I Killed the Fun in Kung Fu

grumpy-face

I could feel the Tiger Mom in me emerging recently as I started hovering over the boys’ Kung Fu classes.  I would glare at them when it looked like they weren’t concentrating, frown at their happy chit chat with friends, and scold them during breaks to do better. The other day my younger one turned to me before class and mumbled, I hate Kung Fu, I don’t want to go.  And yet… that very day during lessons, I noticed how much higher their kicks were, how strong their ma bu was, how many stances and movements they have memorized, and how they hung out after class to rough house with their classmates.  And it dawned on me… my 8-year old didn’t hate Kung Fu at all!  He hated how I made him feel about himself when we were discussing Kung Fu!

The weird thing is, I can absolutely observe the huge improvements they have made… even as they resisted my pushing and internalized my criticisms. As much as they dislike the hard work of Kung Fu, we can all see how much stronger and more flexible they have become.  My older one told me that he didn’t like Kung Fu, but he liked the results.

Time to make Kung Fu fun again… time to see Kung Fu masters in action.  So, we watched Stephen Chow’s silly nutty Shaolin Soccer (subtitled no less), laughed at all the outrageous and exaggerated antics, got excited at the Chinese words they recognized and pointed out how to use Kung Fu in soccer.  We had fun!  Next, I let our Shifu know that I would no longer watch or critique my amazing boys while they were in Kung Fu class.  He concurred that parents can put an awful lot of pressure on the kids and it can turn them off of something that is such a great life long practice.

Note to self: time to retire Tiger Mom!

Taming the Mommy Rage


The world is a complicated web of people, things, events, beliefs, truths (and alternative facts!) and emotions. When people go through various challenging situations, it’s easy to get lost in doing, fixing, organizing… basically going through the motions of life.

It isn’t always the right time to each out to ask for help, because it may feel like failure or weakness. The love and support from others can feel a lot like pity or judgment. When you’re not at your best, you may not be able to see the world with enthusiasm, optimism or openness. In fact, sometimes you get so overwhelmed, you just turn off and stop feeling or caring. That’s pretty scary and may require professional help. But if you haven’t quite gone that far, then you may end up just being angry all the time!

Sometimes you have just enough wherewithal to feel like it’s everyone else’s fault, the kids’ fault, the spouse’s fault, the friend’s fault, the neighbour’s fault… Everyone else is to blame. You have just enough brain space to get angry and express that anger by lashing out, judging others and wishing they would just change! I call this Mommy Rage. It’s not that you don’t have good reason to be upset (you probably do)… it’s just that your extreme response is probably not entirely commensurate to the infraction. So. What to do? How to tame the Mommy Rage?

YOU START WHERE YOU START
It’s important to move away from what ‘should be’ and straight to what actually is. You just have to start where you start. If the house is a total mess, it really doesn’t help to judge yourself. You have to accept that it’s a mess and figure out what you want and how much you are willing to invest to achieve it.

WHAT DOES THE RAGE SAY?
There’s no point in saying ‘calm down’ because the reality is that you’re mad. The question is what is that feeling telling you? Ask yourself why you are angry. The answer may surprise you if you delve deeply enough. It’s not usually what triggered it (the messy house) but something else related to why a messy house indicates something bigger… Figure out the underlying reason for the extreme rage and then follow up with…

FIND THE WIN-WIN
There is always a win-win solution. You just have to know that it exists. You have to want it. You have to commit to getting there. Mommy Rage almost always involves conflicting goals or lack of resources or not enough head space. So… make sure you give yourself some head space by resting, taking a break or breathing. Then find the win-win

THE ANSWER IS ALWAYS LOVE
Explain, guide and model good behaviour through love. After an episode of Mommy Rage, it’s important to pause, think things through… express that it was not an appropriate way to deal with the situation… and walk through the thoughts that led to Mommy Rage. It’s important to express love. It’s hard to be angry when you remember the love. Then, together, figure out “how could we have done that better?”

Mirrors, Sponges, and Little Drunk People: Striving to Be a Better Adult

The other day I saw a meme on Facebook: “Our job as parents is not to train children to act like adults. Our job is to be better adults.”

Something about having (or even being around) children forces us to look at ourselves more closely and critically. Children are at once 1) mirrors, reflecting us back to us, 2) sponges, soaking up and learning everything, and 3) little drunk people, who cannot control their emotions and behaviours.

When we yell in frustration “STOP YELLING, BE QUIET OR ELSE!” they will copy our approach to dealing with things that don’t go their  way. 

When we tell them that their work is just not good enough, their brains internalize our voice and they learn to tell themselves they are not good enough.

When we force them to do things they are not developmentally ready to do, we undermine their growth and maturity.

They hear every negative thing we say about others; they see every reaction we have under stress; they internalize our messages…
We must be our best selves as we help them develop their own navigation system for the world: they need a sense of right and wrong, judgment to know the difference, wisdom to make good decisions, and strength to stick to the right choices. 

Children watch our every word and deed, learning from every breath we take and every move we make. It is imperative for us to strive to be better adults. We must model for them good behaviour.