Parenting, the old-fashioned way

. October 23, 2012.

Visit a department store, a restaurant table or a movie theater and you’re bound to see it. Whining, screaming children demanding mom and dad do what they want — and do it now. Some parents can’tseem to resist the lure of giving in to youngsters’ demands.

Ann Arbor author Keith Hafner has other ideas.

Hafner, 55, has gathered many of the principles he discovered over his more than 35 years as a martial arts teacher in his books, 2001’s How to Build Rock Solid Kids and 2011’s How to Live Smarter.

Parents weren’t always so wimpy. Today, confusion and uncertainty often trumps discipline and resolve when it comes to child rearing, Hafner says. “That’s a new phenomenon,” he says. “The wisdom grandma and grandpa had really worked.”

Hafner’s books are designed to help moms and dads rediscover the importance of rules, boundaries and respect. He thinks parents should focus on helping their children build ethics, morals, self-esteem and confidence. It’s how he and his wife of 36 years raised their own two boys.

“Kids need structure and guidelines when they are young,” he said. “Some people think of discipline as punishment. To be disciplined in your habits frees you.”  

While some parents may be hesitant to set high standards, others can be too harsh in their criticisms of their children. Kids’ self image ultimately determines how they behave and what they achieve in life. Constant sniping at them for missing the mark can have long-term consequences, Hafner says. “I encourage parents to reward approximations of success. A parent’s job is to watch and try to catch them doing it right.” Moms and dads who witness a less than stellar sports performance might comment on their child’s focus or dedication to achieving a goal.

Parents need to look at their own behavior when examining why their kids behave the way they do. Developing discipline in your children requires discipline in yourself. “If you are cranky when you get up in the morning you are teaching them to be cranky in the morning,” he said.

Hafner’s expertise doesn’t come from an advanced degree.

“I’m not a professional but I’m a person who’s been serious about his life,” he said. “I’m a person who’s tried to live my life according to these principles.”

Hafner, a self-described former “long-haired hippie kid,” follows a ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps’ philosophy, focused on self-reliance and viewing life as a project. There have been a few surprises along the way. His years teaching and maintaining his Ann Arbor-based firm, “Keith Hafner’s Karate,” brought him joys he didn’t expect to find in the business world — the pleasure of building and nurturing relationships with people.

For more information about Hafner’s books, turn to