Terminator 2: Judgment Day was one of the first movies that moved me to tears. When John Connor slowly lowers his T800 Terminator into the cauldron of molten, flaming steel I experienced one of the film’s most emotional lines: “I know now why you cry.” When Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character delivers these lines I well-up with a blend of satisfaction (a machine learning empathy), happiness (love), and sadness (the necessary, but gut-wrenching death of an incredible father-figure). John feels the same way. Since we both have sons and since Netflix is streaming the movie, we are excited to share our feelings and fatherly learnings from this time-traveling, Armageddon-avoiding sci-fi classic. Here are six parenting lessons from Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

Your kid(s) come first

This one shouldn’t be rocket science, but maybe it’s time-travel science. Putting your child first by caring deeply for them is an important parental skill. The Terminator’s devotion to the safety, support and education of John Connor showcases his unyielding commitment to the young man. The Terminator literally doesn’t sleep and takes beating after beating from a superior enemy in service of John’s future. I’ll let Sarah Connor summarize the Terminator’s commitment, to human protection.

…which means sacrifice

Both the Terminator and Sarah Connor, John’s badass-hero-mom, make incredible sacrifices to keep John alive and prepared for what’s coming: nuclear apocalypse followed by a nightmarish war against machines. Sarah tells John that he should never have come to rescue her from hospital-jail. The Terminator endures stabbings, gunfire and eventually succumbs to molten steel in order to keep John alive and help the future Leader of the Resistance reach his full potential. Whether you have to turn down a job opportunity or see less of your friends, being a fully-engaged parent will probably require you to let some things go. Think about blending your work and life so that your kids can learn from folks who aren’t just family, teachers or coaches because you involved them in social or professional activities, like Sarah Connor did with John. (For the record, John and I are anti-armed-revolution).

Prepare to adapt

The Terminator arrives in the past with nothing but a buff body, a clear mission and a badass attitude. He quickly locates John, but needs to adapt, frequently on the fly, because of the formidable abilities of the T800, his advanced, liquid-metal adversary. Oh, and there are also “all the police” in the Los Angeles County area who are hunting them, because of some stuff that went down in the mid-1980s. All of us parents will also experience twists and turns, like expecting to go to Science World only to find a baby dead-set on melting down instead. We need to adapt in order for things to work. Adapting in ways that honours your child’s feelings as well as the reality of the situation are ideal because toddlers don’t always understand things like lineups, winter not being a great time for ice cream, or wearing jackets outside.

“You can’t just go around killing people”

Truer words have never been spoken. This is a lesson John Connor imparts to the Terminator early on in their relationship. Instead, the Terminator is schooled in non-violent (ok – maybe not totally non-violent, but definitely non-murderous) ways to defuse difficult situations and achieve goals. We’ve written a lot about how to defuse conflict – as a parent you’ll run into plenty of frustrations brought on by external forces, like bullies or armchair parents who offer unwanted advice. In your sleep deprived days, these situations multiply in number and severity. However, it’s key to implement the same self-controls that the Terminator does because, in the long run, losing your mind isn’t going to be a good way to role model for your child.

Embrace reverse mentorship

Mentorship doesn’t always have to run from senior to junior. In T2, a huge chunk of the film is devoted to the Terminator from the boy he guards (everything from how to high five to complex human emotions like grief). All of us parents are constantly teaching our children, but it is worthwhile to step back, every once in a while, and consider what we can learn from them. Maybe its carefreeness. Maybe it’s their sense of wonder (that sometimes seems to get kicked out of us by our late teens). Or maybe it is just a symbiotic sense of focus and love and a gentle reminder to put down that smartphone. We can all do more to harness our inner-child as well as learn from folks who are younger than us.

Futureproof your kids

Fate is a recurring theme of all the Terminator movies, especially T2. Is our future pre-written? Will Skynet destroy the world on Judgment Day? What agency does humanity have? Big questions – many of which are answered – only to be reopened in the next movie’s iteration on the timeline (Judgment Day is inevitable; right, Facebook?!). The lesson any parent can take from T2 is that the future is an “open road” and is “unwritten”. Investing in our children, supporting them and providing them with the skills and resilience to succeed is crucial. Just like Sarah Connor did in her preparation for John to lead the Resistance in the future, we need to prepare our children for an age of technological and geopolitical disruption, and increasing economic uncertainty. That means finding new ways to inform and challenge them as they play, collaborate, learn, and work. Because, like John Connor, our kids will probably be in charge of machines that are completing several kinds of tasks – let’s just hope these involve terminating inefficiency and boredom, not humanity…


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