How you can set your child up for success on the road to Black Belt
Imagine that YOU are your child in karate class… your parents remind you of your goal of Black Belt and bring you to class. Imagine you are practicing those same few blocks over and over. You’re getting tired and it doesn’t always feel like you’re getting better. You daydream about playing on the playground and your motivation starts to dwindle. That goal of Black Belt seems farther and farther away. As you begin to sweat, and your muscles grow tired, you want to know that what you’re doing is worth it. Why did your parents start you in these classes?
So you turn back towards those heroes, your parents, that brought you to class. What do you want to see? What can those heroes do to show you they’re proud, and to help you work harder toward your goal?
You want to see excitement, encouragement, validation — but instead your heroes look tired, they seem upset about your lack of focus, or they’re paying more attention to their screens than they are to you. What will help get YOU excited…?
The messages we send our kids are essential to their motivation and success. Long-term goals are extremely difficult for anyone, and especially kids, to commit to. For some kids, Black Belt is a lifetime away (at least in years), so a parent’s and role-model’s encouragement is key to helping them make the most of each class.
Here’s a few things parents can do to encourage their child’s Black Belt development:
1.Positive body language
There will be many times during a class, promotion, or competition where your child will turn to look at you. This is not usually a sign of lack of focus or engagement, it’s completely natural. Your kids are searching for support and validation from the people who they care about the most. Pre-school, elementary, and even jr high school kids seek approval from their parents and family, so they will look to you for validation, motivation, and encouragement more than anyone else. By smiling, giving thumbs up, and showing that we’re paying attention, we can keep our kids motivated in class, and throughout their training.
2. Let the instructors be the ‘bad guys’
To build our kids up, instead of tearing them down, we have to be careful about balancing our negative and positive comments. If all they hear are things that they need to improve, that can start weighing down on their motivation and confidence. At the dojo, you get to relax. Let us, their instructors, take care of those things that they need to improve while you get to be the favorite, praising role-model. It’s completely natural for students to get distracted or act out in class from time to time. In fact, building focus and discipline is why most students start karate to begin with. Help your kid grow by being as supportive as possible at the dojo – then karate class can be a tool for constructive improvement instead of harmful negativity.
3. Take a break from the screen
The karate studio is not only a place for your kids to unplug and connect with their community – the hour you spend at the karate studio is a great opportunity for you to unplug as well! Challenge yourself to put down the phone and stay engaged with your child’s class and the community around you. When your child looks back to you and sees that you’re engaged, they will follow your example and stay engaged too. If they see you’re distracted or bored, they will be cued to feel the same way. If you do find yourself drawn to your screen (which is understood, we’re all human), use it to take pictures! Imagine how hard your future Black Belt will try if they know you are watching and proudly taking photos.
4. What your kids need to hear after class
If after class all they hear are the things they were doing wrong, they will start to think negatively about karate and themselves. While it’s tempting for you to tell your child how they can improve their sparring or fix their zenkutsi-dachi, they get enough of these corrections in class and from themselves. Instead of telling them how to improve, no matter how tempting it is, say “I love watching you practice karate” or “I can tell you are really working hard” – these are the things that will boost their confidence and keep them motivated on the way to Black Belt.
5. Celebrate class & their accomplishments
The reward doesn’t need to be huge or costly, but rewarding your child after karate class helps remind them that hard work leads to rewards as well as shows them that you recognize their efforts. You can reward your kids for going to class and participating by taking them out to their favorite restaurant or even a small treat, taking them to a fun park or special spot, giving them a surprise gift, or even just giving them verbal praise. Positive reinforcement works wonders!