never going to eliminate fear; what we CAN do is develop our courage to be stronger than our fears and insecurities.  

Most importantly, celebrate when you or your child are brave this month!

Every small choice you make adds up to a positive or negative effect!

Every small choice you make adds up with all the other small choices you make and together they all have a big impact!

Remember learning about compound interest in school? We don’t see too much evidence of the compounding effect in our bank account, with interest rates so low. But many of us have been stunned to see how much we will be paying over time for that house we bought. 

Compounding over time means that small amounts, or small choices add up to have a big impact.

It can be a good impact, like from choosing to take the stairs whenever possible, and choosing the salad instead of the fries. Or it can be a bad impact, like having a soda with every meal, hitting the snooze button again, or not looking up from the phone to say hello to your friends and family!

This month’s theme is about building the habit of choosing the hard thing over the easiest, or the BEST option over a good one. Every small choice you make is building toward a habit. You want to make sure you’re heading to a GOOD habit!

“I can do hard things!” is a really important message for your kids to learn. And you can be their best example. 

Building good habits is hard. Building the habit of always choosing to do the best thing you can do, is hard. It’s just not natural. It’s natural to find an easy way out or to procrastinate. 

Talk with your kids about the choices you’re making. You really want the cheesecake for dessert, but that fruit salad is a really delicious healthy alternative! You need to get to the bank but it’s closing soon; do you get ready to leave right away or decide to wait for another day? Let them know that you are working on making the hard choices.

Challenging yourself everyday may seem like a waste of time and energy. But you are building habits that will really have a big impact. One minute of strengthening your core every day may seem totally worthless. 

But small things add up! And you’ll find it easier and easier to make the BEST choices in the future. And so will your kids!

The wonderful thing about putting in the effort towards developing a habit? It becomes a habit! At some point, you just don’t even have to think about it, but it becomes automatic to choose the best option in every moment. 

 

 

Parents, don’t forget to teach the basics for physical and mental health!

Ok, that sounds silly, right?

But some things are so basic we don’t even think about them, and then we can forget to teach our children.

What’s more basic than good health?

Study after study has been done showing how important it is to  eat good healthy food. For general health, for fitness, for immunity, for heart health, and there is a recent study which includes a balanced diet as part of a healthy lifestyle in preventing dementia.

Interested? Here is from an AP article on July 14, 2019:

LOS ANGELES — A healthy lifestyle can cut your risk of developing Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia even if you have genes that raise your risk for these mind-destroying diseases, a large study has found.

People with high genetic risk and poor health habits were about three times more likely to develop dementia versus those with low genetic risk and good habits, researchers reported Sunday. Regardless of how much genetic risk someone had, a good diet, adequate exercise, limiting alcohol and not smoking made dementia less likely.

But do we really teach our children what good healthy eating is? Of course we are the models and it’s more than likely our children will just imitate what we choose. So how good is your diet?

Without going off on a tangent (that’s not really what this post is about), suffice it to say that eating whole foods, with minimal processing, minimal sugar and unhealthy fats is a good start. Load up on the veggies….we all know that but do you share the reasons why with your kids?

And stay away from artificial sweeteners! A number of studies have shown how detrimental these and other “chemicals” are to our health.

Stay moving, stay healthy!

This is more likely to come up in everyday conversation. Especially when you’re already involved in karate, or any other sport. 

I think we all think more in terms of exercise and activity level for kids, or for us when we’re trying to “get in shape”. We need to teach our children that exercise and activity is a life long essential element of a healthy life. 

Not just heart health, but increased immunity, disease prevention, reducing stress, and per above – also wards off dementia! Isn’t it important for our children to be taught this – not just in words but by what we model for them?

Smoking, drinking and drug use

Sometimes we think it’s so obvious that we might forget to instruct our kids. Especially if you aren’t commonly around anyone who smokes, you might forget to talk about why it’s the number one culprit in stealing our health (and our money!) Need more info? Click here

Alcohol has become incredibly controversial with some saying a glass of red wine a day is healthy, while others advise none is the best amount. Being a consumer of red wine, I am prone to believe the first!  I would encourage you to watch a documentary The Truth About Alcohol. It is currently available on Netflix. Fortunately for me, they discovered that there is ONE group that a very small amount of red wine is actually good for — women over 55! 

We live in a world where drugs are prescribed all the time. While drugs can be life saving, we also want to teach our children to be wary. Even life saving drugs become dangerous when used inappropriately or combined with the wrong food or other medication.

Make sure you talk with your children about these important topics: regularly, casually, and not reserved for a one time THE TALK. 

 

 

 

Adaptability, like every other characteristic, is not fixed!

Help! My child has an inflexible temperament!

We’ve been focusing on flexibility this month. It’s really a wonderful opportunity to focus on growing the trait in ourselves as well as in our kids!

Over the years we’ve talked a lot about how important it is to have a growth mindset. 

If any of you were with us last winter, we even played a video for the little ones to help them understand the concept (remember Mojo?)

Having a growth mindset is not just about learning and developing academic skills. It has to do with EVERYTHING! We may have been born with an aversion to change (who wasn’t?) We may naturally avoid conflict (again, who doesn’t?) We may find it hard to talk to people we haven’t met before (starting to see the pattern, or is it just me?)

We can grow in every facet of our life, personality, temperament….

As a bonus, if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you know that transformation is an ongoing, lifelong process.  Another way of describing the growth mindset! (We just know who to thank for the positive changes!)

So, how can I help my child learn adaptability?

If you are not a Christ follower, please forgive this short wandering into “religious” territory. But if you ARE a Christ follower, it’s important to make sure you teach your children that their IDENTITY is in Christ. 

They are not what they do, how they perform, what people say about them, or ANYTHING else! God loves them more than they can even imagine. That knowledge becomes an unshakable foundation and gives them the freedom to grow in every area. 

How do we grow the most? Through failure. (Or sometimes learning from someone else’s failure.) But it we never fail, we really are not growing. We’re staying comfortable in what we know. 

When we know we are beloved by the God most high, and even better, when we know he wants us to grow and learn, we can learn to be comfortable in new circumstances, with new people, learning and trying new things.

Anything a bit more concrete?

Actually, the more adaptable you are, the more adaptable your children are likely to be. Try to see where you display discomfort with change. Remember the oxygen mask – it’s much easier to help the children if you’re breathing easy.

Each child is different, so the first area of adaptability for a parent is to discern the differences in each of your children, and treat them differently. If one is excited about a new thing and can’t wait to get started, great! 

But have patience and understanding for the one who needs more time to adapt. Allowing children to build self-confidence, and not pushing them into situations where you know they will fail, before they are ready can help ease them into a new mindset.

Self-confidence, but struggle and failure, too

Aware that it might sound contradictory, your goal is to encourage self-confidence, but once they have some, allowing them to struggle.

You know your own child and where to find the balance. (For you Christ followers, you always have access to the Holy Spirit to help guide you!)

We build self-confidence by struggling, and overcoming, and realizing we CAN do something we thought we couldn’t. Failure can lead us to find another way, look at things in a new way.

Spend time with others

We can become inflexible when we’re alone and used to doing what we want when we want. The more time kids spend with others, sharing possessions, learning how to get along and resolve conflicts (with adult guidance when necessary), the more flexible they become.

Baby steps?

If flexibility is something you really want to work on, you can artificially introduce changes to help your child learn to adapt to changes. 

If that’s you, you probably already know the areas your child is inflexible about. Are there some small changes that you can implement to give your child “practice” at overcoming resistance to change? Small changes, over time, will make it easier for your child to handle the big changes that will inevitably come.

To learn more about developing Flexible Thinking click here.

 

 

Tim Elmore’s latest post regarding Instagram and overcoming the negative influence

Tim Elmore is an author I’ve shared with you before. He writes a blog on GrowingLeaders.com. I strongly recommend subscribing; you’ll receive an amazing amount of good advice for leading (parenting) youth. 

What We Can Learn About Leading Students from Instagram

Angela is in the sixth grade. Her parents have chosen to not purchase a smart phone for her yet, because they see the anxiety social media platforms cause Angela’s peers. When my teammate Andrew McPeak asked her if she wishes she had a phone, her response was insightful.  She said, “No. I wish my friends didn’t have phones.”

The fact is, social media platforms have turned into a popularity contest.

What originally began an innocent platform to post pictures of a significant event or relationship has now become a competition to stage a scenario that appears to be amazing or heartwarming, just to get “likes.” Other platforms do the same thing, begging users to post content for:

  •  “views”
  •  “shares”
  •  “retweets”

Did you hear what Instagram is doing about this?

Instagram is Considering Removing “Likes”

This past week, Instagram announced at Facebook’s F8 developer conference that they are experimenting with a new feature that removes exact “like” counts from posts. Instead of a numerical count, a user will be notified that some users “and others” liked the post and leave it at that. Short and simple. Very general.

Why is this important?

First, a user’s life can become about appearances rather than reality. I know too many middle and high school students who are more concerned with how they look instead of who they really are. Instagram’s decision may cut our preoccupation with image.

Second, it slows down the popularity contest obsession. Teens have always been into seeking who is most popular, so that reality won’t completely disappear. But this can level the playing field a bit, pushing students back toward authentic communication.

Third, since current social media scorecards measure the responses a post gets, they foster artificial stories; filtered photos; exaggerations or distortions. Many young users have additional account personas called “finstas” (fake Instagram accounts). This may slow down.

Journalist Karissa Bell writes, “Though ‘like’ counts may seem like a relatively minor feature, it’s one that’s become emblematic of the social pressures often surrounding Instagram. Younger users in particular can feel pressure to get a certain amount of likes, and sometimes delete posts if they don’t get enough. De-emphasizing like counts could reduce potential bullying or make people feel better about their feed.”

How Does This Inform Our Leadership?

Let me offer some tips on what we can learn from Instagram’s decision. Like this platform, we can be intentional about our leadership of students when it comes to social media:

1.  Help students develop a sense of identity outside of social media.

Several teens in our recent focus groups reported that they draw their primary sense of identity from their social media accounts. This sets them up to ride an emotional roller coaster. Why not work with your students to create purpose statements for their life that focus on doing something meaningful? Then, social media can be a servant not a master. The more time students spend offline, the more balanced they tend to be, both socially and emotionally. Teach them to find a need and fill it. Teach them to serve and in the process, discover their talents and abilities. When kids finally spend hours away from their phones they soon feel how liberating it is. Social media is supposed to “enhance our lives” not “enslave our lives.”

2. Take steps to enhance your students’ wellbeing.

Instagram is demonstrating a growing focus on features meant to enhance users’ “wellbeing.” In fact, the company has launched anti-bullying elements and tools to monitor your screen time. Coaches and parents can join them in providing guidelines or guardrails for social media use by minors:

  • No Phone Zones. Why not give clear guidance on when phones can be used for educational, meaningful exchanges or research and when they cannot, such as lunch time in the cafeteria or meal time at home. Also, what if 9:00 pm is the time everyone turns their phones in to re-charge them and enjoy time offline.
  • Equal Time Equations. Why not teach students the unintended consequences of smartphones (i.e. anxiety and depression) and help them spend an equal amount of time in face-to-face interactions as they have on a screen. We tried to ensure our kids had equal hours in quiet and with people as they did online.

3. Offer students a different kind of report card.

For too many young adults, Instagram is their sole, unilateral scorecard for how important they are. The more followers and “likes” they get, the better they feel about themselves. Both Instagram and I say it’s time for a new report card. Students need to “live their life” not just “post their life.” Posting can be both superficial and meaningful depending on our motive. Pause and consider this fact: we all have chosen something to measure how we feel about ourselves. It could be our performance. Our friendships. Our faith. You name it. Why not work with your students to choose to measure themselves with something that cannot be taken away by someone else. Popularity is a very bad scorecard. Purpose is a very good scorecard. Help them to be conscious about how they evaluate their life and satisfaction. Suggest they consider items like:

  1. Positively contributing to a cause or a community.
  2. Belonging to a group or family.
  3. Taking a stand for their values and convictions.

I think you and Instagram together can make a great team to help your students.

 

“I will respect myself and others!” A look at the Warriors of Grace Dojo Kun

Why a dojo kun?

Along with bowing in, the dojo kun is a reminder for us — a reminder for why we are training in karate, a reminder to be all in and focused while we are in class, and a reminder to have a “black belt attitude” throughout class!

“I will respect myself and others!”

What does that mean? 

We say this every class, but do we think about what we’re saying?

To respect something means it is really important to you.

Are you important? Yes! That’s why you need to be kind to yourself.

Are others important? Yes! That’s why you need to be kind to everyone else, too!

We take care of things and people that are important to us. By being kind and taking care of each other — that’s how we show respect!

The truth is that when we listen to mom and dad, and do what they tell us, we are respecting our self as well as them. They are telling us what to do in order to help us grow and learn and be safe. They are the “black belts” that are in charge of us. By following their directions, we are taking care of ourselves as well as being respectful to them.

“I will be courageous!”

Did you  know that every time you back away from something you are afraid of, the FEAR gets BIGGER?

Did you  know that the only way to have the FEAR get SMALLER is to push through, walk towards it, and overcome it? By overcoming, it doesn’t mean that you’re not afraid. It means that you did what needed to be done, despite being afraid. 

And every time you overcome your fear it gets SMALLER!

“I am dedicated!”

We are dedicated to something we feel strongly about, to something that is important to us. 

If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. It’s worth giving it your all. It’s worth making it an important part of your life.

That’s dedication.  Also sounds a lot like INTENSITY, huh? (Last month’s theme!)

“I am motivated!”

To be motivated is to have a reason for what you’re doing.  Having a reason so compelling that you can’t imagine NOT doing it!

What’s our reason for being dedicated and motivate to give our all while we are in karate class?

“I’m on a quest to be my best!”

There it is – that’s why we train. That’s why we never give up. That’s why we’re “all in”.

Karate is all about the journey to form ourselves into the best people we can be!

Intensity – Taking it to the next level

We’re ready to take it to the next level!

Everyone knows that karate is good at developing focus and concentration. And those are, indeed, important skills to have. 

Life can be so overwhelmingly distracting, that we can all use an extra ounce of focus to keep us on track.

For the next month we’re going to be increasing intensity. We’ll be working on a relatively simple set of moves, called san dan gi. Three moves: 3 moves on the receiving end, 3 moves on the attacking end. 

This relatively simple set of moves are the perfect opportunity to encourage focus, concentration, and increasing intensity.

So what is intensity?

 Intensity refers to the level of force, power, strength; but in this case, we’re also going to use it to refer to the level of focus, or concentration.

Yes, when we’re working out, when we’re doing power reps, we want to see a high level of power, or giving all you’ve got. Think: “I’m going to go as hard as I can”.

When we’re working on techniques, like san dan gi, we want to see total focus, and attention to every detail.

Karate is all about the details

Every movement, every stance is very precise in Okinawan Goju Ryu. It is in part how character is developed: paying attention to every detail, not being ok with good enough. 

But it goes deeper. The longer you train in karate, the more you learn about the parts of the body and how they can be affected by a strike or block. When you learn the precise moves, you are also learning about anatomy and vital points, and how to get the most out of every movement you make. 

Intensity vs Concentration

When it comes to Intensity, we want to see 100% effort given in class. Each day may bring a different level of what your 100% looks like, but be sure to bring it all.

Going through the motions will not benefit your body or your mind. Be all in.

Concentration is developed in karate quite naturally because it is so difficult. The moves are counter to what comes naturally, so even to walk or stand may take full concentration.

How can you help your children develop concentration?

The truth is, like most things, it’s through actually DOING things that you develop concentration.

We try to use some games and exercises in the karate school that develop focus. Simon Says turns into Sempai Says. Especially when the words don’t match what the senpai is doing (“senpai says touch your knees” is the instruction but the senpai touches his elbows), that helps to increase concentration.

Here’s an article with a number of ways to develop some pretty great skills in children.

Even listening to stories helps kids to develop focus.  We’ll use picture books to help the little ones develop focus and listening skills.

We need to have margins in order to have patience

There is a concept that has crossed my radar frequently over the last few years. That concept is about having margins.

Margins?

When I first heard it, I didn’t have a clue what was meant. Margins. You know: like the blank space along all the edges of the page (or even this post). If we crammed the writing right up against every edge, it would actually make reading pretty difficult. 

Well, when you cram every moment with things to be done, life can get pretty difficult.

We need space

We do need space. And time. For ourselves. For thought. For breathing. 

If we fail to plan for that space, we can find ourselves without it. That’s when we find ourselves running a rat race without even remembering why we’re in the race to begin with.

What’s your win?

Some talk about being in a race. Well, when you’re in a race, you want to win, right? So decide what’s your ‘win’ ahead of time.

If we’re going to run this race, wouldn’t be nice to know what winning would look like? If you don’t know what your win is, how will you know if you’ve succeeded?

For instance: he who has the most toys when he dies wins. Absolutely horrible goal, but it makes a funny t-shirt. And it’s a pretty concrete way to know if you’re “winning”. (Hopefully none of you think this is a good win!)

But take some time. Think about what winning would look like in each area of your life. I’m going to share some wins that Andy and Sandra Stanley set for themselves.

Early in their marriage they came up with what would be a win for them: that they each would always want to be where the other person was. Pretty simple, yet pretty profound. 

Once they had a child they decided the over arching goal for their kids would be: that they would want to be with each other and their parents after they no longer had to. Pretty simple, and yet who can argue that’s not a great win?

Now create margins

Once you know your win, it’s easier to make decisions. Does this get me closer to my goal? 

If something might start to crowd in on what your goals are, then it makes it a little easier to decide what to pare down.

Once you’ve pared down your activities, and have some margin, you’ll find yourself with a lot more patience.

Why patience?

Let’s face it – isn’t the most common reason for running out of patience, is that you feel that you’re running out of time?

When you’ve got extra time built in, then you don’t get overwhelmed, and you have the, what some might say, the luxury of patience. 

But remember to practice patience with yourself! Changes come about with small steps over time. Don’t try to radically alter your life all at once. Choose one area in which you can create a little margin. Baby steps. When you see the difference it makes, you’ll find the motivation to make more changes.

Happy margin making!

Leading Ourselves So We Can Lead Others: 7pm Wednesday 20 Feb

Leadership is an Action
To lead is to take an action. It is a verb. Something you do.
Leading is easier for some; harder for others. For some, the fear that we will do it wrong will discourage us, and cause us to shrink from the challenge. But even if you do, you must remember that leadership is still happening. Leadership can be something you do without even knowing that you’re doing it, and whether you’re consciously leading or not, there’s someone following you. They may be your kids, your siblings, your cousins, your friends, your colleagues and co-workers, and of course your fellow students in karate-do. They may look to you for guidance, to be an example, for reassurance, or for any number of other things…but like it or not, they need you to lead them the right way, in the right direction.  Whoever they are — whoever you are — they need you to lead them with purpose.
Leading by example
Last month in the Warriors of Grace Leadership Institute, we talked a lot about what leadership really is, and what it is not. As a team, we talked about what makes leadership different from power or authority, and the importance of being confident and deliberate in who and how we lead. Easier said than done!
Understanding Ourselves as Leaders
This month, our focus will be a little different. Rather than focusing on the verb  we’re going to focus on the noun, the person doing the leading. You! Understanding ourselves, our identities, our goals, and our missions (big or small) is essential to the task of conscious, deliberate leadership….and to understanding how we may be influencing those who we lead less consciously. To truly lead with purpose, you must be able to understand your genuine self. Only then will you be able to bring your unique strengths and experiences to the forefront when they’re needed. In short, you need to know yourself and lead yourself before you can lead others on purpose.
With all that in mind, I’d like to challenge our new and returning Leadership Institute students to do a little homework before our next meeting. Please bring a short paragraph about who you are. Try a few sentences, or even a bulleted list. Though it may be tempting to do so, don’t try to imagine how others might see you, or try to write about the person you wish you were. Tell us about how you see yourself — who you are today. I’ll be sure to do the same.
See you soon!

Love is patient, love is kind

We’re all at least somewhat familiar with the popular poem from the bible that is often read at weddings.

It’s interesting that the very first descriptive word of love is patience. Hmmmm, must be that it’s a pretty important aspect to love.

What do we need patience for?

I know no one actually has to ask that! 

We all come as a mixed bag of good stuff and not so good stuff. You have to take the not so good stuff along with the good stuff, or else you’ll be very lonely.

Yes, it’s true people can change. But the ONLY person YOU can change is YOU. So you need to get used to that not-so-good stuff in your friend. And maybe have a little compassion for what they have to put up with in you – to help motivate you to work on something you know irritates your friend.

Is patience a muscle?

In January we showed the kids a Class Dojo video which teaches a growth mindset. It’s really important to understand that we all can grow and changed and that who we are is not FIXED. 

In the video they had the brain doing exercises to get stronger in math.

But we can think of everything we want to improve as a “muscle” that can be exercised.

How to exercise patience?

The next time you’re late and stuck in traffic, think “this is a perfect opportunity to exercise my patience muscle.”  Ok, that may be like jumping straight to world champion muscle building.

How about the next time you’re waiting in the grocery line behind someone who’s having trouble searching for all the loose coins in her large tote bag?

Or when your child is all excited about something that he is desperately trying to tell you about, but having a hard time spitting the words out. Breathe, give him time to collect his thoughts (and exercise his own patience muscle) without jumping in and forming the words for him.

Every problem is an opportunity

That’s one of the mottoes that Sam Lariosa, our mentor in Michigan, lives by. Every problem is an opportunity.

In this case, every time you naturally would go to losing patience, is an opportunity to build your patience “muscle”. Take advantage of it, develop it, and it will impact everyone around you.

Kids learn from their primary teacher – YOU. And they learn more from what you DO and how you ACT, than what you say.

So as you’re strengthening your patience muscle, they’ll be watching and learning as well.

One more note

If you want to help your child develop patience, give them opportunities to exercise their patience muscles.

Intentionally providing opportunities to wait for things is an act of love to a child.  We need to learn patience and self-control at an early age. Start small, and they’ll learn.

For a short article on teaching kids patience, click here.