You got this.

Seriously you got this.

Stepping on my skateboard, I repeated that mantra one more time. You got this. I know the more you say it to yourself…

My back foot slid onto the back of the board while the front of my board hung in the air. My stomach matched the front of my board, hanging there.

I nod my head to my four-year-old son, Alex, who went down his first ramp today too.

What’s a nine-foot drop on a small board with wheels when you just started skateboarding at age 42?

The drop-in happens when you pop your front foot down on the board and fly down the ramp. The wheels catch on the ramp and off you go. It at least sounds easy.

Standing at the top of the ramp and looking down, my breathing and pulse rocketed. It felt good and terrible. The tension and the apprehension mixed strongly with a let’s see what happens next ethos.

I quashed my fears with a strong fake it till you make it swagger. The “you got this” mantra played one more time in the recess of my mind.

I gave one final head nod to Alex.

What’s a nine-foot drop on a small board with wheels when you just started skateboarding at age 42?

I dropped in, and I didn’t crash (this time). It ended up being just one more highlight during a year of learning and focusing on “movement” with my four-year-old.

There is never a best time to learn with our kids since we are doing it ALL THE TIME. What we get to do is fully dive into it with them. We go from a person on the sidelines rolling through Instagram to sweating on the field.

We jump into the deep end of the pool and learning with our kids. We face our fears at the same moment they do. They watch us fail, practice, fail and finally succeed and we watch them do the same.

 

Theming It Up and Teaming It Up

I open every year with a theme. My theme for 2020 was Movement. This theme dominates my effort and where I spend my time. This jump-started the idea, what if I worked on improving my movement by learning along with my four-year-old?

The inspiration came from my memories growing up that included ski trips and riding motorcycles with my dad and uncles. There is no greater inspiration than watching the actions of friends and family members. Our only choice becomes doing it too!

Learning with kids is a cheat code for being a better parent and exemplifying how to live in the world.

How can we learn with our kids?

 

Rule #1 – Go Down Slides

How to Pick What We Learn Together

It’s easier to get our kids to go down slides than run up them. The momentum of the slide keeps us on the path and excited for what comes next. Going downhill means getting buy-in from our kids when finding what to learn. When we limit the obstacles in our kid’s way, our learning journey together glides.

This one might seem self-evident, but it does take some trial and error. It’s easier to join your kid’s activities than for them to join yours. Remember, we contain a fully formed PFC (prefrontal cortex) while our children do not. We understand logic and reason. They relate better to games and fun. We need to follow their lead to find our activities.

Finding something that gets them excited helps create commitment. The next step is to show up, start learning, and training. This means you need your kids to experiment and see what they want to chase.

This worked out for us because Alex asked about skateboarding from a cartoon and started doing tumbling and capoeira (the Brazilian martial arts) before I did. He got introduced to all of these activities first, and when they stuck, I jumped in.

Alex needed that feeling of confidence to dive deeper and let me get underwater with him.

Our first capoeira workshop was at the end of October 2019. Alex was the youngest participant, and I was the greenest participant. He enjoyed the fact that he “had been training” longer and done more classes than me.

We started working on handstands when he was two, so adding some handstand help was something he embraced, and this lead to acro yoga.

We follow the trail that they blaze and keep introducing new offramps and challenges to find new mountains to climb together. Like putting together a nice meal, we keep adding courses and trying different combinations.

Our Father-Son Learning Menu:
– Capoeira
– Handstands
– Acro Yoga
– Skateboarding

 

Rule #2 — Find the Others that Light Us Up

Great Coaches and Teachers Make it Easy

We found great coaches for Capoeira, acro yoga/handstands, and skateboarding. When working with a coach, our kids watch what we do, and get to emulate us. The coach provides additional stimulation because we both get to defer to them.

Alex bought into the instructions because it wasn’t coming from me, and he watched how I interacted and learned how to learn from our coaches. It additionally allowed me to level up my technique by getting expert advice.

Coaches help us learn more quickly. They act to encourage our kids. They keep us focused on the process and diversifies both our and our child’s sources of learning.

Contre-Mestre Bambu (on my left) acts as a teacher for both of us. Massu (on my right) ran our first workshop

 

Rule #3 – Use Clockwork

Make it a Routine / Habit / Ritual

Routines create buy-in. On days when you learn, it is easy to create the habit of this is what we do on this day. Alex knows what days we train. If it’s Tuesday, we train capoeira. It creates excitement, anticipation, and acceptance.

Kids love routines. Predictability and structure allow them to flourish.

Routines create predictability and structure. On Sundays, we train at MSA Circus Gym, and we wake up in the morning ready to go.

The predictability allows your kids to rev their engines and show up ready to do work. The structure provides the open road.

Landing a flip but still not as good as the four-year-old….Not sure if there is enough time to catch up

 

Rule #4 – Invest in the Suck.

Sucking is a superpower, as long as we keep doing the work and make it to the other side.

Nothing beats our children watching us struggle and grind through it. The mimetics game is strong and us powering through the suck helps them learn.

It’s easy to be bad at things. It’s hard to get better at things because we need to invest the time and effort to find our footing. We need to pick the ball up off the ground 1,000x to learn how to juggle.

That same concept then resonates with our children. They learn that it’s about reps, practice, and doing the work. They learn that we get up when we fall down.

This rule is the polarity of Rule #1. Once we get going on the open road, we eventually hit the hills and we need to keep going.

This ties back to our routines and lets us keep going no matter how much we struggle with something new.

Failing in front of our kids shows them that we all struggle.

Learning how to hold them over your head is not a cupcake.

 

Rule #5 – Always a Student and a Teacher

Let Our KidsTeach Too

If you want to learn something, nothing beats teaching it. This means I’ve practiced capoeira many times with Alex running the class. When he runs the “class”, it levels up his skills and he walks me through the proper techniques.

We want to always be teachers and students. This same thing for our kids. The early they learn it, the better. It empowers them to lead, do the hard work, and know things cold so that they can teach us.

If you want to light your child up, let them teach you how to do something. Like playing follow the leader, our kids show up as their best selves when they get a chance to lead.

Alex showing me the move he wants me to practice.

Rule #6 – It’s Always Play

Play is the way!

When we make it play, it’s fun. We all want to follow the fun. Everyone shows up excited and as their best selves. We allow ourselves to fail because it is a game, and make our children excited about the challenges.

When you make it play, everyone wants to be involved. My two-year-old watches us training and practicing and he gets involved. Next thing you know, he starts yelling “Acro Yoga” and starts doing handstands off my legs.

We learn with our kids to grow, to develop good habits, to challenge ourselves, but most importantly for the fun. Connecting with our kids through play makes us truly present. This unleashes their creativity and our own.

 

It’s All About the Journey and the People We Journey With

Life is the journey. Making life a learning journey unlocks so much meaning and purpose. There is always something new to learn or to try. We stay open to the world knowing that life is about learning, unlearning, and relearning. There is no better way to do that than with our kids.

We get to film or take pictures of our progress. We get to high five and cheer each other as we unlock different levels. We get to bask in where we started and where we stand now.

We show up how we want them to show up. They see how we approach challenges, not knowing what to do, and witness our growth process. We live the life we want to live by showing them how we want them to live with our actions.

When we train and learn with our kids, we put all excuses to the side. Even if it means we might smash, crash and need to dust ourselves off to try again. The joy is in the journey.

That is How We Level Up with the Little Ones.