Retro Parenting is In

Retro parenting is in; dust off your "well, that’s what you get" and give your kids a taste of reality.

I remember the day I woke up to reality quite clearly. I was an eight year old Spiderman leaping from stump to stump around a fire pit at a cabin my mother had rented. In spite of her best efforts to warn me that my crime fighting would in fact more likely result in my discovering that the arch nemesis of every eight year old is gravity, I attributed her trepidation as merely an indication of her inability as a non viewer to understand just how agile Spiderman really was and continued in my pursuit of justice. When the inevitable happened and my imaginary web snapped, I was left with a two inch stump induced gash on my hairline that was gushing blood like I was in a Stephen King novel. Wailing like Carrie on prom night I remember Mum’s words clearly as she stuffed a towel on my head: "well, that’s what you get."

Eeny, meeny, miny, mo...

Giving your kids a dose of reality is not a bad thing. I cannot imagine where I would be today if every one of my pre-pubescent probes into the wonders of play were forestalled by the "whump-whump" sound of my heliomom swooping in like Seal team 6. Every parent should know that although the hard lessons are tough, they can also be a comforting reminder of the basic physics that controls our lives. When a child learns how their actions beget certain specific consequences, they learn through direct experience that they in fact are masters of their own fate and that their life will unfold through the magic of their very own decisions. In addition to learning to be more careful in their decision making, they also learn to see the larger workings of an orderly universe, one that is not nearly as chaotic and random as it seems, but one in which, for better or for worse, every action creates a corresponding result.

Humpty-Dumpty sat on a wall...

As a parent, you’re a little like a referee and it is hard to know just when to throw the flag or let them play on. I know first hand the pain my mother experienced seeing me come back from my play dates slightly worse for wear. The day after her permanent front teeth had finally filled the gap in her face, my daughter came home crying from a play date on the monkey bars with her friend with both her beautiful incisors snapped in half. I reassured her friend’s mom that this could have happened on anyone’s watch; she was right there, they were not goofing around, my daughter just misjudged the grip and all the kings’ horses and men weren’t going to be able to fix that. After a good cry and an extra long hug (it had to be extra long so she wouldn’t see me crying) we talked about the incident, learned the valuable (and expensive) lesson, and now at 16 she demonstrates both care and a healthy respect for friction and gravity when she climbs anything.

It’s raining, it’s pouring, the old man is snoring...

As a Karate instructor for over 25 years I have been the 'referee' for countless interactions between kids and groups of kids and have learned when to throw the flag. Amid the seemingly infinite amount of gut clenching moments of adrenalin packed action that have happened over more than 15,000 classes, I am proud to say that the most serious injury that has ever occurred, and only occurred once, was a broken arm. It happened as most of these things do, with a group of pre-teens who, peaking on their first bursts of testosterone, venturing outside of the carefully prescribed boundaries for the drill they were performing. Once the dust settled and all of the necessary first aid was performed, one look to all of these experienced karate kids was all it took. In that moment they learned that boundaries exist for their protection, that they are not nearly as immune to the physics that guides the universe as they like to believe, and above that it will always be their decisions and not capricious conditions that will rule their lives.

About the Author:
Richard Verlaan is a martial arts instructor, writer, husband, and father of two based in Toronto, Ontario. For almost 25 years he has been coaching adults, kids, and parents to be their best through the attitude, philosophy, and physical training involved in martial arts. Annually he teaches well over 5000 students through his own school as well as through workshops and seminars at TDSB, TCDSB, and private schools.  Know as an engaging teacher, he also works with adults at his studio as well as in his work in corporate training, and executive coaching. His studio website is He can be reached by e-mail at

Edit ModuleShow Tags

You Might Also Like

10 Ways to Teach your Kids to be Grateful

How can we teach our children to be grateful? It's the season of giving thanks, and we're sharing this list of 10 simple ways to teach kids about gratitude.

New UNICEF Canada Campaign Keeps Halloween Spirit Alive For Kids

The campaign encourages families across Canada to turn their trick-or-treating steps into a safe, socially distanced walk-a-thon throughout their neighbourhood. Sign up by October 9!

Mayor John Tory Launches ShowLoveTO Program

Mayor John Tory has launched a new initiative 'ShowLoveTO', designed to encourage local tourism and foster community engagement and economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.