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Scary, Hard and Boring

How often does your child experience all three?

Like I do at most Belt Promotion Ceremonies, I try to give our parents at least one valuable parenting tip they can use as they teach and develop their children. For those parents who could not make the ceremony I want to take a moment to share the tip so you do not miss out.

One of the biggest things I try to do in passing along parenting tips to our families is to “keep it simple”. I do this for two reasons. First, it is hard enough for busy parents to “teach” their kids. Secondly, I know if it is simple parents are far more likely to use it!

So here it is in the simplest way I can put it – Just remember three words: SCARY, HARD and BORING. I am even going to make it simpler by only covering one of these in each Sensei Says for the next three weeks. But, let’s repeat it again. Just remember three words and write them down some where: SCARY, HARD and BORING!

I don’t think I need to spend time on why our children today are very different than we were. Technology, getting everything they want quickly and rarely failing, have much to do with it. They are lacking the skills and experiences that make them strong physically, emotionally and socially. In other words, without this they become “weak” children who later go on to be weak young adults.

Here is the bottom line: A child needs to experience all three emotions every single day. The key is the experience needs to be small and happen multiple times a day. They need to do things that are scary or uncomfortable – every day. They need to do things that are hard and things they do not want to do – every day. And, they need to get bored and wait for things – every day. I heard this recently – “give your children what they need, not what they want”. When was the last time your child encountered something scary, hard or boring?

So, let’s concentrate on SCARY for now. Fears and anxiety are crippling our children and teens today. There are two simple principles you can apply here. First, “courage can only be developed in the presence of fear”. You can talk to your child until you are blue in the face why and how they should be brave. You can show them examples. You can even model it yourself. But, they will never develop courage until they face and power through things that scare them. They have to be in the actual state and emotion of fear.

This leads us to the next principle you need to apply, “every time I back away from a fear my FEARgets bigger but every time I power through my fears Iget bigger”. This is a big reason why anxiety develops. First something really small scares you. For example, you get sick and throw up. Then you build a fear from the unpleasant experience of throwing up. Then you start avoiding eating things and doing things for fear of getting sick and throwing up. Pretty soon you do not even remember why but now you fear and hold back from doing many things. When these small fear disrupt your normal daily life this is anxiety.

Okay, so lets get back to the most important part of this article – How do you apply this?

Just do one thing. Just become more aware. Become super aware of every single time your child become scared, uncomfortable, hesitates or wants to wait. Remember it is not your big fears that will crush you. It is your small fears. The small fears that happen every single day. Look for these clues. You will typically hear them say things like “That is too hard.” Or “I don’t want to do that.” Or, “can I do it next time?” Or, “can I just watch first.” Or, “I don’t want to get hurt.” Or, “I’m not good at _____.” Or, when they hesitate to participate/volunteer, sit in the back, cling to you or even hesitate to raise their hand.

Try never to let a scary learning opportunity go by. Look for them. They happen far more than you probably realize. Help your child develop the important awareness skill of “noticing” their feelings/symptoms and recognizing these as small fears. Then make sure to support them in powering through every single one of them.

There may be another even more important reason to never let a scary learning opportunity go by – you just fed their fear. You may initially feel like you are helping and protecting them but when you realize the results - It should drive you crazy to know you let another small fear take your child even one more step down the fear/anxiety spiral.

So, just remember - SCARY, HARD and BORING. I will write about the other two in the following weeks.

Yours for stronger kids,


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