Multiple times a week during my teenage years, I would head from high school to the karate school, where I taught martial arts to students ages three and up. My little ninjas taught me just as many lessons as I taught them – all of which can apply to parenting, minus the punching and kicking (I hope).
Get your kids moving with these outdoor games from Shop Parents.
Always keep your guard up.
In a leadership position, eyes are on you whether you’re on or off duty, so be a good role model. If you don’t demonstrate confidence, integrity, discipline, and respect at all times, you can’t fairly expect the same of your students.
Unexpected feedback is the best feedback.
Praise kids when they think you’re not paying attention. Reward them for doing their best even when you’re not around. They’ll expect the obligatory response that comes when they do something right in front of you, but an exclamation of support from across the room will make their day.
You don’t always have to be the favorite instructor.
You’re going to have bad days. The kids are going to get upset because they didn’t pass a belt test, or because they’re frustrated with a certain technique, and you’re going to doubt your effectiveness as a teacher. But trust your instincts. If what you’re having them do is truly in their best interest, stick with it, even if they don’t approve at the moment.
You don’t always have to be the instructor. Period.
If you’re not learning from your students, your students will stop learning from you. Adapt to their personalities and learning styles. Experiment with new methods. Fail. Teaching isn’t about you; it’s about the kids. It’s okay to be their student in order to help them grow.
Size doesn’t matter.
I’ve seen more inspiring displays of perseverance from young students than I have from adult students. Grown-ups train with practical motives like weight loss and self-defense (both completely valid) but kids train with heart. It doesn’t matter if they’re only five years old or four feet tall; they’re just as capable of achieving a black belt as anyone else.
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Image: Girl in split via Shutterstock
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I live in a slightly out-of-the-culture neighborhood of Brooklyn, where mothers of baby girls shun pink and boys wear their hair fairly long, and sometimes I feel surrounded by princess-haters, who think that the Disney Princesses are trying to put all of our kids into a narrow box. I have lost count of the number of friends who have said they will never sanction Disney princesses in their home. They usually lose that battle anyway.
I can’t speak authoritatively about girls trying on extreme gender roles, because I am no child-development expert. But my beat here at Parents and American Baby includes toys, and I know when a little girl reaches 2 or 3 she usually wants a princess doll, or a costume dress, or a plastic pony with a long pink tail. I don’t know why, but I can tell you the want is real and seems primal.
My daughter, Grace, went on a loopy-doopy princess bender from ages 2 through 4. She dressed as Cinderella as she learned to climb the monkey bars and wore her Belle dress through the supermarket. It hurt no one, and I would argue particularly did not hurt her. She outgrew wearing costumes before elementary school, as I knew she would, but retained some lessons from “the ladies.” She knew that Ariel should have talked to her Dada before making that crazy deal to get human legs, and that Jasmine needed some street smarts. She understood Cinderella’s weary patience and Belle’s determination to block out haters. The new movie Frozen (which we’ve seen twice!) particularly has great themes, as Sheryl Sandberg points out.
Last fall we visited Belle in Fantasyland and Grace, now 11, studied her from a distance, judging her acting ability. (“She gets the voice right…”) I can’t get my tween to put on a dress, let alone a frilly one. She eyes Taylor Swift and Katy Perry, which honestly makes me more nervous than her watching of Snow White ever did.
The eloquent “Reaching My Autistic Son Through Disney” piece that ran in the New York Times resonates with me in that it points out how Disney stories are tales as old as time. The characters are acting out ancient dilemmas: How do you learn to trust your instinct? When should you do what you want to do, and when should you do what is expected of you? How do you find your place in the world? Not to overstate things too much, but trying to block kids from learning the princesses stories is to shut off a huge wealth of literature, history, and culture. And I can’t help but notice that no one fusses at my son about Tarzan’s body or the fact that Mowgli is so dang skinny.
I am not saying you need to welcome the ladies into your home so much as I’m saying: Calm down about them. They’re characters, and if you pay more attention to their character development instead of their shape, they have a lot to teach.
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Lean In author Sheryl Sandberg can campaign all she wants about #banbossy. But I’m not jumping on her bandwagon. And it makes me sad that her crusade is giving bossiness a bad name.
I can appreciate the sentiment behind the #banbossy campaign. Girls and women often struggle to have their voices heard and be forceful as leaders, without getting called a far less-attractive B word in the process. But as a lifelong “bossy” girl, I embrace the traits that earned me that label—the stubbornness, the take-charge attitude, the ability to steer even the most wayward project or person back on track. I think I can credit my bossiness for getting me most of my heart’s desires—everything from my ability to bend customer service reps to my bidding to my career to my status as a mom. (Trust me—you can’t navigate the paperwork for two adoptions successfully without being at least a little bit bossy!) I wear the word “bossy” as a badge of pride.
Besides, some of my favorite pop culture characters are my fellow bossy girls—Hermione Granger, Veronica Mars and yes, even Peanuts’ Lucy Van Pelt. (Despite Sheryl’s disdain for her, I’ve always been a sucker for characters like Lucy, with her whip-smart, take-no-prisoners vibe.)
And I’m proud to say that I’m raising two very bossy girls—girls who are unafraid to speak up for what’s right, who are excited to share their ideas. (Even if it leads to some pretty heated battles in my house.) We work on how to lead without completely trampling over their playmates or their siblings, and how to harness their bossiness and stubbornness to help them follow their dreams. And when I call my daughter bossy, it’s not to punish her—but to tell her that I notice how wonderfully strong she is. Maybe they won’t be President someday, but my daughters definitely won’t get pushed around.
As far as we’re concerned, there are plenty of B words we shouldn’t be called—but bossy simply isn’t one of them.
Tell us: Do you think bossy should be banned? Take our quiz to find out if you’re raising your child for success!
Image: bossy girl by jayfish/shutterstock.com
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In the April issue of Parents, we explore the world of special needs–a world we’re all living in, diagnosis or not, now that children of all abilities are integrated into our communities more than ever. We’ll be covering this topic in many ways over the coming weeks. Today, we hear from a mom named Beth Herrington, who has two 3-year-old daughters with Down syndrome and has a truly remarkable story.
At one point, I thought I had the perfect life. I was married to the perfect man, we had four perfect children, and were looking forward to the birth of our perfect fifth. On July 9, 2010, at 6:37 p.m., I learned what true perfection was. That was the day Chloe Beatrice Herrington was born. (Here’s a recent photo of her.)
Chloe was born with Down syndrome. Her diagnosis at birth took us by surprise, and led us on a journey that few would choose in their lifetime. When Chloe was only 2 weeks old we met a family that had recently adopted a baby girl with Down syndrome from Ukraine. They had adopted the baby through an organization called Reece’s Rainbow. With a little research, I soon discovered the desperate plight of children born with Down syndrome in many foreign countries: Most are put into orphanages at birth and fail to thrive. When they turn 4 years old, they age out of the orphanages and are sent to mental institutions, where they are hopelessly neglected. They never get the chance to know the love of a family.
Chloe’s birth gave us new direction. Our eyes were opened. Loving her expanded our hearts and gave us a special love for children born with disabilities. We knew this child we held in our arms, just like the four who had come before her, was perfect! And we knew in our hearts that our family was not yet complete. After months of soul searching, and scouring the Reece’s Rainbow web site, a picture of a baby girl with Down syndrome caught our eye. Eighteen months later we were on a plane heading to the Ukraine on a rescue mission we called Operation Olivia!
My husband and I spent 7 weeks in the Ukraine bonding with Olivia and finalizing her adoption. While we were there my sister, who was caring for other children, alerted me that Chloe was not feeling well. A checkup with the pediatrician included blood work with concerning results–Chloe had a very low platelet count. The doctor told us that we did not have to rush home, but that as soon as we came back from Ukraine they wanted to do a bone marrow biopsy on Chloe.
We came home with Olivia a few weeks later–fearing the whole time that we were about to jump head-first into a battle that no parent ever wants to fight. Our worst fears were confirmed: Chloe’s bone-marrow biopsy revealed that she had leukemia.
Chloe spent the next nine months in a Kaiser Hospital isolation room fighting to survive Leukemia and very aggressive chemotherapy. And fight she did! Turns out that kids with Down syndrome have awesome cancer fighting genes! (They actually do: There is a genetic mutation found only in children with Down syndrome that increases their risk of developing certain types of leukemia–and crazily enough, that very same mutation is responsible for helping children with Down syndrome respond so well to the cancer-fighting treatment plans! Also, the relapse rate of children with Down syndrome is significantly lower that that of the typical child who has gone through the same treatment.) In May of 2013 she walked out of that hospital cancer-free; this is what she looked like during treatment.
Early on my journey as Chloe’s mom, I connected with a blogger/photographer and fellow Down syndrome mom named Kelle Hampton. We became Facebook and Instagram friends and she was a great source of love and support for me during Chloe’s cancer journey. Last year on her blog, Enjoying the Small Things, she shared a project she was working on with the Infantino and Step2 companies, which make toys and products for babies and young children. They were planning a photo shoot to promote their products and asked parents to write an essay about how their child has taught them to look beyond a disability. What sparked my interest was that they were looking specifically for child models with special needs. The campaign was called “Everybody Plays” and Kelle Hampton was going to be the photographer. I wrote a quick essay about Chloe, how she inspired us to adopt her sister Olivia, and how, through her fierce battle with leukemia, she inspired thousands across the world to live their lives to the fullest. I attached a photo and hit Send.
A few months later I received a phone call from Kelle and a representative from both companies informing me that Chloe was among the 50 children selected to participate in the photo shoot–and as the grand-prize winner, we were flown to San Diego for a two-day, all-expenses-paid trip. We met Kelle and representatives from Infantino and Step2 companies. During our two days there we were moved by the beauty surrounding the event and the stories behind every child there. I’m sure I can speak for all parents there when I say the experience was one that will never be forgotten. For two days we laughed, cried, and spent hours watching our children just be children. There were no stares, no stereotypes, and no disabilities. There were just children in their perfect ways teaching all of us how EVERYBODY PLAYS!
Today both Chloe and Olivia are happy, healthy 3-year-olds. They are attending preschool and continue to thrive. Every day they amaze us with their abilities. Every day they make us smile. And every day they make us aware that true perfection dwells in them.
Over the last 2 years, through both our adoption and cancer journeys we have experienced an outpouring of love and support from family, friends, our local Down syndrome community, and from strangers far and wide. Thank you all from the bottom of our hearts. And thank you, Chloe and Olivia, for showing us how really perfect life can be.
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Photo of the author with his father and brother.
Charlie Capen is one-half of the duo behind How To Be A Dad, a self-described “how-not-to” blog for dads, moms, soon-to-be parents, and everyone in between. Capen lives on the outskirts of Los Angeles with his wife, Avara, and two boys, Finnegan and Arden.
It was a cold, windy day on the grassy plains overlooking a beach in San Francisco. The wind filled sails and people sat bundled up, pretending it was a summer afternoon. San Francisco had that effect on people. It was anything they wanted it to be.
My father jogged over to a payphone, pulled a quarter from his pocket and rang my mother. “It’s such a beautiful day. You should bring the boys down here. And we can fly some kites. It’s perfect.”
“Stephen, the boys are with you.”
That was the day my mother had a talk with us about what to do if we ever got lost, though it was more for my dad than for us. His chemically-sourced absentmindedness was an origin to many stories that started more or less in this way.
Mom’s directions were simple. Find a responsible adult. Learn your phone number. Learn your address. Learn to dial “911.” Times were much different. Technology wasn’t as suffocating and the news every-hour-on-the-hour coverage about scary abductions was nonexistent, though the “stranger danger” mantra was fast becoming a common phrase.
In hindsight, those instructions for our urban life as two young boys seem rather liberated. Loose. They were important enough to remember, which we did, but almost unsafe when compared to the guidelines most of us have now.
Today, I am confronted with something I could not anticipate before I became a father. Now that my son is one of those kittens that you cannot herd, at the tender age of four years-old, I have to teach him about being lost and finding his way.
However, this lesson isn’t what confuses me. It’s the response to a question I posed on our Facebook page and my personal profile:
“Who do you tell your kids to seek out if they get lost?” Simple enough, right? Not really. Some of the answers are just frustrating. Out of nearly 120 comments (ruling out the obviously humorous or ridiculous ones), more than half of commenters said some version of “FIND A MOM.”
Here are some of the responses:
Okay. Yeah. Those weren’t helpful. How about these:
Don’t get me wrong, I understand. A whopping 96 percent of assaults are committed by men. I’m not telling anyone to stop saying “find a mom” here. That works for me. In fact, it’s smart. Moms are parents. Parents with kids would intuitively be the right choice. But are we stigmatizing men and fathers in so doing? Even just a little bit?
I’m not saying men don’t commit these crimes. That’s not it. I’m saying our actions can be informed by statistics, but our attitudes must be guided by context. The location, the people in question and the specifics pertaining to the form of the moment are all crucial details that, if unobserved, keep us generally fearful of others. Especially, and unfortunately, based on their race or sex.
In the end, I’m asking you to look at this in a different light, from the point of view of a man who deeply and unabashedly loves his children, and, by proxy, any child who is in need. As my friend Whit said:
“I explained that the problem with teaching children that men are bad is that some of them might actually believe it — children that have fathers and brothers or those that will someday be men themselves. It was a terrible and ignorant weight to put on a child.”
I’ve had women ask me, sharply albeit inquisitively, which child was mine at the playground. I’ve had random, uninvited kids climb all over me and seen the eyes dart in my direction, watching my every move as I sheepishly try to stop them from making me a human jungle gym. It’s unacceptable that I couldn’t be a safe person to help a child in need, and that the odds aren’t perceived as in my favor.
This isn’t an edict but a simple request for an adjustment in how we look at keeping our children safe as told by a child who endured the very thing we’re talking about now.
Protect your child from predators with these important tips!
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