Lessons From The Turtles

By: Heather O’Neill 

We’ve had quite a few snow days these last couple of weeks and with that I’ve watched more than my fair share of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

If you have kids under the age of 10 or remember the 90s when the Turtles were first introduced, you know that there are four turtles: Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello and Michelangelo and their Sensei, Master Splinter.

My boys are 4 (JD) and 6 (JP) and, like most other kids right now, are obsessed with the Turtles. This past weekend we went to 3 birthday parties – all Turtle themed.


What is it that my boys love about them? In their own words:

  • The fight bad guys.
  • They train and they get better when they train.
  • I like Karate and when they fight (Kicks a leg and yells “Kee-ya”)
  • They are brothers.
  • I like to dance to their song. (There is an instant dance party whenever the theme song is played)
  • They are powerful and strong.
  • I like the turtles because of who they are – They want to do good and save and help people.

About each of the brothers:

Mikey: JP: “He’s silly and fun” ; JD: He yells “Booyakasha”

Leonardo: JP: “He’s the leader and he’s true and honest to his master.” ; JD: “I love Leo’s swords.”

Raphael: JP: “He has anger like me.” ; JD: “Because he chases Mikey.”

Donnie: JP: “Because he’s smart and he likes science.” ; JD: “Because he trains with his brothers to get better.”

This fascinates me because while they clearly like the fun-loving cartoons, they are making some connections to these characters.

In one of the more recent episodes (like I said there have been LOTS of snow days and I’ve watched this way too many times…) I started to really listen to the advice that Master Splinter was giving to his “sons” and heard myself saying the same things, although maybe not in quite the same way.

            Find your inner spiritual strength –Finding what’s strong inside of you to make the outside of you stronger. There have been many discussions in our house about right vs. wrong and acceptable behaviors vs. unacceptable behaviors. As a mom I want to make sure that my kids are making those smart choices, especially when I’m not around. Having them see what’s strong about them on the inside is a big part of that.

            We choose what holds us back and what moves us forward – This is a great life lesson for most adults, never mind young children. Having my boys hear this at a young age and understand that their mental toughness is just as strong (if not stronger) than their physical toughness is hopefully going to carry on into their adulthood. Now if only I could apply this when it comes to chocolate ….

            Your temper is like a fire that you must learn to focus for power – Interesting that my 6 year old found a connection with the character that has a temper. My son definitely has a temper and we have been working on ways to manage that temper and focus his energy in alternative ways. He’s getting the same advice from a cartoon rat … and he’s listening!

            Your mind is overrun with distractions. Learn to be strong and calm like the forest – Again, something we have touched upon at home many times, especially when completing homework. We are always talking about maintaining focus and not giving into distractions. I felt like this was a moment for parents of kids with ADHD- Master Splinter is telling our kids to be calm … and it’s working!

            You rely too much on your mind and not on your body. Be strong like the mountain – While we haven’t gotten here yet, I can see us having these conversations when discussing technology and how it’s creeping into their young lives. I want them to be physically strong as well as mentally strong. I don’t want technology to replace physical activity for them. And what kid doesn’t want to be big and strong like a mountain?

            You must be the leader in body and spirit. Be like the wind, let nothing weigh you down – It is my hope that my kids don’t let themselves get weighed down with anything. Don’t get me wrong, I want them to be loyal, responsible and accountable but I don’t want them missing opportunities that may pass by if they feel anchored down.

While this show is primarily about four brothers who act just like teenage boys rough-housing, playing practical jokes and acting silly, it also teaches loyalty to one another, strength and resiliency. If they take anything from this show I want it to be respect – respect for themselves and their bodies, respect for their families and loved ones, respect for their teachers and coaches, and respect for their community and environment.

Who would have thought I would have gotten so much out of watching cartoons on a snow day … TURTLE POWER!

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