Riding a Bike in Winter

T-shirt the guys at work gave me
T-shirt the guys at work gave me

When I am home in Maryland in the winter, I use my bike to get around a lot. As much as I can, I like to get two short bike rides in every day, to and from work. This is not always possible and often when it is possible it remains impractical, but I really like it.

I like it because it is hard, and I find that it is important to make a place in my day to do something difficult, and something that is difficult in an all-absorbing way. When I am actually at work, I do many difficult tasks during the day but they never require much of my body – I am at a computer most of the time. Riding my bike demands physical, mental, and emotional attention. I am in motion, I am dodging cars, I am staying calm in the face of bad drivers. I am dealing with the elements: cold most mornings in January, but wind and rain on the bad days. These things are unpleasant but within my ability to overcome, and there is an emotional cleansing I find when I do overcome them.

I was thinking of this the other day. I had been having a grumpy day – my emotions were not as they should have been, and I couldn’t seem to straighten them out. Word came down the pipe here at the school that we needed to wear our kungfu best and be at afternoon practice half an hour early. There was no reason provided, as is often the case here in China, but the order came from our older brother who got it from the school organizer who we must assume got it from someone he couldn’t say “no” to.

Afternoon training wore on, and nothing happened. By 5:30 we had been training for three hours, we were missing dinner at the school, we were tired, hungry, and uncomfortable in our full uniforms in the hot weather. We still had no idea what was happening, but by 6:00 an important official appeared with retinue for a tour of the temple, and we demonstrated some of our kungfu.

As we were finally leaving the temple, hungry and tired, I realized that I was actually in the best mood I had been in all day – my grumpiness was gone. Somewhere in the process of dealing with actual, concrete adversity that made demands on my body, mind, and emotions, I had cleaned out the emotional grime that had built up in me.

We train kungfu constantly here, and sometimes we lose sight of it in the everyday repetition. It becomes an activity that we do with our body but not with the rest of us. But I think a main purpose of our training is to learn to put ourselves deliberately and completely into whatever task we are set, so that it in turn replenishes us and cleans out the little cares from our lives. I do it this with kungfu, and I do this on my bike in January.

Anger management: characteristics

There are ten characteristics that create how one views the world and handles adversity.  If we can see that, it will help us to understand how a child or even ourself is thinking, which in turn helps us to find ways of dealing with our anger.  Over the next few weeks I will talk about all ten of them and let’s see if we can identify ways of managing this in our own house.

The first way we will discuss is the child that seems to create their own situations that lead to angry outbursts.  Many times they are unaware that the actions they are taking will provoke angry reactions.  For instance they may take a toy away from another child and not give it back, or they may pick on someone to the point of annoyance and get a reaction.  On the other had they may go about it more passively.  Let’s say that a child has been called out on his behavior and then decides in his mind that he can do no right and so decides to go silent and not interact.  This could cause a bad reaction and create and battle with they think they are avoiding trouble.

Anger can many times be building up over a long period of time, weeks or months, never forgetting and then using this to justify their actions.  So how can we overcome these self-fulfilling prophesies? 

 1.  Do not put a label on your child of any kind.  Take every instance and situation as a stand alone situation. I know how difficult this is, because we will find it hard not to connect all the other things that they have done together, which really only raises our own frustration.  Labeling a child though puts us in situation where we will find ourselves ‘looking for the anger’  and we know that when we are looking for something that we will find it.

 2. Expect the best of each child in each circumstance.  What we expect is what we will get, if our expectation is made in the proper manner.  If we expect our child to speak kindly to us and we model that for them, they will get it eventually and meet our expectation.  If we go into every interaction expecting an argument we will get that too.

 3.  Be fair.  It is amazing as hard as we might try not to do this, every parent has their favorite child. If you want to believe it or not it shows and though you may not see it or believe it, all of us must work on treating every one of our children or students the same.  In fact it is important for us to be fair for another reason. All of our children and students are watching how we deal with the child that is giving us the most trouble at the time and determining in their own mind how they will be dealt with at the time that they do something that is not in the parents favor.  This one fact will have an affect on them too. 

 4.  Hold no grudges.  If we are not willing to forget the past it will be difficult to break the cycle and does not allow them to have the room to change.  When we hold on to the past it will be harder for us to let them know that we believe in them and their ability to do better at managing their actions.

 5.  Let them know they can change.  If we focus on positive we will get better results.   If we use negative comments, insults, or demeaning phrases like, “I don’t know why I bother.”, it reinforces bad behavior.  When we are positive it lets them know that we believe in them and sets a positive direction for your relationship. 

Following these steps and setting an example for our children who create their own messes will let them see how you keep working on things that you may be struggling with and that you understand them.  Empathize with your child and see the positive results.

Teaching “failure tolerance”

When a child is learning to walk, we cheer their every attempt. Finally after many “failures” they gain a single step and then all of us cheer wildly. One day in a Tiger Tot class one of the siblings just about a year old took his first step. All the moms were cheering right in class. The young child takes all this in and keeps trying until finally walking is no big deal.
But sometimes as parents when the child is older we try to lessen the suffering of not reaching a goal or success. We might do it by taking the blame on our selves or by punishing the child hoping that he will learn not to make that mistake again. In the end when we make to big a deal about failures or mistakes, we are not helping them keep from making the same mistake again.
In fact what we may be doing is ensuring that the child may not want to risk again. They feel the need to cower and hide from opportunities that could, possibly, maybe, end up in a mistake. They may be afraid to explore their own dialogue. In fact they may end up being driven by external forces in making decisions about what is right for them to do. Once any of us look at the external forces for making a decision choosing what we are willing to risk, our confidence suffers.
We are now open to being swayed by whatever the latest fashion or trend is and not taking the time to ask ourselves, “What is the right thing to do,” “for me” not anyone else just me. As parents our responsibility is to let the child know how remarkable it was that they made the attempt and point out the good that came from it, including the the things they did well within their failed attempt.
We must be careful not to dwell on the mistake, but to celebrate the successes and move forward. Allow ourselves or our children to work out how to overcome the adversity.