Throwback Blog: Honey Badger Parenting

Photo Cred: Arnoud Quanjer

When my book Instructor Revolution was published, the most surprising feedback was NOT from martial art instructors but, rather, from teachers. Teachers who were frustrated dealing with parents year after year who simply make their job harder. We had many good laughs over the material. More than once it was suggested I should write a second book called “Parenting Revolution”. Great theory but I would NEVER do it. Why? Parenting is an on-going journey. I still have two kids in my home for at least 8 more years…that gives me plenty of time to screw it up! There are no real rules, no truly perfect pattern of parenting. After 22 years of parenting, and 8 more “in home” years to go, I know enough to know that sometimes I get it right, and, well, sometimes…well, not so much.

Regardless, there are some hard and fast rules I have learned through the years. Some were hard earned, some came easy. This blog is my Top Ten. If you can use any of them, great. If you can’t, great. If I offend you, Great. If I don’t, Great. There is a reason this is called the “Honey Badger Rules of Parenting”.


#1) You are in Charge. Your Kid is not. You do not need their permission to make a decision nor do you need to apologize for a decision you have made. In addition, you don’t need to explain the reason behind every thought in your head. Most of all, when you are having a conversation with someone else, it is not necessary to allow your child to interrupt the conversation every time they feel they have something to say. When they DO interrupt, it IS necessary to stop your conversation, let them know they are being rude and tell them to wait their turn. Despite the pervasive (and erroneous) belief that a child needs to express their precious thoughts as those thoughts develop, teaching them that the world does not need to come to a screeching halt every time they want to speak is a lesson that will last them a lifetime.

#2) Your Kid is Probably Not The MOST Brilliant, Amazing, Incredible human being on the earth. AND….telling them that they are does not make it so. What does work is being honest with them. We can all be encouraging to our children and help them to discover where their talents may be. After that, it is appropriate to assist them in maximizing their personal potential in those areas. It is reckless to insinuate that they are brilliant, spectacular or Unbelievable when, in fact, they may just be a little above average. A honey Badger parent doesn’t give a S*&^ about boosting their child’s confidence using false praise. The HBP will be quick to point out that being an above average kid with a consistent work ethic almost always beats Raw talent that is not consistent. If a parent or teacher over states the child’s ability, then the only consistent thread will be the kids skewed view of themselves.

Now, you may still think your child may be the “top of the top”, destined for greatness beyond greatness. Fair Enough. In that case, it is even MORE important that they are not constantly told how their very presence on this earth is life changing and that everyone who encounters them should throw open a door of opportunity. I guarantee that the more talented they are in WHATEVER area of life, there will many others just like them. If they really are that gifted, they will meet those other incredibly gifted people along their journey. When they meet the others, your kid better be damn hungry. Regardless where their talents lie, they are going to need to compete. High level competition is brutal ~ guaranteeing there will be a long line of people waiting to destroy your kid in an effort to take their place at the top. That doesn’t sound reassuring, does it? Well, if you spend your entire 18 year parenting period assuring them how brilliant and amazing they are, they will be easily consumed by their own self importance. It’s a hell of a lot easier to be competitive when you have actually prepared for the competition. If a child has only heard their parents or coaches give them glowing reviews, they aren’t even expecting competition – let alone preparing for it.

#3) Teach Your Kid The Value of Manual Labor. I could never express how absolutely incredible I feel that it is for children to work. Not for an allowance…not even for a dime. They should learn to work because it’s just l./the right thing to do. Are we talking about making beds and doing dishes? No. They should be doing that everyday anyway. We are talking “hands on” physical work. If you don’t have much to do around the house, just make it up. When it snows, give them a shovel and make them move snow piles around. Why? Just for the hell of it. If they ask why, just tell them it’s good for them. Make them get up early, weed the yard, cut the grass, haul things around, clean the garage…whatever. Heck, go make them move stones from one side of the yard to another and then BACK again. Who cares WHAT they do – just make them do it. Why? Manual Work teaches a strong work ethic – period. It also teaches them to appreciate the hard work of other people.

#4) Call it Like it is & Stop Making Excuses for Your Kid
If a child is acting like a brat, it is not only fair, but necessary, to tell them that they are. Don’t sugar coat it. You don’t need to. Acting like a brat as a child translates into acting like an jackass as an adult. I think we have plenty of adults running around who could have benefitted from having their parent tell them to knock off the bratty behavior early on.

If a child is whining – tell them to stop. It’s pretty simple. When a child at my karate center begins to whine about something hurting them (My foot is sore, my toe hurts, I have a bruise…etc), I have one quick response: “If it isn’t broken, bleeding, or falling off, I don’t want to hear about it.” I keep a very close eye on real injuries but the overwhelming majority of the time when a child comes up to tell me that they have a bruise, they are tired, they have a sore finger, etc…those are excuses to do less work. If their left leg is out of commission, I will tell them to work on the right. If both legs are hurt, they can work the core. There is always something they can do and making whiney excuses isn’t on the list.

Knock off the crying. While parents don’t ever want to hear it, there is a time to tell a kid to stop the waterworks when they don’t get their way or they get their feelings hurt. Remember that old “ You want to cry ?I will give you something to cry about!” line from our parents and grand parents? Well, it really wasn’t such a bad line. At some point, it is fair, as a parent to say, “Toughen Up – the world doesn’t owe you a thing.” Sound harsh? If you don’t say it to them, trust me, someone else will.

#5) Shoot the Hostage. Ok, don’t get all panicky. This is not as bad as it sounds UNLESS you place the monetary value of an item higher than the value of raising a solid human being. Sometimes it takes one extreme behavior to ensure that the kids get the message fast. Parents have a bad habit of “taking things away” from a child and then giving them back too easily. It doesn’t take a child very long to figure out that routine – and they then just ride out their time without the item. Even worse, kids learn very quickly that a simple “I’m sorry” can be just the ticket to get their prized possession back.

If you really want to make an impact and get your message across while simultaneously ensuring that you will probably NEVER have to deal with a subject again – just “Shoot the Hostage.” This term came from me listening to my kids argue over a TV many years ago. I literally felt like the TV was being held hostage in my own living room. As long as it was there, I was constantly forced to deal with it. So, rather than argue with the kids who were arguing over the TV – I just got rid of the TV. I took that thing out to the curb, put a sign on it that read “It’s Free and it Works” and waited for someone to pick it up. That TV was gone in 10 minutes and I went years without hearing that argument again. Problem…solved.

When your kids won’t let up over an item – just get rid of the item. I don’t care if it’s a tonka truck, an ipod or a car. If they can’t be respectful regarding it’s use, get rid of the damn thing and let them figure it out. Your swift and unpredictable action will probably be your single greatest moment of parenting. In one moment you will have demonstrated to your kid (s) that you mean business.The story will become family legend and I promise you that they will think twice The next time you say you are going to do something. Trust me, they will NOT question you.

#6) Stop Hovering! Give them some space to breathe, function, and maybe even fail. It won’t be the end of the world. It is part of learning about life. There is nothing more unimpressive than a parent who is making excuses or ensuring that everything in their world is “OK”. Once a child is around 9 or 10, They are old enough to begin working out the details of their day. Protect the big things (like safety, etc) and allow them to experience the small details.

If they forget something for school, they can deal with the consequences. Stop running back to the school to take them homework, musical instruments or lunch bags. If they call, just say no. It’s perfectly normal to want to swoop in and make it all better, but what is the lesson there? Nothing. Let them suck it up once or twice. It’s elementary school. They will be just fine. Better to take an “F” on a third grade assignment and learn a lesson than flunk out of college at 20 years old.

Let Teachers teach and coaches coach. Trust that your child is exactly where they need to be in order to learn whatever lesson they need to learn…and then let it go. If you don’t like your child’s teacher, or you don’t like the way their coaches work with them, voice your opinion once and then let them do their job. Some of my greatest life lessons came from people who I had the hardest time dealing with. As parents, our job is not to always ensure our children’s comfort, it is also to provide wisdom and guidance at moments when they are uncomfortable. Learning to persevere through moments of frustration, even with other people, is a critical life component. When things are tough and a parent allows their kid to quit, or to completely change the situation using outside influences, they are truly just weakening their child and setting them up for failure further down the road. Let ‘em work it out.

#7) Expect them to Behave ~ All the Time. I hear parents say, well, “Kids will be kids” in an effort to explain their bad behavior. I want to say, “You are right and you need to be the parent and tell them to knock it off.” My own kids have tried the “Well, other kids can do it.” I am a honey badger of a mother…I don’t give a shit what other kids and/or parents do.

#8) You are NOT their friend. Really, please learn this fast. We have a job. It takes about 18 years. When you decided to have a baby, you accepted the job. If you do your job well, you can be their friend after.
#9) No kid is beyond a bad decision. Not mine. Not yours. Don’t be naïve. Put a kid in a group of other kids and anything can happen. NO parent is immune from their child making a bad decision. If someone suggests that your child was involved in something less than stellar, do NOT assume they are wrong simply because you are “certain” your child could never do such a thing. Due Diligence is required here.
#10) Be a little Crazy and Unpredictable. The older kids get, the bigger issues they face. It’s not all white picket fences and lemonade stands. Making sure that your kid knows you are a little “off” is not a bad thing. Your kids AND their friends should know that you are NOT beyond showing up to check on them, sitting in their classroom, reading their email, commenting on their facebook or generally being a pain in their side until they are grown.

I have met parents who actually say that they would NEVER embarrass their child or “check up on them.” Crazy Talk. I make a Point to do those things. It pays off. Just last week, I pulled up next to a group of 13 year old boys. I recognized a few of them as boys my son knows from school. One of the boys thought it would be funny to “play” around in front of my car and block me from moving forward. Ironically, when I got out of my car to tell him to knock it off, another boy recognized me, turned to his buddy in a hurry and said, “Dude, that’s Reece’s Mom. She isn’t playin’. Stop it.” And he did. I got back in my car and watched the boys move on down the road without incident. Why? Well, apparently at least one kid had NO idea what I might do but he knew I would do something. Perfect. For that moment, I sighed and thought, “Chalk one up for all the Honey Badger Moms in the world….”

Do these ten rules make me a hard nosed mom, incapable of feeling emotion and love for my children? Hardly! It’s the opposite. When you Love your kid enough to lay down the law, be strong in the hard moments and hold your ground when all you really want to do is run to them, scoop them up and make it all better, a bell of victory rings in the parenting universe and your child moves one step forward to becoming a strong, healthy and productive adult. Remember, that is the Objective of the Job.

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