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Karate Kid Parenting

If you have kids, have friends with kids or have ever met a kid, then you know they’re not easy little people to wrangle.  I’ve spoken on the difficulties and challenges of parenting before, so I won’t belabor the point now.  I’m sure we can all agree that it’s tough and most parents will take help in any form they can get it.  I have found some inspiration from the blockbuster of my youth, The Karate Kid, which I’ll now share with you.  Here are my top three Karate Kid lessons for parents, unconventional though they may be.  Possibly you, like me, find things easier to relate when in a familiar and comfortable framework.  Perhaps you just enjoy incessantly tossing out movie quotes that your kids don’t understand.  Either way, who can resist a Karate Kid post, am I right?

Strike first, strike hard, no mercy, sir!

Okay, well, not exactly.  I’m not raising bullies.  I am, however, doing my level best to convey the concept of teaching people how to treat you.  Kids at school calling you names?  Well, you could turn the other cheek and ignore them.  That’s undoubtedly the mature and responsible thing to do and I have no doubt that your fellow fourth graders will respect you for it.  Yeah, right.  We try to stay grounded in reality around here.  If kids get away with picking on you, nine times of ten, they’re just going to keep it up, because they can.  Never give anyone one inch.  If there is even a hint of bullying, remove yourself from the situation in any way necessary.  If anyone ever puts one finger on you, do whatever you need to do to defend yourself.  Whatever.  I fully expect to get a call from the principal about this one day, but as I told my son just recently, if I get called to school because my child defended himself, I will shake his hand in front of God and everybody.  No one is looking out for your child the same way that you are, and you can’t always be there.  They have to learn early to look out for number one.

Fear does not exist in this dojo, does it?

Living in fear is like living half a life.  There are some things to fear, and some times to fear them.  The rest is just noise.  It pains me to see a child (yes, sometimes my child) afraid to try something new.  Failure is nothing to fear.  We all fail.  The only people who never fail are the ones who never try. (I feel sure that is a quote that I should credit, but I can’t remember whose quote.  I do credit it to someone who is not me.)  I want my children to be afraid of dark alleys, tornados, rabid dogs and brown recluse spiders and that’s pretty much it.  For everything else, a healthy caution and respect will usually do well enough.  I do not want my children to be afraid of public speaking, tasting weird foods or trying out for the football team.  It takes most of us far too many years to stop being afraid; it’s my hope for my children that they conquer it at an early age.

Walk left side, safe.  Walk right side, safe.  Walk middle, sooner or later, get squish just like grape.

This lesson comes with a side of Yoda.  Do or do not.  There is no try.  It doesn’t matter what you do, you must commit to it.  Don’t do anything halfway.  However short-lived the many passing interests of children may be, I pray that they will explore them all with their whole heart.  Doing things a little bit is as good as not doing them at all.  Commit and do it and then when you’re done, you’re done.  You don’t have to worry about what could have been if you’d tried harder, because you already tried your hardest.  Win, lose or indifferent, you gave something your all and that’s enough.

After writing this, I’m somewhat dismayed to find that I’m gleaning so much parental inspiration from Cobra Kai, but it’s a hard old world, after all.  I suppose one day some boy will break my daughter’s heart and I’ll instruct her to sweep the leg, but it can’t be helped.  Kids are the Daniel LaRussos of the world and I’m clearly not qualified to be their Mr. Miyagi, so I’m muddling through the best way I can.  I know my ways aren’t right for everyone, but I’d suggest that just once, when some kid picks on your darling, you reply with “Strike first, strike hard, no mercy,” even if it’s under your breath.  Sometimes even John Kreese gets it right.

(I’m aware that this post completely misses the point of the movie.  I’m just saying.)

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