They’re Watching You
They’re watching me too. That’s why the most important part of teaching anyone anything, or leading anyone anywhere, is what we do. Those that follow may hear what we say, but they learn from what we do. This is true in all leadership; and why Albert Schweitzer famously said, “example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.”
This is important truth in every form of leadership, and especially true in parenting.
Today I’m talking to you not just as the founder and Master Instructor at Krav Maga Martial Arts, but as a dad.
And, in that role, I’m doing my best to do my best and to get better every day.
In this blog, I will share 5 things to remember as we strive to be the fathers we need to be to raise up our kids in the way they should go. I am sure they are similar lessons for mothers, but I am speaking mostly from my own experience and, of course, I only have experience as a father.
In total transparency, I wish I’d have learned these lessons sooner. So, my sincere hope is that my words are reaching you earlier on your quest than I am on mine; though I also believe they’ll serve you as well wherever you are on your parenting journey.
I’m still on mine, being the best father that I can to my own kids, even as they negotiate young adulthood.
Before I share my hard-earned lessons learned, I want to share a relevant true story from my past as a father- not one of my proudest, but one I’ve learned from. Maybe it will be helpful to you too.
Today my students know me as Grandmaster, and the wise old man who comes out and teaches the leadership lessons of the week.
I can honestly say that none of them has ever seen me out of control.
But this wasn’t always so.
When I was a younger man, I had a terrible temper. On this one particular day, I had loaded a truck with furniture that I was taking to my mom’s house. My 3 youngest sons, quite young then, were with me.
It had been an otherwise nice day, and we were spending some quality father-son time. I’d take them with me on this mission and, therefore, get the important task done before I had to get back to work the next day- and still get the quality time with my boys.
In confession, I am a much greater at many other things than loading furniture. In fact, today, I’d definitely have hired someone else to move it, but that’s another story. The part of the story more relevant to this lesson are the ominous words of my wife as I pulled out of the driveway:
“that’s never gonna make it there.”
She was right. It didn’t. It dropped out all over the road and into traffic. As cars swerved to miss the furniture, I pulled over and by the grace of God safely off the road. My young children gasping and terrified, with wide eyes and open mouths, looked to me to see what would happen next.
But life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to it.
This is a true and important leadership lesson I teach all the time at my academy.
And, on this day, I modeled exactly how not to act when something doesn’t go our way.
I started yelling, complaining, acting out and blaming. As I retrieved the furniture from the road, I used my martial skills not for good, but to break it into pieces that ensured it couldn’t be used again, rather or not the fall had done the job.
I feel bad, embarrassed, and downright inadequate all over again when I relive it.
Through my example that day, and others like it, I was teaching my kids all the wrong ways to deal with problems, contingencies, or upsets in life.
I was modeling the same behavior I’d seen modeled as a child.
Today I’m so grateful to God that I eventually chose to get better.
To be clear, it had been my intention since my eldest son was born that I would be a far greater dad than my own had been. I knew exactly what I would not do.
But the road to hell is paved with good intentions and, though I did know- in the casual way we mostly mean when we say we know something- who and how I didn’t want to be and who and how I did…
My actions were not always consistent with my words.
Thank God I learned along the way how to change that too.
For the purposes of today’s blog, I will limit my teaching to 5 simple, but hard earned, lessons I learned along the way.
Perhaps they can help you learn vicariously to avoid some of the mistakes that I have made.
5 Hard Earned Lessons Learned on Teaching Kids by Example
1. On Time– Time is the most precious and least renewable resource of all. Not a one of us can create any more of it or make more once it’s gone. But, as fathering goes, here’s the hard-earned lesson: make sure to invest it wisely in your kids.
Kids spell LOVE T-I-M-E. We can say what we want, but our time shows it.
We show our priorities by where we invest our money and our time.
When it comes to kids, time goes particularly fast. It’s more precious than we know and, before we know it, their childhood is just a memory.
2. Be, know, do– When I was a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division, and later as an Army Officer, I learned the military doctrine of “be, know, do”. The idea was that we need to become who we need to be, and learn what we need to know, in order to be who we need to be. Don’t ask me why I didn’t take that knowledge with me into my role of being a father; it would have saved me a lot of time and suffering. But, looking back in the hindsight that is often 20/20, the lesson rings clear. To be the best and highest versions of ourselves as fathers, we need to work on ourselves first, and our children second.
3. Progress Not Perfection– This is one of the principles that I teach at Krav Maga Martial Arts. We are a culture of progress, not perfection. Even the 3 rules for every class connote it: “have fun, do your best, and learn something new”. I wish I would have applied the same rules to my growth as a father. It felt overwhelming sometimes. If I had to talk to the younger version of myself, as dad, I would tell him to have fun, do my best and learn something new; and to be transparent with my boys that that’s what I am doing as I do… that’s modeling, and they’ll be learning how to do it too.
4. Be Flexible– This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t show our kids discipline; this is essential too. It’s one of the five foundational Blackbelt Superpowers we should teach them. But every child is different, and responds differently. I wish I would have understood that sooner. I raised three boys, and each of them has different personalities, gifts, challenges, and desires. Each communicates and responds to discipline differently too. All these things are relevant and essential to us leading them well as their first mentors- and modeling for them how to do so for their kids one day.
5. All About Love– This is one I did get right. If nothing else, my kids know they’re loved. Truth is, in retrospect, there are things my father and the old ways may have done better. But this is one where I modeled something different than I learned. I believe there are few things more important for a person than to know that they’re loved, unconditionally. I believe it is manly to tell them so, early, and often; and to do our best to show it too. Even if it means we must apologize when we realize we acted in a less than loving way.
a. Besides the investment of time that I talked about in lesson one, here are some other important ways to model love to our kids:
i. What we say,
ii. What we do,
iii. How we react.
We should also model how to love in the other relationships in our life. I failed in my relationship with their mother. We are divorced. But I am grateful that she and I always kept a good relationship and have worked together for their good, and that they have seen me grow to have a loving relationship to my wife of the last 15 years. I have also modeled love and respect for my mother, and taught them to do the same for theirs.
One of the most important ways we show love for our children is to believe in them and support their goals and dreams.
This is a hard one in that, in our strong desire for the best for them, we somehow may want something for them that they don’t want for themselves.
It is important that, as we guide them, we also teach them to make their own decisions, encourage and support them, and make sure they know that they can and will be successful at whatever they choose to do; and that we love them unconditionally. Men especially want to know that we are proud of them.
In this blog, I have attempted to share a few of the things I wish I’d known as a father growing up, while raising my kids.
What things do you struggle with in raising yours?
I’m starting a new group for dads, called EmPOWERing Fathers.
In it, we’ll discuss lessons learned from our own experiences growing up as kids, and those growing up at raising our own- and get advice from each other on how to do it best at each season of our life and the lives of our kids.
The group is open to my current tribe and to fathers everywhere.
I hope you’ll join us.
Prepare To Live; empower To Lead!
Grand Master Stephen J. Del Castillo
Author, MBA & 7th Degree Blackbelt
Founder & Chief Master Instructor,
Krav Maga Martial Arts
About Grandmaster Stephen J. Del Castillo: Grandmaster Del Castillo is the founding Master Instructor of Krav Maga Martial Arts and has been empowering lives in Pasco and Hillsborough Counties since October of 2000. He is a 7th degree Blackbelt, MBA, author, mentor and success coach, a US Army Veteran and a proud father and grandfather. He is married to Ms. Barbara Del Castillo who helps him run the school. Grand Master Del Castillo began his training in the early 80’s and has high level blackbelts in Tae Kwon Do, Karate, Premier Martial Arts and Krav Maga Martial Arts as well as experience in kickboxing, Jeet Kune Do and Jiujitsu. He has high level instructor certifications from BBSI, IKMF, and KMG and has been featured in numerous Martial Arts publications and also Success magazine. He was a competitive sport karate and American Kickboxing instructor until he enlisted in the US Army where he served in the 82nd Airborne Division, where he won an Army Green to Gold scholarship and proceeded to ROTC and the University of Tampa. He was commissioned in 1992 and went on to serve in Germany with the 3rd Infantry Division and then in several other posts in the US until he left military service to pursue his dream of creating KMMA in 2000.
The Krav MagaMartial Arts Headquarters is in Lutz, FL at 1900 Land O’ Lakes Blvd., 33549. Krav Maga Martial Arts serves Lutz, Land O’ Lakes, Wesley Chapel, and surrounding areas.
See stephendelcastillo.com for more information and to order my book, Developing Your Superpower, Meditations on Mastery, Volume 1.