I’m doing the best I can. We’ve all heard it. We’ve all said it. Before having a child, I was always a little critical of those parents who showed up late, forgot something, left something behind, etc. After having a child, that stance softened…a little. While I have a greater appreciation for those of us getting by, doing the best we can, I still feel there is a small percentage of parents who aren’t doing the best they can. I’m not implying these are bad parents. What I am saying is that there are many of us that need to do a better job paying attention to the little things because they have a big impact on our kids whether we realize it or not.
I think it may be easier for you all to understand where I am coming from if I give some examples. Being a karate instructor for 20+ years, I have interacted with a lot of kids and a lot of parents. Karate is an activity not all that unlike many other activities kids can do. We have uniforms, equipment requirements, rules, procedures, and schedules. I have lost count how many times the following things have happened:
- Parent forgot kid’s uniform
- Parent forgot kid’s belt
- Parent brings kid late for class
- Kid’s uniform is filthy
- Kid’s hand/feet are filthy
- Kid’s uniform is on incorrectly
- Kid’s belt is tied incorrectly
- Parent brings kid to the wrong class
For those martial arts parents out there, I guarantee you are guilty of committing one or more of these with your child. And you know what? That is perfectly fine! It happens to the best, most disciplined of us. The problem lies with those who are chronic offenders.
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When you repeatedly overlook these seemingly insignificant details, your child stands out. Now, I am all for children expressing themselves and showing their uniqueness. I am not suggesting we all practice conformity. Want to wear two different socks? Why not. Dye your hair purple? Go for it. Go to school without pants on? Nope, not gonna happen. While uniqueness is something that should be encouraged, there are limits, and there are certain areas in society where conformity is necessary.
In martial arts, for instance, there are traditions that students adhere by. Tying the belt, a certain way and wearing/caring for the uniform are just a few of these honored traditions that martial artists take seriously. So, when a student shows up with their belt tied like a Christmas present ribbon, they stand out, and not in a good way.
So, why is that important? In any structured social group, there are norms that members unconsciously agree to. When one member routinely does not adhere to one or more of those norms, they don’t fit in. When you don’t fit in to a group that you want to be a part of, it has a negative impact on your confidence.
On another level, can you imagine the ridicule your child would face from bullies if they went to school without pants? This could certainly happen just as easily if your child goes to school with purple hair, but in that case, it was their choice. It is perfectly acceptable and easier to be confident because it was their choice which is supported by others.
So, what is the moral of the story? Pay attention to the little details. If your child starts an activity that you know nothing about, learn about it. Don’t assume you know something. We all know what happens when you ass-u-me right? Bring your kids to things on time. Celebrate their uniqueness but be aware of whether it is violating a social norm. Help them prepare for any negative reactions they may encounter from peers and work with them on how to handle these situations. Many kids out there are cruel and will try to find any little thing they can bully someone. As parents, we can minimize this by paying attention to the little details. Little things like remembering to bring required equipment goes a long way in building long term confidence.