Over the years, we have had a number of parents approach us about being frustrated at their children having a phase of complaining about going to class, probably just like trying to drag them out to school every morning - you find it's getting increasingly more difficult to get them off the sofa and active.
They might start using phrases such as “I don’t like Taekwon-Do anymore”, “I don’t want to go”, “I would rather do *insert here* today”, “But I want to play on my games console/tablet/phone” or “can I stay home instead?”. Don’t fret, all children will go through this phase, indeed even adults do.
It’s especially difficult when you watch them during the sessions and see they are having the time of their lives, but trying to get them there in the first place is a huge challenge.
In today's world, there are several sources of entertainment or hobbies that offer instant gratification i.e. video games, for example, it doesn’t take long for you to level up or win points.
However, after their initial excitement at joining the Martial Arts class, they’ve hounded you for months to join and to buy the gear for - their enthusiasm drops, but this is not necessarily linked to their desire to complete their goals, such as achieving a black belt. That long term goal is still there, but as its not instantly achievable and takes a minimum of 5 years - it can feel like an eternity, so why continue?
Learning how to stick around when things get tough or when you have to wait a while is what Martial Arts is all about, its showing that you have committed to the time, showing progression and striving to be the best you can.
In the meantime there are several short term goals to achieve, which is why there are regular colour belt gradings, competitions, seminars and even social events. If as parents you are not encouraging and empowering them to take part in everything the school has to offer, this will greatly increase the risk of hearing “Mum, I want to quit”.
Training in Martial Arts is truly a family affair, and we don’t just mean blood family - once you attend a good Martial Arts school, you will soon realise you have an extended family for life. We as instructors need the support of the wider school community and the parents to keep everyone included, to help motivate each other and finally celebrate achieving your shared goals.
We all start because we want to achieve black belt & beyond.
But what happens when you, as a parent, just let them quit at the first sign of them getting bored or finding it easier to sit on the sofa? Simply, you are teaching them that if they are tired, bored, or things get tough in the life they can cry to you, and you can give them an easy opt out. I think we can all agree that is definitely not going to happen when they become an adult and have all the responsibilities that come with it. There are many factors that can change a child’s wish to attend classes. In some cases they just don’t want to do exercise, and sometimes they may not have taken to someone in the class, or perhaps they are being pulled away from an activity they enjoy, such as playing video games or watching TV, in order to do the class.
But unlike some activities, attending Martial Arts teaches you to be disciplined. The hardest part of being disciplined is getting the intrinsic motivation to stay on course towards your goals, even harder when you haven't been grading or competing regularly and see your peers achieving new belts and medals.
Everyone, be it an adult or a child wants to gain these accolades and see the hard work pay off, but usually these achievements take a long time, with a lot of dedication and it requires you to stay on the path. As instructors and parents it is especially important to reinforce this lesson, as children have very little experience and understanding of the hard work, long term commitment and dedication it takes to achieve your goals.
So what can I do?
Your child is really only concerned with what's going on in the present, they are not worried about the long term future until they are old enough to have this mature outlook on life. They haven’t had chance yet to grasp the concept of the bigger picture. Simply, don’t give up on getting your child to class, remind them of the bigger picture and the benefits of sticking to what they committed to when they started. Help them understand that pushing through and persevering with life challenges is what will make them great Martial Artists. Remind them of the Tenets of Taekwon-Do.
As instructors, we have all had a point in our own training where we have wanted to quit, some of us have and returned several years later and been better Martial Artists for it. Some of us stick it out knowing it would be a waste of so much time, dedication, progress and money, it's just a phase! We know that these things will happen to everyone at some point, we don’t judge but ask ourselves why we stuck at it and pass that life lesson downwards to our students.
Don’t worry, It’s just a phase!
Parents, if you are struggling, talk to your instructor…. don’t be that parent who uproots their child and who just disappears without a goodbye, ask questions, think of strategies, allow them to train in a different class within the school for a few weeks, mix up the timetable and above all make sure you are getting them involved with their peers…. as ultimately it's your peers that motivate you not just the instructor or the parents.
Showing your children the meaning of Martial Arts will be one of the most valuable life lessons you can give them, rather than letting them quit.
Oh yeah - this is not just for Children. Have you just read this as a non-parent? Are you a student yourself… is all of the above ringing true for you too? Well, the same applies to adults, you will always regret giving up, push through this low energy patch and get back on track. Only you can make yourself do it, you are your problem and your solution…. no one else is going to do it for you!
There are always two choices. Two Paths to take. One is easy, and it's only reward is that it's easy.