You will most likely never forget the first time your kid punches someone in the face. The huge rush of emotion that they experience usually leads to a long spell of crying, and anger – this is normal. About two weeks ago, my youngest son, Mateo, got into his first fist fight. When he plays outside, we leave the kitchen window open so that we can hear what is going on. When I heard the screaming, I knew it was coming from Mateo. When I got outside, I noticed it was my son, and his two friends standing next to an adult who saw what happened, I paid her no mind. I’m really big on getting the story from the boys first, before I listen to a complete stranger, and he said, “I accidently punched him in the face!” At that point, I knew I had to dig in to find out what really went on.
First, I checked the other boy to see if he was ok, and then my son and I walked him home (Mateo was bawling the whole way). When we met up with his mom, I apologized to her, and told her my son punched her boy while they were on the back of the truck. Our families are pretty close so she didn’t mind much, but I did demand that my son apologize to her boy immediately – this made his crying worse. After some stern motivating, my son finally apologized. The two boys shook each other’s hands, and went on with their days (at least the other boy did).
When we got home, I demanded an explanation from my son. Though we teach the two boys how to fight, we don’t support unnecessary violence. What he told me next, made me take a good long step back, and gave me a new respect for my six year old son.
“Daddy, he was cursing at my friend, and I told him to stop! He didn’t stop, so I punched him in the face”
The entire time he was explaining this to me, he was crying his little eyes out – all I could do was smile.
One of the things that I am big about is teaching my kids the family code, a set of values if you will. When you ask our boys “What do the Rodas’ do?” they respond, “Get strong, and smart, so that they can help people”. I remember teaching this to my oldest son back in Germany when he was about five years old. Now, since my youngest son has been hearing it his whole life, he actually put the family code into effect! So, when my son told me why he did what he did, I told him that I was proud of him. Initially he was confused, and gave me this crazy look as if he wasn’t hearing what he thought he just heard, but I repeated myself, “I’m proud of you, Mateo”. It was amazing to me how something that I thought I was having them repeat in vein, actually wired them to act bravely in a situation where most would just keep to themselves. It takes a lot of courage to stand up to someone who is doing wrong by others. The fact that my six year old son has it in him to not let these bad deeds go unpunished, shows me that he will one day grow up to be a great man.
Building the Up-stander
My wife and I are firm believers of keeping the knife sharp. The both of us constantly pursue higher levels of fitness, we keep our children active in various sports, and we have even had the boys training in MMA/Jiu-Jitsu for a little over a year. Before the boys are allowed to play video games, they owe me 3-5 minutes of some form of physical activity. This used to consist of push-ups, sit-ups, and squat jumps; however, recently we began sparring with the focus mitts (this develops punching/kicking speed, power, and develops hand/eye coordination).
(Some pics of the boys getting sharp)
The physical portion, however, is a small part in developing an up-stander. What has worked in our favor is the example my wife and I have set for the boys. There have been countless times where I have had to pull my vehicle over, and make on-the-spot corrections to Soldiers doing the wrong thing while in or out of uniform. When my boys would ask why I yelled at them, I tell them that they were doing the wrong thing, AND THAT IS NOT OK!
There was even one evening when we were leaving the mall, I couldn’t help but notice a car that had its rear window fogged up. When I looked inside, I saw a large male leaning over this young girl, pointing his finger at her, and yelling at the top of his lungs. Almost immediately my wife noticed my posture change, and she knew I was about to act. I gave my wife the keys, and told her to start the truck. As I approached the vehicle, I could tell that the girl had been crying, and that the man yelling at her was either drunk or high. I banged on the trunk of the car to get the man’s attention, he seemed shocked. I motioned for him to step out of the vehicle so that I could talk to him – he simply nodded, uh-uh. Frustrated, I called him out of the vehicle loud enough so he could hear me – once again, uh-uh. I went up to the girls window, and asked if she was ok, she put on this fake smile and said “yes”. This was as far as I was going to invest myself since I had clearly destroyed that mans power base, and any sense of pride he may have had beforehand. So, I notified security of the situation, and let them handle the rest. The conversation that followed was one that came to mind when Mateo told me what he did.
The boys seemed confused as to why I wanted that man to step out of his car. So, I told them, “If that man wants to hit and yell at that girl in the back of that car, he’d have to get hit and yelled at by me first”. Noticing that I had confused them a little bit, I reminded them “Boys, what do the Rodas’ do?” and we went over the code again, “Get strong, and smart, so we can help people”. I had to explain to them that I wouldn’t be teaching them these things if I was not ready to put it into practice myself – whether that girl deserved what she was getting or not, I wasn’t about to let my boys witness me not doing anything about it, or at least notify the proper authorities. They need to know that there are ways to help!
What is an Up-stander?
I actually learned this term from my oldest son recently. An Up-stander is someone who stands up for someone when they get bullied. They are the ones who give power back to individuals who may feel like they have none, and give a sense of hope to those have lost all of it. I’m proud to say that my boys are up-standers, and will continue to set that example for them.
So, what are you? Are you a bystander, or are you an up-stander? I’m not saying you have to go banging on peoples trunks, but if I were to just have pulled up behind them and honked my horn a couple of times, maybe that would be enough to tell that man hey, we’re watching you, stop being a PUNK! Mateo could have also walked away from the situation, but since his friend was getting messed with, his passion got the best of him, and he stood up – which is exactly what he was taught to do.
Make the effort, do your part, fight to make your family better.
This is what we’re all about.
Fight on friends! – The Warrior Family
Note: all three boys involved are fine, and are still friends today
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