The oak sleeps in the acorn
All superheroes need great origin stories; Batman’s parents were killed by Joe Chill in a dirty back ally, Superman’s world ripped to pieces by their averse, Luke Skywalker’s aunt and uncle were burnt alive by underpaid psychopaths in stormtrooper uniforms.
Your kids don’t need all that drama!
But they do need a great origin story.
In saying that drama’s ok too, as my dad used to say, “It builds character” however there is a difference between “building character” and “lifelong trauma.”
Life is full of surprises, ups and downs, sometimes your plane will fly other times it will crash and burn, it’s how we react and move forwards from these advances and setbacks that dictate our empowerment.
So how do you empower your child, how do you write their origin story?
Mirroring is something we all do everyday, I used to do it constantly while working in sales. Whoever I called I’d assume their pattern of speech, their lingo, and their sensibilities. If they were country folk I’d often put a stronger inflection in my accent and maybe be a little bit more down to earth. At times when they sounded posh I’d tend to be a little more “English”. Thus mirroring their airs and graces, and bringing myself a fraction closer to their state of mind while also saying; “I’m just like you, you like the things I like, buy this thing, I would!”
In this you should be doing the same thing with your kids, perhaps not assuming a false identity and roaming the night looking for villains (Like Batman) or out and out lying to them. But by leading by example.
While I sit here, sadly, my neighbours are yelling at each other; mum and dad are berating each other and their child also. This will be setting up a cycle for that kid, a template on how a union operates. Not just a marriage, but also other bonds and relationships whether they be; spouses, business associates, friendships, the agreement that we all make while driving our car, or for that matter how we conduct ourselves in public.
These people are terrible reflections of what this child should aspire to be, perhaps this is the environment the Joker or The Green Goblin grew up in?
Surely they are the extreme reality of a child’s upbringing.
So the lesson is be a strong role model, roll with the punches and get up fighting, as Thomas Wayne said in Batman Begins:
And why do we fall, Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.
– Thomas Wayne, Batman Begins 2005
What he’s trying to say here is that you don’t remain down, you don’t dwell in that state, whether it be an actual well or a place of self loathing and fear. You climb to your feet, dust yourself off and try again, while using the fall as a lesson of what can go wrong and how to avoid it next time.
The most important thing here is that you the parent show your kids this by demonstrating it yourselves, you don’t need to shield them from failure or the terrible things in life (they will see plenty of that through their lives). What you do do is show them that you can overcome them and by proxy so can they.
Encouragement is more than being a cheer squad for your tike, it’s all well and good to clap at the sideline when they score a goal or race down the street on the training wheelless bikes.
Encouragement is one of those things you do whether they’re succeeding or failing, winning or loosing.
Some amazing moments in sport demonstrate this in people rallying when all hope is lost, when they feel they have nothing more to give. They’re about to give up, fail, but somehow through sheer will and the support of the crowd they push through and win, not always literally.
In 2008 I ran in a race called The Six Foot Track Marathon, a gruelling 46km race through the Australian bush, you will cross rivers and mountain ranges, climb actual mountains and run on little more than goat tracks.
There were times where I could have easily thrown in the towel, like on Mount Pluviometer when I suffered excruciating calf cramps, however a man in a grass skirt and coconut bra who was handing out bananas, helped me rally my strength and continue on.
I finished the race in 5 and 1/2 hours, not a particular bad time, but not at all on par with the winner of the race. However I felt like a winner, I’d overcome the monster and shown just how strong I was.
I’ve used this experience throughout my life to rally and take control, sometimes I find myself saying “This is nothing compared to Six Foot track, you got this!”
Now when your kids fail and look to be giving up this is where you step in and say, “yeah you fell off your bike, but I bet you can get further next time.” or “Yeah your soccer team lost, but next time you’ll know that teams moves and perhaps win!”
It all sounds a bit cliched but not being actual superheroes these are the moments that we write our origin stories.
I think when stuff goes down and your kids fall or fail you can help by:
- Pushing them to try again
- Demonstrate what went wrong
- Help them understand how they can succeed next time
And as above be a mirror for them.
Give them responsibilities
Everyone I’ve ever met has responsibilities, whether it be putting the bins out on bin night or ensuring people receive the lifesaving care during an emergency. How do you gain that understanding of how important responsibility is?
By being made responsible.
Irrespective of how many kids you have, or how old they are, they should each have a level of responsibility thrust upon them; feed the cats, take the bins out, stack the dishwasher.
You can’t tell me that Peter Parker became the friendly neighbourhood spiderman by letting Aunt May and Uncle Ben do all the heavy lifting. Hell Uncle Owen said it best to Luke in a New Hope:
“You can waste time with your friends when your chores are done.”
– Uncle Owen, Star Wars A New Hope 1977
By giving them tasks to complete they learn:
- and time management skills
Like maths they’ll use these everyday of their lives.
Everyone says that respect is dead, it’s not dead it’s just resting.
People tend to learn respect when they themselves are given respect. In saying that you can also show your kids that a lack of respect is not acceptable, pull them up when they’re rude or ungrateful.
But again show respect yourself, thank people openly in front of your kids, greet people fondly and shake their hands, offer guests a drink or food. Respect is really a simple thing that can be demonstrated.
Lets face it if you’re wanting your kids to be respectful it stands to reason that you yourself should be respectful.
Being grateful helps kids demonstrate that they understand everything has a value. Value is not always monetary, it can be effort, time, or emotional. By instilling gratitude in your spawn you’re showing the world that they have:
- and understand value
It also makes the other person feel good, like their effort is not in vain and that they are truly cared for. Lets face it we all like to make others feel good.
Except for psychopaths and super villains, they just want to watch the world burn.
Kids can be self-sufficient
Believe it or not your kids can be pretty self sufficient when they need to be.
My three year old loves her dummies, and try as we might we cant extract those damn things off her.
I thought that by putting them on top of the fridge I’d be able to limit her access to them, make it so that I was a kind of gate keeper to the pacifiers. Low and behold she’s managed to find a foothold that enables her to access this previously out of reach place. Her tiny claw like toes have help her be more self-sufficient.
There is absolutely no harm in letting them explore and play by themselves, how else are they going to learn independence. The caveat here is to be aware of what they’re doing, because sometimes they can be totally irresponsible and dangerous. Case in point my 1 year old using the toy boxes as a staging ground for her WWE dives into the beanbag.
By allowing them to self manage and help themselves they will grow into adults who can cook for themselves, finish work assignments, make friends, be functioning human beings, etc.
Perhaps Darth Vader wouldn’t have had to pay or bully all those stormtroopers to be his friends had his mum not been sold into slavery, maybe she could have taught him more lessons of independence and gratitude.
Let your kids explore, have fun, and be self sufficient. Teach them the world is both easy and hard, show them how to bounce back and learn from their failures. Be a shining example of what a successful human being looks like.
That is how you write their origin story…