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Who's In Charge?

"We are!", Say the Children

I knew what was going to happen next. The parent was ushering her 9 year old son, ‘Johnny’, towards me as I waited at the check-in desk.

One set of eyes looked sheepish and the other set gleamed with triumph.

Upon arrival at the counter, the mom started nervously bobbing and twisting back and forth as she prepared her announcement.

“I just can’t make him come to his martial arts classes. It’s such a struggle to get him here. So I am going to have to cancel his training.”

She continued to gush about how happy she was with the knowledge he had acquired in the self defense classes here and how we were great instructors ; and on and on. Her voice faded as she ran out of words and she expected me to jump in with my reassurances about how we understood and awarding her platitudes of commiseration with her plight.

I stared at the angelic looking boy with his mouth formed in a small smirk, and thought about how in the past 6 months he had blossomed to a more confident and stronger looking boy. In the classes, he always had a perpetual smile on his face and appeared to enjoy himself in the drills and practice of his martial art along with the fellowship of his buddies in class.

He then smiled broadly as his mom finished her speech, and tugged on her arm. “Come on Mom. Let’s go NOW!”

She looked helplessly back over her shoulder at me as she allowed herself to be ushered along. “Thanks for everything,” she said with smile. “I really wish I could make him want to come. Maybe we will be back in a couple of months.”

I gave a small wave with a cheery goodbye, suppressing the urge to make the point-by-point speech of why he should stay, knowing from years of past experience that the outcome of the battle between the parent and child had already been determined.

The struggles between parents and children are occurring now more often than in the past, and the ‘winner’ is most often, the child.

You see it everywhere. Not just in elective membership courses; but at the mall (“I don’t like that shirt! I want this one!”,); in the restaurants (“I want to sit here, not there.”), and of course in the home (“One more minute Mom!...”).

Even if the parent knows that a certain behavior or expressed desire by the child is or could be detrimental, the parent succumbs to his progeny, hoping that by giving in, he will be rewarded with a smile and happy sounds.

And so we are witnessing a plethora of weaker willed guardians of the next generation unable to utter the word ‘No,’ even if it might be the best thing that their child could hear. And what does the child learn? He is learning how easy it is to manipulate and achieve his way, his desire, his arguments with the main antagonist(s) in his life.

And the child doesn’t even have to frame a convincing debate to achieve his ends.

Because of the heightened ‘compassion’, the misplaced empathy and the overwhelming need to be liked, the parent only has to witness a ‘boo-hoo’ expression and just as quickly as the storm clouds start to gather on the child’s face, the parent rushes to reassure the child that ‘its alright’, ‘no problem’, we will do ‘it’ his way.

All of the above traits such as compassion and empathy possessed by the parent or guardian or teacher in charge, are necessary to a civilized society; it is when the mis-placed need by the parent to be approved of, overwhelms the truth that the child needs borders and parameters established in his life for his well being and success.

How will this style of parenting affect the rest of society?

We can expect an overabundance of grown young adults that will have difficulty in following recommendations and even orders by their bosses, professors, teachers and superiors. They are used to getting their own way.

Those in charge of hiring for positions, know that it takes a team to run a class, manufacturing plant, business, military unit, and even a family, but we are witnessing a dearth of participants with the necessary traits to insure success.

The child growing up allowed to be the boss and even consistently rewarded for his demanding and bossy behavior, will never acquiesce his own desires to another figure head, as he was never taught how.

Constant inability to work for another or with another, will also be evident in his scarceness of competency to lead or be in charge of anyone else.

How will this lack of character impact an R and R team to develop life saving medicines, sports teams participation, even a team to cook and run a Chipotle Restaurant? And more sadly, if everyone considers themselves always the ‘Chief’ and never the ‘Indian’, then what kind of cooperation can be achieved to raise a family or even create the God given directive for marriage that ‘the two will become one flesh”?

Sometimes it takes a mirror. Without a mirror someone may not realize that they have a piece of spinach stuck between their front teeth, or that their hair is a mess. Or that the parent’s overwhelming desire to be approved by their child can cause harm.

And without someone mentioning to a parent or encouraging them that they might consider being the one in charge rather than the tiny tyrant, then we are all doomed to suffer the societal consequences.

So. Back to my personal experience. I actually have had some success in preventing the untimely exit of a child when it was the parent’s only excuse that the child did not want to come any longer, (due to the child’s preference of staying home and playing video games, etc.).

Martial arts training is not easy. Plus, the parents have to make a huge effort by stopping what they are doing around the house and driving their unappreciative and often rebellious charge to classes.

But maybe it is this enlightenment that needs to occur, or perhaps a heightened sense of responsibility and duty, that will enable the parent to deny their own craving for acceptance and friendship from their children, and give them the direction they need.

Maybe it will be the traits of love and sacrifice that will dictate the parents ability to overcome their self-need and realize that what they wish, what they know, what they determine is best for their child, will become the real driving force.

To insure that our children can defend themselves when danger attempts to bring them harm, it really is worth the time, and possible aggravation to bring him to martial arts classes.

Not only do they learn self protection and how to survive attacks, but they also learn that nothing worthwhile comes easy and that they have to work hard at something to do it well. Perseverance and self control along with an indomitable spirit are taught, absorbed and rewarded in classes.

The resistance that should be developed by our children, should be against evil; not against the parent.

I asked Johnny’s mom as they approached the exit, a simple question which caused her to pause in the doorway .

“Do you let him stay home from school if he says he doesn’t want to go?”

The smile left her face as she considered her answer.

Johnny’s face fell as he realized his argumentative resistance might become weakened.

Because in the end, it is the parent who must become stronger and tougher emotionally towards these battles, to insure their child is equipped with what the parent believes is best for their child.

A great book of wisdom that has past, current and future application says,

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)

Someday your child will understand what it cost you to deny your own need for his approval and will realize that most choices you made for him were for his life to thrive and his future to excel.

Be strong, be formidable, become a warrior for your child. Say no.

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