What a fat panda taught me about parenting

May 8, 2015/motherhood

Just before Easter, the stomach bug hit our house and really all the littles wanted to do was cuddle during the day. As a busy mom of four, the last thing I have time to do is sit down. However, lately, I’ve really been trying to slow down and take each day as it comes. So I sat down with them to watch a Kung Fu Panda.

As I held my babies close and sat still for what seemed to be the first time in years, I couldn’t help but make comparisons between the Dragon Warrior and parenthood. Here they are in no particular order:

Children inexplicably change your world.

As he is about to choose the next Dragon Warrior, Master Oogwa says to Master Shifu, “He will bring peace to the world and to you.”

Everyone knows children change your world, but it’s hard to be prepared for just how much change happens once you become a parent. Many times, our children bring out the best in us, and sometimes bring out the worst!  I’m coming to realize if I look deep enough, I see the wounds of my past are reflected in my parenting style and if I pay attention, can hear my inner-child speaking back to me through my own children.  After a decade in, I think I’m finally getting some of the inner peace that I may not have gotten otherwise.  Heroes rarely look like what we expect.


Sometimes we expect too much.

When Po starts his training, Master Shifu’s goal is to make him quit. He starts him out on the obstacle course the skilled warriors use for their everyday training. After being knocked around quite a bit, Po asks to start with the punching bag. Master Shifu says, “we use this to train children or prop the door open when it’s hot.”

There have been times in my parenting where I’m frustrated by how little my children know about a certain subject. I get frustrated when they’re learning new music notes on the piano or violin, when they’re whining and complaining about having to practice math facts or do their chores.


It’s easy to focus on the behavior and forget there was a time we didn’t understand the importance of practicing or how hard it was to learn new things. We expect more of them than we should because we already know all that we teach them. With the added pressure of dealing with disappointing us, their frustration level rises.

I’m learning to address my frustrations first (why is this frustrating me?) and then their behavior (you’re feeling overwhelmed, but that’s normal when dealing with new information). If we can remove our own emotions, it goes a long way to helping them deal with theirs.

Different kids require different parenting:

Master Shifu wisely trained warrior after warrior before meeting a pupil that stumped him. He assumed Po was the problem.  Master Shifu finally recognizes he’s become a lazy teacher. When he realizes Po can be motivated by food, training takes on a whole new look.

As parents, we need to be aware of our children’s learning styles and personalities to effectively guide and teach them. Many times we focus on strengthening their weaknesses instead of helping them hone their strengths.  We fight the person they are. Recognizing their ingrained strengths (like ticklish, laid back, passionate) is the first step to developing them into who they were made to be.  Which leads me to my next point.

Celebrate their personhood

The Fab Five are highly focused, highly trained individuals who understand how difficult it will be to defeat the enemy. They’ve spent their whole lives honing their craft and are ready to use it. Yet it’s Po, an untrained, overweight, laid-back panda bear that is THE ONE. How can that be? Everyone, even Po, doubts he’s up for the job.


It’s his positive attitude, his body’s trick of feeling tickled instead of hurt, and his unjudgmental attitude that makes him perfect for the job. When Tai Lung steals the dragon scroll, opens it up, and finds only a reflective piece of paper, he’s angry. Po gently says, “Yeah, it took me a minute to get it, too.”  In all of Po’s perceived immaturity, he’s the first to realize ANYONE can be the dragon warrior if they are open to the possibilities.

Sometimes we try so hard to make our children into an image we want them to be, that we discount their unique strengths and gifts.

There are no accidents.

You are your child’s parent for a reason. You have strengths that they need and you have weaknesses they will help point out!  While we aren’t the only influencers in our children’s lives, experts agree that the stability of a child’s homelife has a direct impact on how successful they are in the school and beyond.


In the last year, what has been your greatest ah-ha moment in parenting (or life if you don’t have kids!). Tell me in the comment section.

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Comments (1)

  • Dottie Ward / May 8, 2015 / Reply

    I love Kung Fu Panda 😉 Can’t believe you got so much out of it for parenting haha love it and love you guys!

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