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.
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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.
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.
Originally published on The Good Dad Project
Photo courtesy of author