How do you become an incredible dad and husband when you grew up with a neglectful father? How do you break the dysfunctional pattern of your family and reverse generations of bad parenting? Chris Romulo is a 6-time Muay Thai Champion and author of Champions Uprising: Fall 7 Times, Stand Up 8. He tells us what it was like growing up with a gambling addict and how he uses his past experiences to be a better husband, father, and community member.
Chris Romulo is a martial arts champion and trainer who won several Muay Thai titles, including a US National Championship, a North American Championship, and a Bronze medal in Bangkok in the World Cup. He now runs CROM Physical Culture in Rockaway Beach, NY where he lives with his wife, Sarah, and two sons, Jube and Giovanni.
As a 4th grader, Chris’s parents moved him from an Asian neighborhood to a community that was a mix of Latino, Caribbean, and Black. He was the only Filipino kid in class and he got bullied because of that. Even his teacher was physically abusive. Chris would try to explain what was happening to his mother, but she grew up in the Philippines where this kind of treatment from teachers was acceptable. She’d ask Chris, “What did you do to deserve this?” That’s when Chris questioned everything. He couldn’t trust any of the adults in his life, making him sad and angry. It affected the rest of his education all the way into high school.
On top of the struggles Chris had at school, his dad was a severe gambling addict. There was no physical or mental abuse. It was neglect. His dad was simply not there. He’d sit at the kitchen table with his head buried in lottery numbers trying to decipher what was coming out next. There was never any conversation. His father never even scolded Chris. It was as if his dad didn’t care if the family existed.
The Father He Is Now
At an early age, Chris decided that his purpose was to break the mold. He heard stories of his grandfather back in Philippines, and found out e was the same neglectful parent as his father. This allowed Chris to understand why his dad was the way he was, but he wasn’t going to be the same kind of father to his kids.
Breaking this Cycle of Bad Parenting
Before Chris met his wife, Sarah, it was just him and his first son, Jube. Chris was a single dad and admits that he wasn’t a very attentive dad. Chris wasn’t into gambling, but when he went to the gym to train, he was so engulfed in what he was doing that his son was ignored. Once Chris realized that he was slipping into the same pattern as his father, he did his best to purposely engage with his son.
On How to Be an Engaged Dad
Chris says the ‘how’ of being a good dad is the basics – interaction, conversation, doing things together. Chris watches TV with his son, goes to the movies, takes him to games. Chris says it’s not complicated. It’s very simple. That doesn’t mean it’s easy, but even if you only have a half an hour, make it the best half hour. Be patient and persistent in making quality time a priority.
It’s simple, but it’s not easy. Just stick to the basics.
Biggest Challenge as a Father
There wasn’t a lot of patience in Chris’s household growing up, and as a dad Chris says that is the main thing. He not only strives to develop patience as a father, but also to set an example for his sons on how to approach life with patience. Life is going to test you every day. The only way to work through the struggles and obstacles is to take a step back and let the emotions settle down before they get the best of you.
#1 Lesson Learned from Fighting
Chris Romulo says the most important thing he learned from fighting was to always have goals. Goals gave him the drive and motivation, whether it was for a single fight or for world championships. Set targets for minor and major goals and have a target for your life as a whole.
Chris Romulo always wanted to write a book, but he was full of self-doubt and negative self-talk. He never went to college and barely finished high school. Luckily, he had some friends in the marketing and publishing world who helped him make his dream of becoming an author a reality.
When talking about the subtitle of Champions Uprising, Chris says, “You’re’ entire life is going to be full of stumbles and falls. You will not go through life unscathed. You’re going to deal with stuff. You have to get back up.”
Fall seven times, stand up eight.
Chris Romulo’s dad wisdom is to be flexible. He says that as a man and a father, you must adapt. You can’t be stuck in old thinking habits when you’re in new situations. You need to be dynamic in life and in fatherhood. Your kids are going to grow and change and the way you interact with them will have to change too.
Don’t live off your past.
Originally published on The Good Dad Project
Photo courtesy of author
(via The Good Men Project)