raise strong girls

How to Raise Strong, Confident, Resilient Girls with Bas Rutten

Bas Rutten is retired UFC Heavyweight Champion and three-time King of Pancrase world champion. He’s a regular on TV, has also appeared in movies, and even makes a cameo in the Grand Theft Auto video game.

It’s hard to believe that Bas Rutten, also known as “El Guapo” or The Handsome One, suffered extreme eczema and asthma during his childhood. He was bullied on a regular basis in his native country of Holland. One day when he was on vacation with his family in France, he snuck into the movie theatre to see Enter the Dragon. Bas knew that if he became like Bruce Lee, the bullying would stop. This sparked a passion for martial arts that took him through a glorious career and taught him many life lessons he would pass on to his three daughters.

How to raise strong girls

Learn to say “no”

Bas admits to being a sucker for the sad look he gets from his girls when he refuses to give into them. But it’s important to put your foot down. If they know they can influence you early on, they will never take you seriously in the future. Bas’s parents instilled good morals and work ethic in him. If he wanted something, he had to work for it and started delivering newspapers and washing dishes at a very young age. He has done this with his daughters as well.

Don’t lose your girls to social media

In this world of Instagram and Snapchat, it can be challenging to get your daughters’ attention. Bas Rutten says that it is important to connect with your daughters on social media. This might seem daunting for those of us who didn’t grow up with social media, but Bas says fathers must evolve with technology so they are fully aware of what is going on.

Bas also knows that being obsessed with social media diminishes the present moment. When you’re taking a video of the moment instead of absorbing it with all your senses, you don’t experience it fully. You’re not likely to watch the video again anyway, so he teaches his family to put the phone down and disconnect.

Be consistent

If you give your daughters multiple warnings and they still fail to meet their obligations, you must follow through with the punishment you decided on. Bas recalls one time when he warned his daughter that if she didn’t finish her homework, he wouldn’t allow her to go to prom. She didn’t finish her homework, and even though it broke his heart to do it, he stood his ground and did not allow her to go to prom. It wasn’t an easy lesson, but it changed everything. Bas says, “If they don’t take you seriously, they won’t take life seriously.”

Teach them to speak up

Girls are taught to be quite and submissive. “If you set yourself up for being bullied, you’ll get it,” Bas says. The best way to teach daughters to be strong is to show them how to project confidence. If someone speaks the them or treats them the wrong way, teach your daughters to speak up. They must say something right away before others think they can get away with treating them that way.

He also says girls need to stand their ground when it comes to relationships. They should project what they expect, maintain their independence, and not cave into their partner’s wishes all the time. It’s important for them to establish this behavior from the beginning so that they don’t become the weak person in the relationship.

Have fun with life

Although Bas struggle with his health problems throughout his childhood, he didn’t feel sorry for himself. It actually made him more optimistic because he knew there were people even worse off than him. He also developed a great sense of humor to cope with and compensate for the ostracization he suffered from his peers. Bas considers his childhood curses a blessing. His experiences shaped him and after the challenges he faced as a kid, his life is easy now. He feels it’s important for daughters to be strong and disciplined, but it’s also important to remember to have fun. Life goes by quickly and no one knows how much time we have.

Bas Rutten’s Parting Piece of Dad Wisdom

Bas recalls how he surprised his daughter with a puppy by coming up with an elaborate trick. A small effort and a little ingenuity on his part created and unforgettable memory for her. Make memories with your kids. Do a little more to make an impact.


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teach grit

How to Teach Grit

Teach GRIT!

The Good Dad Project Podcast with Frankie Edgar was a game changer for so many reasons.  The coolest thing about the GDP and having a dad podcast is that no matter fame nor fortune, men jump at the chance to share their views, their journey, and even their struggles.

For this week’s five minute Thursday, I wanted to recap some highlights from the interview with Frankie.

When under pressure, be calm, cool, and collected

When the UFC Octagon cage doors close…anything can happen.  The secret to a successful outcome in the octagon is being prepared for anything because anything can happen.  Frankie shares that being calm, cool, and collected is absolutely necessary to be able to think rationally.

Being calm, cool, and collected is a skill that transfers from the cage to the family.  Through our journey of fatherhood, there will be situations that test us under pressure.  When we respond calmly and avoid a knee-jerk panic reaction, it illustrates our emotional resiliency.

How to teach GRIT

Teaching grit is probably one the most difficult lessons to teach our kids.  Our instinct is to protect them from anything that is difficult.  Our society also puts such an emphasis on winning at all costs.

Frankie mentioned that he loves leveraging sports to teach his kids grit.  For example, he doesn’t really care if his kids win or lose a wrestling match.  What he wants to see if how hard they fight for the win.  If there isn’t a desire and a fire in the belly to win, that is a bigger problem.  None of us can coach desire.  Desire is either there or it’s not.  However, we can teach how to leverage our desire to win to tap into our grit.  We can even leverage our losses to teach us lessons on how to win in the future.  Finally, we can teach grit through losing and failure.  A victory is even sweeter when we have to work at it extremely hard.  Lessons of grit are learned through sports and as parents we can use situations like losses to teach these lessons.

For Parents of Youth Sports:  Take a Seat and Enjoy

Frankie had some excellent advice for parents of youth sports and that’s “take a seat and enjoy.”  Be the silent voice of love and support when it comes to sports.  Its extremely difficult to not get emotionally wrapped up in our kids sports performance.  I am speaking from a father who is a parent and a coach of my kids sports teams and I see it all the time.

Parents can be extremely tough on their kids even when they think they are helping.  I didn’t really get this mentality until I read The Matheny Manifesto by Mike Matheny, manager of the St. Louis Cardinals.  If you really want to see your child love sports and if you want to see peak performance…take a seat, enjoy, and let the coaches do their jobs.

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frankie edgar

Frankie Edgar on Life Lessons from the Octagon

Frankie Edgar is a professional MMA fighter in the UFC. Frankie started his successful fighting career with a solid foundation of wrestling.  Two-time State Place Winner for New Jersey, 2nd in HS Nationals in 2000, 4x Division 1 National Qualifier for Clarion University and College Freestyle All-American in 2004.  He currently fights in the 155LB weight class in the UFC with 18 wins, 4 losses, and 1 Draw.  Frankie has 3 kids – 2 boys and 1 girl.

Frankie Edgar’s Upbringing

We are responsible for what we do, or for that fact, do not do. Frankie Edgar, UFC Champion fighter knows this very well. Growing up in New Jersey in a working class family, Frankie’s father showed his kids a life template for how to get through the good and rough times in life. Through his sacrifices for his family, Frankie learned from his own father that even when life doesn’t deal you a fair hand, it is up to the individual to do what is necessary to make the situation right.

Extreme Ownership and Life Lessons of Wrestling

Frankie took this mindset to the mat as a wrestler as well.  Frankie says the sport is different from other sports in that when you lose a match, the blame falls solely on your shoulders. There’s no one else to point the finger at. You either pinned your opponent or you didn’t. And so it goes in life: those who are successful are willing to take the blame for their mistakes and also know how to take a lesson from those mistakes.

Life Lessons Learned from the Cage

In the cage, Frankie says, even when he is faced with mind-wrecking punches, he has to remain “cool, calm and collected and make rational decisions.” Demonstrating this in the ring and in his life, he is able to set the example for his children that even in the most trying conditions, a calm mindset will help to fully understand the situation and make the best decision.

Take a Seat and Enjoy

Even when it comes to his own children, and those he coaches, he says he “take a seat and enjoy.”   He gives the same advice to parents of athletes. Instead of forcing your own desires on your kids, give them a choice so they feel empowered and know that they can make the decisions that impact their lives. (This seems to be a pervasive theme among all elite athletes we’ve spoken with).

Frankie Edgar on Teaching Grit

Overall, Frankie Edgar wants to make sure his kids learn to have grit, be good people and have a sense of culture. When it comes to his kids, Frankie says, he goes with his gut.

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Frankie Edgar UFC Profile

Thanks for checking out this week’s Good Dad Project Podcast Episode featuring Frankie Edgar.

Other Shows Mentioned in this Episode

Good Dad Project with Carlos Condit on Grit and Gratitude

Good Dad Project with Jake Herbert on the Gold Medal Mindset

Good Dad Project with Charlie Brenneman on Driven for Excellence

Good Dad Project with Jim Miller on Living a Life without Regret

Jim Miller

Jim Miller: Living life without regret

Jim Miller is so much more than just an elite athlete in the UFC.

A piece of paper. Not much to it. Just a piece of paper. It’s one-dimensional and not very exciting. We don’t judge it; it has no feelings or emotions (ok, I know at one point it was a tree and it had a life, etc.). Paper is great for writing on, drawing on, making paper air planes, but there’s really nothing more to it. Sometimes, though, this is how we look at other people.

We don’t necessarily see what’s behind their decisions or life; many times we only look at the surface. Think of a fighter in the MMA cage: we see the fight, we witness the blows, but we don’t know what else is behind that fighter.

UFC Fighter, Jim Miller, is much more than the piece of paper or just a fighter in the cage. He’s a man of integrity with a strong sense of family, trying to balance work and life just like everyone else. However, he has a unique vision for how he approaches his life:

“I’d rather come out with a broken arm than come out completely unscathed.” TWEET THAT

Jim Miller lives everyday putting all of himself into it. He would prefer to suffer injury or pain (emotional or physical) if it meant that he left everything on the mat. After all, he says, the only thing you can control is the effort you put into life. This same philosophy is what he brings to parenting. As the father of four kids, Jim wants to teach his children that every day matters and, because of this, they should do what they love.

Jim Miller talks about his childhood

This method of thinking stems from his own parents. Growing up, Jim’s parents didn’t pressure him into wrestling. However, if he or his siblings wanted to do something there was one stipulation-give it their all. Like the other fighters Larry and Shawn have interviewed, one message is constant and clear: support your kids in what they want to do, but make sure they want to do it. This is their life; let them do what they love.

Family is everything

It’s obvious this characteristic is ingrained in Jim. When he’s in the cage, he clearly brings everything to the match (hence his success) and he loves his sport. Balancing this with supporting his kids and being there for his wife as well as growing his own business is not easy. However, Jim says, he does all of this for one thing: his family. Unlike the piece of paper, we are all multi-dimensional; we juggle many different responsibilities. The key, though, in this life, is to focus on our values, remember what is important, and bring our full effort each and every day.

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Charlie Brenneman

Charlie Brenneman: How to Live a Life of Excellence

Charlie Brenneman is a professional mixed martial arts fighter, speaker, mentor and author. Following a successful high school wrestling career, Charlie took his talents to Lock Haven University where he achieved a top 12 finish at Division I Nationals and 1st Team All-Academic. After teaching Spanish for three years and winning Spike TV’s Pros vs. Joes, Charlie decided to leave his job to pursue a master’s degree and begin his professional fighting career—“The Spaniard” was born. In 2011, he was ranked as high as #7 in the world, and in 2015, he published his autobiography, Driven: My Unlikely Journey from Classroom to Cage. Charlie currently lives in PA with his wife and daughter

“I would rather be 7th best in the world and have a well-balanced life, than the best in the world and not have that balance.”

-Charlie Brenneman TWEET THAT

“When I pass away, I want my last breath to be from exhaustion from living life to the fullest.”

-Charlie Brenneman TWEET THAT

Charlie Brenneman’s Background

That’s a heavy statement coming from a pro MMA fighter. But knowing Charlie’s background sheds some light on this quote’s reasoning. Growing up, Charlie Brenneman was fortunate to have a supportive family; a mother and father who encouraged him to achieve his goals, and sacrificed their own needs for their children. This upbringing allowed him to be successful in his academic life, his own family life and his career in the MMA.

Charlie Brenneman on Youth Sports

This isn’t to say you shouldn’t try to be the best simply that you should strive for your own excellence and encourage that in your kids. This is especially true when it comes to kids and sports. Charlie applauds his own parents for making sports fun for him and credits this attitude with much of his athletic success. He states that there needs to be a proper amount of push and encouragement. In other words, throwing your kids to the toughest opposition doesn’t necessarily ingrain positive self-image. It may actually work against them and make kids feel defeated. Instead, help kids to have “little successes”; competing against like-ability opponents and work up the ladder as they improve in their ability. Allowing kids to have fun with sports and achieve gradual success will more than likely make them want to play and instill positive behaviors.

Teach Balance and Live Balance

Teaching children the value of balancing being the best in something with other important aspects of their life, like friends and family, gives them a strong foundation for success as adults. Let’s face it: the balancing act of life only gets more challenging. Whether you’re a pro MMA fighter or a fire-fighter, learning to develop and maintain a healthy work-life balance is critical. Charlie works to achieve this through his “Systematic Living”-a curriculum for life.

Positive Habits and Surround Yourself with the Right People

Developed from his own reflection on his past successes, Charlie created this curriculum to help others become successful in their own lives. Essentially, he “deconstructed” how he achieved each individual success and identified certain pillars: honing your positive habits, surrounding yourself with the best people, networking and avoiding negativity (Check out his links to find out more!). These pillars set you up for the greatest individual success in your own life.

Family is the First Priority

Of course, one common thread throughout the entire interview with Charlie is the importance of family. It is clear that he believes in dedicating himself to something greater than himself. In other words, keeping the needs and desires of those he loves at the forefront of his personal aspirations. By being the best version of yourself, you are providing the best example for those around you.

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