What were you doing in 1998? My four sons were 6, 5, 4 and 2, and and I had realized that they needed a physical outlet that I could not provide.  So they started training in ATA martial arts. 


Son Number 3 was the quiet, wallflower kind of kid, who always had his blankey and his thumb.  He was a cuddler, and loved to encase his bunk bed with hundreds of Chubs Wipes containers...do you remember those? The ones that looked like enormous legos? They are collectors items. You can get them on ebay these days.The rest of the boys and I would be happily doing boy things, and then we would notice that Noel was missing, and that's when the manhunt would begin.  "Go find Noel, boys!" and they would scatter in our small little house and find him encased in a fortress made of Chubs wipes boxes and blankets, quietly building his sixteenth lego creation of the day.  


You can understand, then, how nervous I was when I put him into martial arts.  I don't know if it was the hormones from my last pregnancy with my fourth son, or just that I was that emotional and nervous for him, (probably both) but I frequently would be at Master Patti Barnum's ATA school which was in Burr Ridge at the time, and cry, as I watched my little son in Tiger class. My other sons had been older, and bigger when they started.  This one was just FOUR YEARS OLD for Pete's sake.  And so little and cute.  Nonetheless, my heart's desire was to teach my sons to be like what the good fairy said to Pinocchio.  

"To become a real boy, you must prove yourself brave, truthful and unselfish."


Many years later, in college, as a barista, my introverted son told me that although he doesn't particularly like to deal with lots of crowds, he has learned how to be flexible and serve people. The style we train in is called Songahm, which means pine tree and rock, and this is my son.  Strong, brave, flexible, loyal, solid, creative, with deep roots of faith and service.  He gives the credit to the taekwondo training he had, since it pushed him to come out of his comfort zone, perform in front of others, and build those character traits of leaders.  My quiet, introverted son achieved his third degree black belt, graduated college with a degree in music, performs on stage, and is a percussion teacher for special needs. He might be soft spoken, but he beats a big marimba!

Parents! Look for your kids strengths, and grow those gifts! And never give up.  Keep listening, and pointing them toward their dreams, not your own. Their personalities might never change, but you can help them have confidence, self esteem, flexibility of character and the resilience to bounce back from the fears and disappointments in life. Doesn't every parent want that for their kid?

Here's to quiet, shy kids! Parents of these children need to dig deep to help their kids stay safe, and know who they are in the world. If you know someone who has a shy kid in their house, forward this blog post to them! We need all the hope and inspiration we can get.

Of all my sons, my oldest has incredible amounts of belief in himself.  He is a vivacious, happy go lucky, hard working, intense kind of guy. He was good in school, but he loved sports and working out much more. He was pretty good at the saxophone, but he preferred to play football. Even as a small boy, he believed in himself. He had oodles of self confidence. When confronted with something which made him nervous, he inevitably defaulted to a Yes I Can attitude. 

His favorite story from the Darien ATA school where my sons trained was the story of Naci and Tnaci. One of the instructors at that time, Ms. Kelli (now Master Shoup), would tell the students the story of two brothers who trained in martial arts, but each one had different attitudes, and each one created a different future as a result.  When their master instructor asked Naci to do 20 pushups, he said "Yes, I Can!" But his brother would sadly respond, "I Can't." Their master instructor would tell the class to go to set and stand tall like a leader, and Naci would say, "Yes, I Can!" whereas Tnaci would quietly mutter, "No, I Can't."  Finally, one day, Naci was ready to receive his black belt, and their master instructor gladly awarded it to him.  But Tnaci sat on the sidelines, unhappy, because he had always refused to have a Yes, I Can attitude.  And so, he did not get his black belt. I believe this story made a huge impression on him as a young boy, and he exemplifies it with his life.

One of my deepest prayers for my children has always been that they grow up to become warriors of God.   Well, he took this to a very literal, physical level by taking his martial arts training to the next level and fighting in Mixed Martial Arts. I don't know too many moms who would really like to see their sons fight in octagons, but when I see him living his dream, and enjoying his life, I can't help but be proud.  In the case of Son #1, his Yes I Can attitude has carried him through his Bachelors in Athletic Training, and is now a driving force in his MMA pro fighting career. I see him take his positive attitude into his mental training through his visualization of his future success. I have watched him face circumstances which cause me to doubt and worry myself into a shaking mess of nerves, and yet he still exudes that indomitable Yes I Can attitude in all aspects of his existence. He does so physically through his training commitment, mentally through his inner game of repeatedly visualizing his future successes, and emotionally through his full passionate belief in his art.

Tell your children the story of Naci and Tnaci.  It just might imbue then with the Yes I Can attitude of Belief.  Because it sometimes only takes one person believing in someone to push them towards greatness. 



We love our children!

So much so that we want what is best for them, we sacrifice our time, our bodies, our hearts for them.  But what is great parenting when the child is aggravating us to no end? Each of my four sons had their moments, but my second son took the cake.  We knew he had been somewhere in the house when we would find things destroyed or things he had hidden.  He was the one at the age of 2 1/2 who almost burned down our bathroom.  Literally, no exaggerating.  He hid behind the piano when he realized he was in trouble.  He also wrote his name on that piano. With a rock. Yea. This son of mine used to make a habit of climbing on the roof of our house and jumping.  Now, we lived in a single story house, but, MAN! I used to strongly urge him to choose an occupation that either involved demolition, or the military. 

Fast forward to today.  He, thankfully, is not an outlaw, nor is he dead from having blown himself up with a home made experiment gone wrong. Thank God, the young man is serving our country in the U.S. Army. And, yes, he still builds bombs and jumps out of high places (these days it is out of airplanes). 

The truth is that his most annoying traits are now his greatest strengths.  And it was by sheer teeth-gritting, hair-pulling willpower (despair?) that my husband and I kept pointing him in a direction that might actually serve him well in life.

That's why when I saw this video, I thought of Son #2. I hope my experiences give you some hope and assurance in your great parenting with the children in your home! Enjoy!

Your child's most annoying traits may just reveal their greatest strengths

To strength, love and clarity about raising our kids,

Full Life Martial Arts Karate for Kids


More than 60 years ago, Earl Nightingale wrote The Strangest Secret, a radio piece about success and character development. He said, "We become what we think about most of the time." It occurs to me that this is the most difficult of disciplines: that of controlling what we think about most of the time.  Consider that our consciousness is like a glacier.  Most of what is in our thoughts and feelings is part of the subconscious, and we may not even be aware of that part. This talk of controlling what we think about sounds like a lot of self-discipline.

Self-discipline can be about not eating that cookie you really want to eat. Or doing your workout for the day. Or getting up to go to work in the morning...on time. Or refraining from calling your spouse stupid without saying a word (heavy eye roll). Or ignoring the Negative Nelly in your head loudly accusing you (or a family member who doesn't do things like you) of being too [fill in the blank with terrible accusations in an attempt to make them do things like you].

 My inner voice is my greatest critic.  And very often, I  believe her! I call her Amarga, which means 'embittered, spoiled' in Spanish, my native language. For me, self-discipline is a stand I take daily with my dear Amarga, who pops her well-meaning head from her room and barrages me with doubts, recriminations, and foul-mouthed accusations when I am feeling most afraid, angry, tired, hungry, etc.  I have learned the art of kindly sending her away so I can live fully, but it has taken years. 

I began to think on what kind of influence we have on the children around us. Most of us expect children to behave decently, responsibly, kindly, fairly, truthfully, cleanly. And when they don't we are HORRIFIED and DISMAYED

Oh, wait a minute, there are adults who haven't got that well-behaved trick yet.  

If I have things correct, we want children to behave like imaginary, perfect adults. 

In my opinion, coming to terms with that sad fact can be devastating. Gary Ryan Blair says "Self-discipline is an act of cultivation. It requires you to connect today's actions to tomorrow's results. There's a season for sowing a season for reaping. Self-discipline helps you know which is which."

Do you know when to sow good seed in your child?

Do you value the sowing even though you don't see the fruit? Even if you are pricked by sharp weeds in the process?

Are you OK with the fact that you might not be the one to reap what you have sown in your child?

Are you trying to reap what you have not even sown yet? And mad that the fruit isn't even there?

And perhaps the hardest question...Have you done this cultivation within yourself?

Discipline: that dreaded word.

Let's talk about the most hated meaning of this word, which is when we are referring to the correcting of wrong-headed, brain-damaged child-like behavior.

Most people fear this word, because we tend to think we are terrible at it, and we hate punishing our kids.  And, man, doesn't it seem never-ending? Like laundry, or dishes? Or cleaning cat litter boxes?

Ask yourself the following question: What is discipline?

A. Torture of oneself or others

B. Acting like little soldiers

C. Washing someone's mouth out with soap.

D. Retribution.

Did you answer with any of the above? 

Perhaps a perspective shift is in order. 

The word comes from the latin 'disciplinare' which means to teach, instruct, or educate.
Hmmmmm.  You didn't know you were signing up for this when you first laid eyes on your cute little squalling bundle of joy, eh? Yeah, well, it's not easy to build strong, confident children, but THAT job is a heck of a lot easier than repairing broken adults. 
Still, sometimes it feels like the blind leading the blind, doesn't it? 
Here are my answers to the question, What is discipline?
A. Order that allows for creativity.
B. Rules that protect and preserve.
C. Consequences for actions.
D. Responsibility teaching.
Discipline done for any other reasons, might really only be about parental ego and control.

"The sign of great parenting is not the child's behavior.  The sign of truly great parenting is the parent's behavior." ~Andy Smithson

Sometimes we can have done everything right, and still, the child does not learn.  So, I propose that the raising and discipline of a child has more to do with the development of the parent as a human being.  More an issue of process than product. More about staying calm in chaos.  
Truth is that disciplining our kids well takes as much of our discipline as we can muster.  Which is the topic of my next post. Self discipline. 
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