Winning WITH our kids, not AGAINST them (Part 1)

Just a little story for you…

I’ve seen this a few times in my career, but no conference jumps out in my mind as much as this one that I had with JUST the kid, about seven or eight years ago.

Grandpa had signed up this kid as one of our Tigers (4, 5, and 6 year olds). He used to be one of those problem Tigers, with the anger fits, moody displays, deciding he didn’t want to follow the rules, etc. However, fast forward to four years later, and he had grown up to become a pretty cool Black Belt at nine years old. He was even getting close to testing for his second degree!
But Grandpa brought him in for a talk with me. I had just gotten the call from mom, as well. “I don’t know what’s going on. He is just being the most disrespectful, difficult, AHHH!!! I told him ‘If you keep up this attitude, I’m going to tell Mr. Clews!’ but he didn’t even seem to care!”


By the way, some additional info: I used this kid in my Leadership class to help new students, because this kid (who used to be a problem tiger!) took it upon HIMSELF to go to the new kid’s parents and tell them how great their kid did. Ever since he was eight. “Mrs. Smith, your son did a great job. He struggled a little at first but I noticed he got more and more confident, and his kicks got higher!” At EIGHT YEARS OLD, this kid started doing that.


But here I was, in a conference. With just the kid. Grandpa was outside, and had suggested that I talk with this kid, with no one listening so that maybe he would open up.

“So, here’s what I’ve heard.” I went through the details of what I’d heard, but also the kid that I had seen in my classes. I told him about how I was proud of what he’d become in our classes, but how concerned I was about at home. But then, I gave him the chance to talk, and I told him this:
“You’re free to speak. No matter what you say, I won’t get mad at you or correct you or anything. I just, want to hear what you’re thinking, where you’re at. So, what’s going on?”

Here’s what I learned…he fully admitted to the attitude. The misbehavior. The fights. The anger. The yelling. And he didn’t like it. He didn’t like being angry. Yelling at his mom didn’t make him feel good. He wanted to be different. But then…another element came out.

“Mom wants me to do my homework, and clean my room. But when I do it, she’s still mad. She’s like: ‘Finally. It’s about time…’ And I don’t feel good. It makes me not want to do it.”


After many stories like this, we came up with a plan. Here was the plan…

  1. We both knew that he and I were both Christians. So we talked about Jesus’s turn the other cheek teaching. The strength to be nice to someone, even when they’re rude to you. Not because of them, but because it’s good for our own spiritual development, and it’s Christlike.
  2. The talk: “It’s okay to not want to do it. But we still have to do it. But you know that already, huh?” “Yeah.”
  3. We came up with a list of 5 things that mom wanted him to do. If it was true that mom would respond negatively, then the goal was to do it BEFORE mom said. Why? Because when mom told him to do it, and then he did it, he still got a negative response. So he had to choose three things to do BEFORE mom told him to do it, so that he would feel good. It’s not that mom made him do it, it’s that he CHOSE to.
  4. If he did that homework for 5 out of 7 days, Grandpa would reward him with some planned reward.

How does the story go? He did it. Oh, and mom noticed. Also, mom talked with me later on. She told me that the kid was right, and that she wasn’t proud of it. Looking back, she knew that she was responding angrily, and when the kid did these things, it clicked for her.
I have respect for the mom for admitting this, and last I talked with her, she was so happy about who this kid has become, and how well Martial Arts helped him. This was a phase for mom, that mom successfully got out of.

I haven’t seen this kid in years now. But I saw an important lesson as an instructor come to life that day.


In any scenario where it becomes adults vs. kids, it’s easy to forget that in order for the parents to win, the child must lose.

“Well, of course! If the child is disobeying or fighting us, they NEED to lose! I mean, what happens if the kid WINS in a conflict with their parents, or teachers?”

Oh, I fully agree. When a battle happens, we’ve got to win. We can’t have children get rewarded for fighting with their parents, or not doing chores. There has to be a negative consequence. However, if we win the battle, then they lose the battle. And if they lose the battle, bitterness starts to grow, little by little. Especially if we rub in the victory, which unfortunately, parents can do sometimes if we aren’t careful.

I mean, history teaches us this. When Kaiser Wilhelm was defeated in World War 1, did the German Empire just “learn their lesson”? Or did the hurt and bitterness of losing the war become the soil that the most known-by-name evil dictator rose to power in?
On the other side of the spectrum, Abraham Lincoln, after the end of the American Civil War, strongly emphasized to everyone: The South are part of us again. We MUST welcome them back with open arms. Lincoln knew that rubbing the Confederates noses in defeat would have just led to a whole new war, meaning that all of the blood shed during the North vs. South war would have been in vain.


The moral to the story: Whether we are talking about civilizations in history, or whether we are talking about individuals in a family…whenever we set ourselves AGAINST someone (which we have to do sometimes), we must remember that our victory is their defeat. And we should take that in consideration when we plan our next move.


Continued next post: WHEN I WIN, YOU WIN!


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