When we started our battle with infertility, I tried to be strong like a stone. I nearly cracked. Over time, I learnt to be strong like bamboo - bowing over in the face of the storm, but never breaking; perhaps even growing to stand taller than ever when the fine weather returned.

So it's not the first time I've cashed in on all those hours I spent watching martial arts cinema. And people tried to tell me I was wasting my time.

This is a parenting philosophy I developed myself, based on my recent reading*, so take it as you will, but it seems to work so well that I thought I'd put it out there for other parents who have seen Chan Long through more than one Police Story. I call it "Kung Fu Parenting". The central thesis of Kung Fu Parenting is that the key to resolving your parenting problems lies in the answer to one simple question: if this scene was part of a Kung Fu movie, who would be playing which role?

There are, from what I can see, three basic choices: the Young Student, The Evil Tough Guy, or the Old Master**. The idea is to make sure that you, the parent, always play the Old Master, and you don't have to be overly familiar with the formula to see why. As the film starts, the Young Student is prancing around making a lot of noise, high on his inflated sense self-importance. Although he might win a few rounds here and there, he is prone to getting smacked up throughout the film, either by a group of evil tough guys, or an Old Master. The Evil Tough Guys are more likely than the Young Student to win out in the early part of the film, but in the end they really have it coming to them and anyway, who wants to be evil? The only character who kicks arse for the entire film is the Old Master - and he barely lifts a finger to do so. He is, like, way cool. I mean, yes, occasionally he dies in the final showdown, but even then he still "wins" in all the non-getting-to-live-on senses of the word. Which totally counts.

To be the Old Master, you must first act like the Old Master. The body language of this character tends to be passive and low-energy. Drop your shoulders. Bend a little, as if you must hobble with the aid of a bamboo cane. Make your face impassive; inscrutable. Your expression should be ever so slightly weary, as if you have seen it all before and long ago figured out the answers, and are vaguely saddened by the knowledge that those around you have yet to achieve the same. Squint near-sightedly if you must. Resist the urge to command, and instead give some sort of vague advice. Then walk away as if you don't care whether anyone follows. No really. I swear.

Around our house, we have taken to reminding each other to "be the Master". When we hear ourselves say, "You do this thing right now young man!" - a classic Young Student or Evil Tough Guy line - it tells us to breathe out and try a different tack: "You can do that, or you can do this. But think hard and make a good decision, because otherwise you might not like my response." There's more to it, I guess, but it tends to be nuance. The Old Master isn't always an easy role with an obvious script, and reminding one's self to play it may seem like the first of an overwhelming number of steps, especially if you're winging it on a half-remembered version of Carl Douglas' hit song. But if you can claim multiple viewings of Karate Kid, you are probably good to go.

I was going to say something else, on a completely different topic, but it absolutely eludes me.

*Specifically the Love and Logic series, separately recommended by both Serenity and Melissa. I personally think Practical Parenting Tips for Birth-Six Years is by far the better book of the two I've read so far (the other being Teaching Responsibility). You don't have to know anything about Kung Fu to appreciate it.

**I am discounting the comic relief, the love interest or the innocent bystander, because these roles aren't directly involved in the power struggle at the centre of the plot. And as we all know, there is often a power struggle at the centre of the parental plot, especially when you are about to lose said plot.***

***I must also admit to over-simplifying an entire cinematic culture in a way that is very nearly criminal. I probably deserve a good flying kick for that one.


ColourYourWorld said...

I could never do Kung- Fu movies when my brothers would watch them over and over. Karate Kid I can do, so I should be right to be a Master ;)

I am taking notes. Thanks B.

Ellen K. said...

That's a really good analogy, and having watched "Karate Kid" many times (including during labor [not active/pushing/preeclampsia]), I think I can work with it. Off to watch the girls trace circles with their fingerpaints.

Lut C. said...

Haha, great way to explain a parenting style. :-)

I have very few kung fu movies under my belt. I've watched the Matrix quite some times, which does draw on the genre quite a lot.

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