Other People's Children

I'm sorry I made your kid cry. No, really I am. I am not sorry I was so tough on her. I am not sorry I gave her pushups when she wasn't listening. I am not sorry I threatened to sit her down in the corner if she did not try harder to stay on her spot. But I am sorry that when I finally, after multiple warnings, did sit her down for five minutes she burst into tears.

I didn't want that.

On the playground nowadays it is often unclear how much a mom should interfere when someone else's kid is involved. "Hey buddy please stop poking my daughter with that stick" is usually acceptable. "Hey buddy please stop poking that other guy with that stick"...well it depends. Are the other moms not paying attention? Is someone clearly going to get hurt? I happen to believe in zone defense, any kid in my line of sight is my responsibility. So yeah, if your little one is about to fall off the ladder I plan to catch him.  And if he is pummeling another kid I plan to stop him. I know not every parent agrees with this approach but in my opinion we are all in this raising little humans thing together. Sorry if it offends you. (Not really.)

As a karate teacher, however,  it is often my job to discipline other people's children. It is part of what I am being paid to do; teach them how to punch, kick, control their bodies, and to listen and follow directions. In a perfect world, when I am done with your child they will be stronger  more confident, and will do everything you say, without argument, forever.

I wish I was that good.

I had been a karate teacher for almost ten years when I decided to have my own child. And of course, I had a whole collection of perfectly reasonable expectations for how it was going to go. I would have a completely natural birth. My daughter would latch on to my breast instantly and we would bond like Crazy Glue. She would never talk back. She would never hit me. She would never throw tantrums in the middle of Target while all the other moms looked at me like I was the worst parent in the world. How could I let my child speak to me that way? Didn't I ever punish her?

Ah, the ignorance of the childless.

But I discipline children for a living! Clearly I am expected to have a perfect child.

I soon learned that kids are not like fresh clay, easily pliable and ready to be molded into any shape you desire. Rather, they are more like old clay that has been left uncovered in the back of the closet. You can still  make a sculpture out of it. But you have to add some water, squeeze and knead it really really hard,  and sometimes tiny pieces fall off while you are sculpting. Also, when your masterpiece is done it looks more like a dog than a human. (Hey, art ain't easy!)

I know you happened to witness my three year old call me a mean mommy and kick me in the shins, but I promise you I discipline my child. I set limits. She does chores. We say no to her all the time. Which is why I ended up with a sweet, sensitive kindergartner who never gets in trouble with her teacher, gives awesome hugs, helps out around the house, and occasionally screams terrible things at me and slams her door like a 14 year old. That my friends, is a parenting success story.

Or at least I am hopeful for her future.

As for your kids, yeah I sometimes make them cry. I try not to. But in order to learn how to perform kata, they first need to learn how to stand still. In order to move their right arm in one direction and their left leg in the other, they need to be able to stop spinning in circles. And in order to have an energetic, fun, and successful karate class, I need them all to listen to me. When they don't, I sometimes give them pushups. Or, if they are 3, make them sit down. I am always very nice about it. But my expectations are crystal clear. And then when they stand up again, they usually do much better.

Listen moms, time outs are for wusses! The next time your little one misbehaves, tell her to push up. Sure you'll get a baffled look in the beginning but she'll catch on soon enough. Threw a tantrum about leaving the library? Ten pushups. Refused to clean up his Legos? Ten pushups. Who cares about the looks you get when your kid starts doing pushups in the supermarket checkout line. You are a revolutionary! A parenting trailblazer. Tell them that karate mama told you to do it.

Just think of how strong his arms will be!


  1. Nice piece, again! I still can relate, even though Joey is 26 and out of the house — those early child-rearing days are seared into my memory, as if they were yesterday.


  2. I am an advanced brown belt in karate and can't wait until my little one (3yo) is old enough to start classes. I have already started teaching her to count to ten in japanese --- I am going to take your advice on the push-ups!!! That is excellent! :) Thanks. I just discovered your blog and now I am a fan.


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