This past week Master Greg Macy hosted a live Q & A with Master Amanda Olson, co-founder of Olson’s Martial Arts in Johnson City, Tennessee. Olson is better known to students and parents across the nation as Master Mom, answering questions from parents about what it means to raise a kid with a Black Belt attitude.

Master Mom draws from a trove of firsthand experience. She opened her martial arts school with her husband and raised her kids in the dojo. [Her son Keith Olson, a Black Belt in taekwondo, brown belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and MMA fighter, still teaches at the academy.] She draws on her expertise in the martial arts and as a parent to help hundreds and hundreds of students and families become stronger.

Right now families need positivity more than ever, and Master Mom and Master Macy shared some answers to common questions on how to stay positive when times are hard.


Sometimes we say things that aren’t productive to ourselves or the people around us. Classic stuff like “this is too hard.” “This tastes gross.” “I’m bored.”

How do you turn things around? Refocus, switch their mental state from negative to positive.

If kids say “there’s nothing to do,” come back with some ideas. Some of these ideas might be fun: Let’s play a game. Let’s Read with a Black Belt. Some might be active: Let’s play soccer in the backyard. Let’s do some karate forms. Some might be not so fun, but still productive: Let’s clean the house, for example.

Still, even chores show kids that there is in fact something to do. Better active than bored.


We’re all stuck in close quarters. We love our families, but they drive us crazy sometimes, especially when there’s no escape to school, work, theaters, etc.

Master Mom says the first step is to realize that you’re not alone in this feeling. Lots of families across the nation and the world are dealing with enormous stress. Parents: Be honest with your kids; tell them that the adults in the house can get on each others’ nerves, too.

One of her techniques when her kids were younger was to separate them. This is your space, this is your brother’s space. Give it 20 minutes. An hour. Set each child up with things to do, then reconvene afterward to talk about how each one did.

Nine times out of ten, they won’t like being apart. That time of separation will show them how much they want to spend time together. Bonus: you can use that “threat” of separation the next time you sense an argument in the air. The kids’ll opt to get along and play with each other rather than having to go sit alone in their separate rooms.


Talk to kids about what it means to work as a team. Talk to them in those terms: Are you helping the team? Or hurting the team? For example:

Dad cooks great pancakes (that might have just a few lumps), kids say thanks and eat without complaining (about the lumps) and take their dishes to the sink, Mom helps everybody feel good about what’s coming up in the day. And everyone reciprocates.

Speaking of breakfast, start each day off by asking each member of the family what they can do today for the family team. This helps kids feel they have a say, some control in how the family team operates.

Make a chore list, where every member of the family is assigned one or two jobs. Give kids a chance to choose their jobs, choose things that bring out their skills and personality. Post it on the fridge with a checklist. Job done? Check it off. Job not checked off yet? Better get after it.

Show your kids the list… it’s not kid-shaming. It’s motivation. Let’s get that checked and we can go play in the backyard!

Parents: Make sure your kids know that you’re the team leaders. You’re the boss. You’re Captain America. You’re Tony Stark. You’re in charge, but you’re not an overlord. Your kids can trust you. They can even question you. And you’ll listen, but you’ll also lay down the law when necessary.


Lastly, say thanks. When triggers are so itchy, saying thank you, a deeply felt thank you, settles us down and builds us up. Black Belts are humble, courteous and kind. So when you draw that check mark on your chore list, with your kid looking you in the eyes, say thanks for doing your job. You helped your team.

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