The Parenting Path

ParentingMuch like there are stages of development for children, there are stages of parenting. While your path may look slightly different (as did mine), here is a path laid out by Tim Elmore. Where are you on the parenting path?

Ages and stages

Inspection comes first as you bring your bundle of joy home.

You inspect every little thing and make sure your little one is growing and developing normally. This is normal and natural. But it can lead to unhealthy comparisons. I am reminded of the poem Desiderata.

“If you compare yourself with others you will become vain and bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.”

As your child grows the second stage of correction comes. Obviously children need to be taught, and as they learn there will need to be corrections. But too much correcting can make children feel inadequate.

And then comes protecting. When kids first leave the nest and enter into school we want to protect them from every possible harm. As in everything we do as parents, the intention is good. However, kids NEED to learn how to protect themselves.

For some, a period of neglect can come next, when you find yourself living with a child you hardly recognize, and you can be timid about what to say or do. This isn’t the time to back  away, but rather assure them that we are there for them.

Adolescence can bring with it a parenting stage of suspicion. Instead, do your best to create safe ways to communicate so you don’t become estranged.

Many parents find themselves wanting to resurrect an earlier relationship just as their young adult heads off to college, or into the world.

Inspection, correction, protection, neglect, suspicion, and resurrection.  An interesting way to look at stages of parenting. Tim Elmore suggests there is one important ingredient missing for many parents today.

What’s missing?

All of these stages or phases of leading children are  common to teachers, coaches, and other people who work with children. They may or may not be familiar to you as a parent.  (It’s always easier to see things in others than yourself!)

The big thing that seems to be missing is setting expectations for our children. In order to complete the maturation process, kids need to be guided towards meaningful work to accomplish. They need to know there is a unique reason they are here. Instead we fill their hours with all kinds of “activities”, but miss the opportunity to allow them to really develop a passion for relevant work. We miss the opportunity to encourage them to find ways to have a real impact on the world. If we had expectations of the end goal right from the start, we might be better able to steer our kids to reach that goal.

If we set high expectations, and encourage the kids to discover what they are really interested in or gifted in, they will be able to mature into adults who are ready to make a contribution. By high expectations, that can sound like setting someone up for failure. What I mean, is starting with an assumption that they WILL find an area that will be a natural fit for their personality and talents. By expectations, I mean that they will find meaning and purpose for their lives. And that is something that parents, teachers and coaches can’t find FOR them. Each individual has to discover for themself their own life’s meaning and purpose. And THAT should be the end goal of the parenting path.

Self-Control – Do you live up to your own standards?


Self-control is our theme this week. Yeah, pretty important, huh? Most of us have a hard enough time living up to our own standards, let alone anyone else’s (including God’s)! Self-control covers so many things – self-discipline, reining in those reactions and desires we know aren’t good for us, and even keeping all those wonderful resolutions we made not too long ago.

Self-control – Controlling Your Word and Actions

We are using the arnis sticks as prompts for the kids’ to become aware of when they are LOSING their self-control. Obviously we need them to be aware of where the stick is at all time (especially in relationship to the next person’s head!) But it really takes awareness to realize when you’re about to “lose it.”  By “lose it” we’re talking about self-control. We didn’t mean to have that come out of our mouth or for that look to show on our face. We didn’t mean to snap that answer in quite that way. But it happened.

How can we improve?

The first step is to become AWARE! So if you KNOW you said something you shouldn’t have, or looked a way that you shouldn’t have — that’s GREAT!! It means you’re aware of it! Now just intentionally become MORE aware. Really, that’s it!

The more aware you become of what your responses are, the more easily you’ll be able to change.

How It Works

First, I become aware of what it is I want to change. Suddenly I realize I do it a lot more often than I thought I did! But as I keep my awareness level up (because I want to change and DO something about it) I find myself becoming aware more quickly.

Maybe not in enough time to actually stop my mouth — but that will come gradually. If I keep my focus up, I’ll soon start to realize I’m about to say something I don’t want to say — BEFORE I say it!! It may still take some time to actually develop the self-discipline to stop at this point. After all, it’s been a long time of being ingrained as an automatic reaction. But if I keep up the awareness, coupled with the desire to change, I find myself being able to stop what was once quickly uttered from my mouth. And voila! Self-control.

Do You Want To Change?

You can use this in any kind of situation, as long as you REALLY want to change. Let’s say you’ve got a habit of reaching for a bar of candy a little more frequently than health or self-control would dictate.

Finding Your Trigger

The first place to start is to become AWARE of what is triggering you to reach for the candy bar in the first place. Hunger? Boredom? Loneliness?Thinking about someone who’s far away?

Once you discover the trigger, then you can start coming up with an appropriate alternative. It doesn’t happen all at once, but truly, you CAN change if you WANT to change! You CAN be self-controlled and not just reactive to your triggers!

This week’s mat chat:

How did you do last week? Did you become aware of when you were losing your self-control — or about to lose it?  Did you remember to stop and take a deep breath?  It’s not an easy thing to develop — keep working on it. Keep noticing when you feel like you’re going to lose your self-control. And if you can catch yourself early enough – stop and take a deep breath before you do anything else. That will help to make your next actions be a CHOICE and not just automatically reacting to what’s going on around you. You want YOUR actions to be what YOU CHOOSE to do, and not just a automatic reaction because of how you’re feeling. Our feelings are not a good director of our actions — we need our brain to be the director!

As we continue to work with the arnis  – use it as a reminder to try to always be in control of what you are doing. That means having your brain engaged! That means listening! And that means doing exactly what you’re supposed to be doing!



It’s hard to be objective

When parents are asked to grade themselves, they generally give themselves an A. When the same parents are asked to grade other parents, guess what? They give them a D! Even worse, when the children of the same parents who give themselves an A, are asked to grade their parents, they consistently give them a lower score.

The truth is, it’s hard to be objective. You know all of your own struggles, weaknesses, obstacles – in short you understand why you do the things you do, and you make allowances. You know your heart is in the right place and you want the best for your children. But other people? They just are doing the wrong thing!

OK, this may seem a bit harsh, but it’s what studies have shown and it corresponds to the world we’re raising our kids in. And it IS a different world from even a couple of decades ago. What’s changed?

Parents of baby boomers were the first to raise their children with the presence of the television permeating the house. Now information from electronic devices, allowing the culture to seep in, is not only continual but also ubiquitous. You can’t put that genie back in the bottle!

This has a huge impact on what you need to teach your children.

In the past children looked to parents and other adults for information. Now they have direct access to enormous amounts of information. So now the important thing to teach is how to process that information and make good decisions.

Children and teens have enormous power to broadcast all of their thoughts and emotions at any time. They need to be taught how to harness that power and not get stung by it.

With all of the stimulation they can receive from all of their devices, there is no need to suffer boredom. Today’s children desperately need to learn to find internal motivation.

Youth and teens are more connected than ever before. Unfortunately it’s often in isolation. We develop empathy, relationship skills and emotional intelligence by being in physical relation to people — not by interacting through a screen.

They just have so much data coming at them all the time, they need to learn to navigate it all, and not become stressed out in the process. They need help discerning truth from fiction. They need help to prioritize and not be swept up in all the expectations that are being set by watching others through articial means.

Am I a ludite, wishing all this technology would go away? NO! Not at all. I just want to encourage you to be aware of how drastically life has changed since you were a child, and recognize that your job as a parents has drastically changed from the job your parents had. Maybe you’re thinking, “duhh….”  I’m glad! Awareness is half the battle in improving anything!

Tangent – This week we’re talking about self-control with the kids in karate class. We’re encouraging them to first just NOTICE when they kind of lose control: when they can’t just do what an adult is instructing them to do, when they have an emotional outburst they don’t want to have, when they are more governed by reflex and reaction than thoughtful choice. The first step in changing anything is ALWAYS awareness!

The good news about today’s parents is that they are PASSIONATE about their kids! We’re just going to try to raise some awareness to help you do a better job in the next few weeks. We hope you’ll come back and join us!


Do you need a parenting manual?

I sure wish one came with every child! Sure there are lots of books out there, but I mean, wouldn’t it be great if every child came complete with owner’s manual? Let’s face it, most of us know that each child is different, so each needs their own manual!

Joking aside, I’m going to start sharing what I’m learning from Dr. Tim Elmore. He is president of Growing Leaders, a fantastic resource for schools, parents, employers – in short, anyone who deals with the generations coming up.

In his book 12 Huge Mistakes Parents Can Avoid, he shares some good advice that may be difficult to hear. We face a much different job as parents in the 21st Century, than previous parents faced. Not only have electronic devices taken over our lives, but the pace of change continues to accelerate, leaving us spinning and wondering what we’re supposed to do with all this “help” and “information” and “tools” we have at our disposal. I will admit it makes me want to just go straight back to “the good ole days”.

Then I have to admit that the good ole days weren’t so good in many respects, so I have to just face the reality that is here and now.

I think one of those realities is that many things we have tried to do as parents, with the best of intentions, and in an effort to either protect our kids or make sure they feel good about themselves, has backfired. Badly.

It was back in 1993 I first saw reports of schools having whole programs to “boost self-esteem”, like singing songs about how great “I am”. It was obvious to me, despite my lack of experience, belief system, and maturity, that that was a bad idea. It doesn’t take rocket science to figure out that just saying “I’m great” don’t make it so!

Self-esteem CAN be boosted — but only through actual achievement. You, as a parent, SHOULD unconditionally love your children. That doesn’t mean you’re blind to their faults and weaknesses. And that doesn’t mean you make them blind to their own faults and weaknesses. It means you want what’s best for them; you want them to be able to recognize and deal with their faults and weaknesses; you want them to grow and learn and DEVELOP self-esteem and self confidence through EXPERIENCES, not through empty words.

We as parents can also find ourselves overprotecting our beloved children. We absolutely DO want to keep them safe. But not so safe that they don’t learn from their bumps and bruises, losses and failures. For indeed, it’s the bumps, bruises, losses and failures that TEACH us. If we already knew everything, and could already do everything, we wouldn’t need to learn anything. And experience is the greatest teacher. Sure there are different ways of learning: some are auditory learners, some visual, some kinesthetic, but for most of us, no matter how best we might learn something in order to take a test on it, information, concepts, and ideas become PART of us only when we have real experiences.

One more thing that is overwhelming for parents today: the comparison trap. Yes, parents may have always had this problem to a degree, but today thanks to social media we get to see exactly how poorly we stack up to all the wonderful parents posting wonderful things out there! And “rules” for parenting seep into the culture, (call it peer pressure), that are actually not good for children at all!

We know it’s hard being a parent today and that’s why we want to help!


Stripe testing this week!

Yes and it’s the final week on agility. The students have been learning a difficult sparring combination. Newer students are not expected to be able to perform the entire combination. But we want those who have been around for a while to be challenged: to step up, to be stretched in what they are learning. Mom and Dad, do not be discouraged if your child does not earn a stripe this month! Part of learning and growing is learning to deal with sometimes NOT acheiving, and finding out you have to work harder.

I want to thank those of you have rsvp’d and are planning on attending the New Family Orientation (which is open to all!) we are having this Friday at the dojo at 7:15, and I want to remind those of you who are planning on joining us but haven’t yet rsvp’d to do so! We need to know who will be attending, with ages and any food allergies! Thanks!

How many of you adults feel stuck in some way? Emotionally? Relationally? Jobwise? Healthwise? In things you keep telling yourself you’re going to change but just don’t seem to get around to it? At some point it happens to all of us.

I want to encourage EVERYONE to just take one small step toward change. Each time we make one small change, it can lead us to take another. And then another. Don’t have any idea what that first step could be? Maybe your first small step is to just spend a minute or two really thinking about one small area in which you feel stuck. Talk to a friend who knows you well. We can often see more easily where someone else is stuck than where we are stuck. As you read this, is there anything that pops into your head that you could change? Trust that. Just start to move. Baby steps. The more you move, the more easy it will be to move more! And before you know it – you’ve become agile!

Here is this week’s mat chat:

How many of you improved your agility this past few weeks? How many of you remember what agility means? We’ve been doing a lot of sparring — do you see how important agility is in sparring? Can you see how important it is in self-defense as well?

It’s really so important in all areas of our lives. Have you ever heard somebody described as “stuck”? You may have heard of an adult being “stuck” in a job. Sometimes when you can’t figure something out, especially in math class, you feel “stuck”. That’s ok to feel that way — but what’s important is to be able to know a small step to help get you “unstuck”. Once you take one small step — then you need to look for other steps you can take and keep doing those small steps, and looking for more steps. Before you know it – you’re not stuck anymore – even if it’s meant starting the problem over, you’re not stuck any more!

What’s NOT ok is to stay stuck. To do nothing. Being agile means to be able to move – to see your opening and take it – to see the small step you can take right NOW – and not just give up and keep getting pummeled and think there’s nothing you can do about it. You can ALWAYS do something about whatever it is. Sometimes your circumstances can seem overwhelming – but there is always SOMETHING you can do — that may take a lot of thought and even self-examination — meaning, looking to see what my part of this circumstance is — how I contributed to getting “stuck” in the first place.

Having the heart of a black belt means never giving up! Don’t allow yourself to get stuck! Stay agile!

What do agility and anti-bullying have in common?

Sounds a little crazy but when you really think about it, being able to think fast, and move even faster, is important in almost every situation. We all have to fight inertia.

Last week’s mat chat continued on the theme of agility, for Tigers and Juniors:

We talked about agility being not just something you need for sparring. In sparring you need the ability to physically react quickly, change directions easily, and just generally be able to move easily and smoothly. Mental agility means to think quickly, too. Part of thinking quickly, is to see potential problems before they arise. Like if you’re playing pitch and catch and the ball goes out into the street – instead of automatically chasing it, you recognize the potential danger, so you have to stop and make sure there are no cars coming before you get the ball.

When it comes to defending yourself against someone else, maybe someone who’s bullying you, we want to remind you that you need to have a conversation with your parents about what you should do about it. It’s really important for your parents to know what’s going on in your life. We believe that it is really important for you to honor your parents. What does that mean? It means respecting them. But it means more than that, because we should respect everyone, since every person has value and is important. It means talking with your parents, letting them know when you’re having problems, asking for their advice when you need it.

Being mindful – aware of what’s going on around you and inside you — enables you to have mental agility. When you’re aware that you have a potential problem, you can go to your parents to get their help and advice. Sometimes we just don’t want to think about something or talk about something. We get “stuck” or “frozen” and that actually makes the problem much bigger. Just like when we’re sparring, if we are frozen in one spot we will keep getting hit. That’s the exact opposite of being agile!

This week will also review the basic 3 strike process we use for anti-bullying. We used to share a story of a small fire starting in a field. Could you put it out easily if you are there? (Probably) If no one is around to see it and put it out, what can happen? And if nearby small trees or shrubs catch fire, would somebody be able to put it out? (With the right tools) But if no one is around to see as shrubs begin to catch fire, what happens?Before you know it you can have a raging fire that can be very difficult to put out. We want to extinguish small mean behaviors before they grow in into entrenched bullying!

We shared the following with Little Ninjas, Golden Dragons, and Tigers and Juniors on their B Day:

You have the power to stop small mean behaviors from becoming bigger. By bringing small mean behavior into the light, so people see it, it actually helps to end it. When it stays in the dark, where no one can see it, it can grow into big mean behavior, or bullying.

We want you to use this 3 strike way of dealing with small hurts that you see. For big stuff – if someone is hurt or is going to get hurt – you need to go to an adult right away. This is for small stuff that you might be tempted to ignore. Instead:
The first time it happens, say: “ Sally, please don’t do that. I wouldn’t do that to you.” A lot of times that’s all that’s needed. Sometimes we hurt people by accident and we really don’t mean to. So just pointing it out is a really helpful thing to do — for everyone.

If it happens again, say: “ Sally, I asked you once to stop. If you do that again, I’m going to have to report you.”

And, if it happens again, you DO need to report it to an adult. That means CALMLY reporting just the facts by telling the adult “I don’t want to get Sally in trouble, but I asked her to stop xxxx and she did it 2 more times. Can you please help?”

It does NOT mean you go running and tattling – trying to get someone in trouble. You’re actually trying to help the other person by letting them know that whatever they did hurt you. Many times, that’s enough, and it will end the first time.

Please review this 3 strikes and you’re reported anti-bullying method with your kids! We have had several people share how using this technique has worked! I know it sounds so simple — sometimes the simplest things are the best!

An Important Exercise for Your Consideration

Good morning! What a beautiful day we have been given today! Though it’s cold, there is a bright blue sky and hints of color remain on the horizon. There is always the opportunity to have gratitude, no matter how bleak your circumstances may be.

Though it will be cold, Saturday looks to be another beautiful day. We hope to see a lot of adults come out for spirit training at 8 am this Saturday!  Whether you are grading or not, it is an opportunity to practice putting in all your effort! (Adults, be mindful of taking care of yourself. That’s not contradictory – put in all of the effort you can, given whatever your body is telling you!)  This is a reminder that Tigers and Juniors will also be grading this Saturday – during the regular class time. Please be sure to get the required paperwork in!

We will be having a new family orientation on February 17 at 7:15. Please join us, especially if you are new to Warriors of Grace. But also consider joining us if you’ve been around a while. It will be an opportunity to learn about what’s new, meet other folks, and share wisdom you’ve gained from being part of our karate family! Please don’t forget to rsvp so we know how many to expect!

We are always saying we are a character development school, and we are tying the concept of leadership to encompass all those who have an impact on someone else (that means everyone is a leader!). To help drive home the importance of character, I would like to share an exercise out of Steven Covey’s 7 Habits for Highly Effective People.

He writes a fuller description to get you emotionally involved, but in a nut shell, he asks you to imagine attending your own funeral, three years from today. Imagine your loved ones, your colleagues, your neighbors, all the people you interact with on a regular basis. What do you want them to say about you?

It’s an interesting exercise in distilling what’s REALLY important to you. It helps bring your ultimate goals and values into clear focus, when you imagine what you WANT those people to say about you at the end of your life (which as we are so sadly reminded of, could be any day).

Why am I sharing this? We want to encourage you to consider these big questions, both for yourself, and helping to direct your own priorities and decisions, but also so that you can better teach your children what’s really important. We often get so caught up in the daily busyness of life that we forget to focus on what’s truly important. And you can’t do that until you’ve discovered for yourself what’s truly important.

Here’s this week mat chat we’re sharing with the kids:

I hope everyone’s ready for grading this week! That is, everyone who IS grading. Even if you’re not grading, we want you to be trying your best all the time. Every time you come to karate you need to put in all the effort you can. That’s what having the heart of a black belt means – to always try your best.

Does that mean you always feel like it? We all have days when we’re feeling less energetic. Some days when we’re feeling down. Some days when we just don’t feel like doing anything. That’s where agility and practice practice practice comes in.

Agility is the ability to change quickly. It’s the ability to recognize how you feel and say to yourself “I have to get up and get going and put in my best effort ANYWAY!” And the more you practice that — the easier it becomes.

Just like when we’re doing drills here in karate, the more you do them the easier they become. When we practice agility – quick movement, changing frequently – we become more agile. When we practice changing our mindset and pushing through those times when we’re not feeling “up to it”, the better we get at it!

Agility is a skill like any other skill – the more you practice the better you get at it. So don’t let thoughts of “I just don’t feel like it today” or “I’m just not able to change like that” or any other negative self talk stop you. Just do it, and you’ll see a change!

So what IS agility, anyway?

We have started a new training them – AGILITY!

We are going to consider agility from every angle – physically, mentally and spiritually. We want to be quick to move and react when we’re sparring, as well as quick to question and verify information that comes at us from all different directions.

Just as we can learn from our opponent’s behavior and begin to be proactive in defense of attacks when sparring, we need to use our intelligence and logic in evaluating all information that that we allow into our lives. To develop agility takes discipline.

Here’s the mat chat we shared with the students this week:

In case you’re not familiar with the word — Agility is a noun. Agile is the adjective. Agility is what you want to develop. You want to BE agile.

Agility is the ability to think or move quickly, immediately and easily. You can see why it is so important to be agile when you’re sparring. If you don’t move and you don’t react, you’re going to get clobbered! You’re going to get lots of practice sparring for the next month. Try to react so fast that you can almost read your opponent’s mind and can respond BEFORE they even attack. That’s agility! Being ready to respond quickly.

We want to develop agility in our thinking and behavior as well. We want to develop agility in our character. We’re all human. We all make mistakes. That will never change. But how we respond to the mistakes we make is what is important. When you look in the mirror and see that your face is dirty and your hair is a mess, do you just say, oh well, that’s just the way I am and walk away? I hope not!

In the same way, when you realize you told a lie, or didn’t do something you said you would do, you don’t just go on and think “oh well, I’m human, I make mistakes, that’s just the way I am”. No — you want to be quick to make adjustments. Quick to apologize. Quick to make it up to the person you wronged. Quick to admit you said something that was not true. That’s the agility that really counts.

Have a great week!

Still having trouble coming up with a resolution for 2017?

Odds are, by February 1, the majority of folks who made a New Year’s resolution are either struggling to keep it, or have already forgotten about it! But there are also those that have a hard time coming up with a worthwhile resolution to make in the first place.

The thought goes something like “where do I need improving?” or “what will make me healthier?” or “what better habits should I be working on?”.

I want to offer a different perspective.

Instead of focusing on YOU, let’s take another look. As you go about your day, out in the world, where ever you find yourself, ask yourself: “What breaks my heart?” Is there something that is going on, or something or someone that you see, that just captures your emotions and breaks your heart?

Then ask yourself: “What would it look like for one person to make a small difference?” Small gifts of time, help, encouragement, and yes, even money, when added with others’ small gifts, add up to world changing things. One girls’ broken heart for the homeless led to a huge sandwich making enterprise that feeds hundreds daily!

Once you have an idea of what small thing could be done — ask yourself what you could sacrifice (in time, money, energy) to be that one person. See how you could fit that one small thing into your life.

THAT could be your 2017 resolution! Instead of thinking, “how can I improve?” think “how can I improve my small part of the world?”