Self-defense, self-esteem and self-worth are key concepts that should be taught early in a child’s life. Parents’ influence is the first and most important step to guiding children down a road of success and happiness in life.

Parents are one of the most influential components of a child’s life. Children come into this world with a relatively clean slate. Parents are here to protect and teach their children the important things in life. These important things should include self-esteem, a sense of self-worth and self-defense. While these are things most karate dojos say they will teach their students, it should first come from the parent.

By self-defense, I am not talking about beating someone up. However, children should know how to stand up for themselves, to know that saying, “no” to an adult is acceptable under certain conditions. Many school districts are teaching children to be victims by not allowing them to stand up and defend themselves against bodily harm. In my opinion, this is wrong. I recently had a long discussion with my daughter’s school principle because Vicki fought back when another child came up to her at her locker and sucker-punched her. I went to the school because the administration was going to give my daughter D-hall because Vicki didn’t stand there and allow this other child to beat her into the ground.

My husband and I are both black belts and we have taught our children some very basic techniques for self-defense. I explained this to the principle, but her response was that they couldn’t condone violence. I then informed her to let me know when the detention would be so I could take it with my daughter. My reasoning was simple. If she was at fault for defending herself, I was at fault for teaching her how. Vicki never did have to take that D-hall.

By doing this I have hopefully taught her that it is all right to stand up for herself. The meek may eventually inherit the earth, but while they are here on this earth, they are often beat into the ground.

Self-esteem and self-worth are taught in a different ways. Our children listen to what we say to and about them. Under no circumstance should that child hear the words stupid, ugly, fat, retarded, ignorant or useless directed at them. Children start out life believing what their parents tell them, and if Mom or Dad says they are stupid, well it must be so. The parent may not even realize they are saying things that could break down the child’s self-esteem.

A 12-year-old friend of my daughter’s, who brought an entire bag of nice clothes to Vicki, heard her mother say several times while she was here, “They should all fit Vicki because she is so tiny. T is just too fat.” The little girl isn’t fat; she is just developing hips and breasts in a normal way. Even if the girl is over-weight, the parent shouldn’t make her feel bad.

Vicki informed me after they left that T was already sticking her finger down her throat after lunch every day. I can’t help wondering if the girl will forever hear her mother’s voice telling her she is fat.

The first thing we tell a new student in our karate class is, “The only stupid question is the one not asked.” How many times have you heard a parent fuss at a child and say, “Why did you ask such a stupid question?” Of course the other one is, “Do you HAVE to be this stupid?” If someone tells a child that he or she is stupid enough times, he or she will eventually believe it. Because of this, often a child will see no reason to try to excel at school or work. Why should he or she? If he or she is stupid then he or she won’t be able to do the work anyway.

From an early age a child should be taught that he or she CAN accomplish a chore. He or she CAN win the race, sing the song and play the game. Children need to know they can grow up and become anything they want to be.

Parents need to remember Einstein wasn’t considered the brightest apple on the tree. Dr. King probably heard many derogatory, bigoted comments about a black person’s inferiority to a white person. Even so, it didn’t prevent him from having a dream that changed the face of this nation.

Our children should be the dream of this nation now. They need protection against abuse, defended against the ignorance of others and supported in their dreams and aspirations.

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