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What's Missing?

A different approach to raising children

After working closely with parents, grandparents, teachers, administrators and coaches over the last 21 years, we think we may have uncovered a different approach and the key to developing thriving, happy and highly successful children in today’s world.  Raising a child today is much different than when you and I were kids.  It is even different than just before Covid hit.  But success leaves clues . . . and we would like to share what we and 100’s of parents have uncovered!


A Karate Dojo can be one of the best human behavior and performance laboratories in the world when you make the paradigm shift from teaching just punching and kicking, to developing the person.  While every child is different, common patterns and paths quickly emerge. It is easy to see what causes a child to struggle and fail.  It is just as easy to see what causes them to thrive and succeed.  We have found three simple yet powerful elements children need more than ever today.  They are first and foremost, 1.) emotional strength, then a 2.) clear, intentional culture surrounding them, and finally 3.) a strong extended tribe supporting them.


Emotional strength – Recently many child development experts have focused on areas like self-esteem, emotional skills, self-regulation, mindfulness, SEL and character development.  While all these skills are good and needed, parents have found these “skills” by themselves often do not lead to thriving, happy and successful children.  So, what is missing?  One additional building block is needed in order for all these “skills” to become effective and life changing.  That missing building block or really, foundational piece, is emotional “strength”.  A child may know what, how and why to do something.  They may even be highly motivated or have a compelling reason to do it.  But in the end, it takes strength to apply those skills under pressure or when it is hard.  You may call it toughness or grit, but it is all come down to strength.


Think of strength like this.  Your emotional strength is no different than your physical or mental/cognitive strength.  They only way to develop all three of these strengths is to apply a consistent systematic increasing levels of good “stress”.  Humans are amazing.  The human body, mind and spirit naturally “adapt” and as a result grow and improve in direct reaction to these stressors.  


An example is muscular strength.  If you lift weights, as you intelligently increase the weight or load on your muscles, they get bigger and stronger.  Contrast that with the opposite, putting your arm in a cast.  Even after a few weeks of being immobilized the arm atrophies very quickly and the muscle become weak to the point of almost being useless.  


Maybe an even better example is your immune system.  What ultimately stops Covid or any virus is not staying six feet away from other people or wearing a mask.  What stops and is your real defense against any virus is your immune system’s strength and ability to fight that specific virus.  Your body has to be stressed and forced to adapt to that virus. This can be done artificially with a vaccine or naturally by catching the virus.  “Kids need to eat dirt and skin their knees” is more true than most realize.  It may seem counterintuitive but getting sick actually makes you healthier.  


With this, lets return back to emotional strength.  Think of it just like your muscles, immune system or brain.  Let’s take an example like courage.  You can teach and a child can understand the value of courage and how to be brave and strong.  You can read them stories, show them videos and can even model courage for them.  But unless they experience the true deep emotion of fear then feel the intense difficult emotion of powering through it despite being scared, they will never develop real courage.  I love the saying - “Sacred is wetting your pants . . . courage is doing things with wet pants.”  Eleanor Roosevelt also said - “Do at least one this a day that scares you.” 


But, there are two other essential elements to make this work.  First, you cannot be allowed to back off, be shielded or over protected from a fear, ever!  This only validates, reinforces and intensifies all your fears. Second, this fear stress cannot just be experienced once or occasionally, it has to be repeated over time with increasing levels of the stress as you get stronger.  Just like lifting weights.  In other word it takes reps and practice, lots of practice.


By the way, have you ever known a child who suffers from anxiety?  What is anxiety?  Well, for most, it starts as just a small fear they repeatedly have almost every day.  But like a snowball rolling down a hill, when left unchecked over time the anxiety snowball builds to a point where it is so big nothing can stop it.  Think back to when you first noticed your child’s anxiety.  Was it always there at its present level or did it grow over time?


Let’s look at one more example, discipline and hard work.  Take any worthwhile skill or talent that is hard to learn like playing the piano or basketball.  Most do not have the emotional strength to endure and persist through the thousands of reps, boredom, repeated failure or hours and hours of mundane practice to reach mastery.  Again, you can teach a child the skill and reason to work hard and have grit, but unless the overwhelming stress and deep feeling of boredom and wanting to quit or give up is applied consistently and at increasing levels over a long period of time a child will not be able to apply work hard, discipline or delayed gratification.  How often does your child too quickly say - “I can’t” or “I’m bored”?


With this, lets return to our dilemma with children today.  Have we as parents been unknowingly and with good intention been over-protecting and shielding our children from the good emotional stresses they need?  Did Covid make it even worse?  Is it just me or does it seem like we have a generation of kids with more fears, self-doubt and anxiety?  Children who give up too easily, cannot work hard, stay on task, or complete things? Young adults who struggle at maintaining important relationships or holding a job?  And what about the so called increase in “mental health” issues today?  I believe one of the causes may be because we have begun to develop children who are emotionally weak.  Yes, there are real medical mental health issues but what if our kids were just stronger? What if they learn to counter their emotional challenges earlier when they are young and before their fears and anxieties snowball?   Just like our immune system, instead of treating the kid’s mental health symptoms and results, let’s go back and re-build their strength.  Yes, life is hard.  It will always be hard.  Life will always throw obstacles and difficulties at you.  But to succeed you must have the strength to do the hard work and the grit to persist and persevere.  Like the saying “Don’t prepare the road for the child . . . instead prepare the child for the road.”  You want your child to live a good life, not an easy life.


At Ohana Karate the three core emotional “muscles” targeted for strengthening are - Courage, Discipline and Humility.  Are you ready to get started?


Culture – At its core it all starts here – your child’s habits.  The development of their habits begins with “repetition” but so much more.  The daily repetition of your words and actions produces “habits”.  These habits over time become your character, who you are.  And your character ultimately becomes your destiny.  The collective character of a group of people, or tribe, is their culture.


In these modern, fast paced times have we lost our strong sense of culture and what we stand for?  Is life so fasted pace we are too busy being busy?  If we have lost this strong base, where will our kids learn it?  Is it any wonder why middle schoolers struggle so much.  What if, well before their teens years, we arm our children with the values, strength, courage and identity of who they are, what they stand for and their place in the world.  I like to say they can become “bullet-proof”.  It’s a tough world out there and it is not getting any easier.


Your child will develop their habits regardless of what you do as a parent.  But will the habits they develop happen by chance or intentionally?  With a strong intentional culture surrounding our children these emotional strengths and habits are much easier to develop, support and most importantly, sustain in kids.  Culture is not everything, it is the only thing.  It is the glue that holds everything together.  It comes down to this:  words > actions > habits > character > culture (your group character).  Culture is “just how we do it here”, how you live your life, how you view the world and how you treat other people.  


The effectiveness of the program is definitely linked to developing then surrounding your child within a strong, clear, intentional culture.  This will not work if this is just a one-time lesson, pep rally, assembly or presentation.  This cannot be learned just cognitively or intellectually.  It takes emotions to develop emotional strength.  It takes habits to develop character and a culture.  The first step is easy, it simply starts with the daily consistent repetition of a few key words and phrases.


At Ohana Karate we purposely build a strong clear intentional culture around you and your child.  Culture is everything.  Are you ready to get started?


Tribe – This really closes and completes the circle or cycle.  This reinforces and justifies this development program for our kids.  


It may be an old cliché but “it does take a village to raise a child”.  Have we lost that village?  Are social media, smartphones and the internet doing the opposite and making us less connected.  Humans are social animals.  We have always needed others to survive and thrive.   It really is going back to the basics.  Back to the days of the caveman.  The final step that cements everything together is forming around and supporting our children with a tribe of strong adults and just as importantly other children, younger and older.  A tribe with clear shared values, mission and culture.  This is just how we do it here.  This is our ‘ohana.


Do you remember when we had large extended families with a common and strong sense of values, purpose and virtues?  Families with clear traditions, customs and identity.  Where one of their top shared missions was raising children.  Often these “families” were not just blood relatives but instead a whole community that looked after each other and raised everyone’s children.  Young parents today need help in bringing back this tribe of supportive fellow families.


At Ohana Karate with passionate and like-minded parents, it is easy to form that village or tribe our kids need more than ever today.  “Love your family but choose your friends wisely.”    Are you ready to get started?


A final question – But in the end is this really a different approaching to raising kids?  No, this is just going back to what worked in the past.





     (oh-ha-na) noun – Hawaiian


beyond mere blood ties, it’s about the warm embrace of those you truly cherish.

It’s the laughter you share, the tears (and sweat) you shed together, and the enduring bond reminding you that you’re intertwined by love and choice.


    related: chosen family  /  love’s embrace

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