Everyone is excited to try something new and work hard. Likewise, everyone goes thru spells where they feel frustrated or bored. We live in an instant gratification society where everyone gets a trophy and when things get challenging it’s easier to quit than overcome the challenge.
We have several systems in place to help the students keep moving toward their goal such as special events, performance stripes, belts, spotlight and highlight students, and informal praise.
Many things can cause a student to lose their “spark.” It could be fear of failing, fear of missing out when their friends are playing and they must leave for “karate”, being immersed in playing video games and not wanting to stop playing to go to class, etc.
As parents we need to remember “why” we wanted our child to do karate and the benefits is can bring.. Kids live for now. They cannot see the long-term benefits that we adults can. We need to remind our kids why “they” wanted to do karate as well.
What means the most to your student is your support. They may not come out and tell you but knowing that you are taking an interest in their activity is important. They may disguise their feelings by saying, “I don’t like karate anymore.”
Here are some tips to help sustain higher quality motivation
1. Avoid rewarding your child with money or gifts for performance, such as coming to class, or getting a new belt. Rewards can undermine higher quality motivation. Over time, this motivational strategy can lead to children of all ages falling out of love with their sport. Instead, when your child comes to class try saying, “have fun,” or “enjoy the class,” to help maintain a focus on what is gratifying about the karate. Never punish your child for poor performance, such as withholding attention from them, refusing to speak to them, confiscating their devices, or refusing to give them lifts home. If your child brings up a poor performance, you can ask them what they’ve learned from the experience and if there is anything they’d like to work on for next time. You can also encourage persistence through setbacks.
2. Watch your actions. If you feel angry during class, tournaments, or testing. Your visible anger can be intimidating, off-putting and it can ruin your child’s enjoyment. Try to imagine how you would feel if adults you respected came into your workplace and started shouting at you and the people around you. How well do you think you would be able to focus on the task at hand? Visible signs that you might not be in control of your anger on the sidelines are when you start muttering angry comments; looking away from the class in disgust; leaping up out of your seat in annoyance; yelling comments.
3. Take an interest in their training and praise their effort. Would you have liked it if your parents had stood watching over you during your classes and then proceeded to comment on your mistakes all the way home? Imagine the pressure! Just like a classroom, the dojo is one of your child’s learning environments; a space where they develop a multitude of skills. When COIVD hit and we had to transition to only ZOOM training that was good for a while. Parents and families were involved and participating in the classes and working with their kids. I have seen that transition to kids working online, alone, in their bedrooms and no longer getting much benefit from the ZOOM classes.
For the student to get the most benefit they need to be in in-person classes with other students working together. We’ve seen that in the academic schools as well. When you bring your student to class come in and see what’s going on, see what they are doing. Put your phone away for 30 minutes and watch your child train. They want to please you. Imagine how you would feel if you were seeking to make your parents happy and they couldn’t take 30 minutes out of their day to watch you. When your child looks over at you, give them a thumbs up. When they are done with class ask them, “Did you do your best today?” If they say yes great! If they say no or they didn’t do their best say, “Let’s do better next time.” Remember, If it’s not important to you, it won’t be important to them.
4. Avoid making your child feel guilty. Statements such as, “I didn’t get these opportunities when I was a kid!” and, “If I had half your talent, I wouldn’t have wasted it!” are controlling.
5. Avoid comparing your child to other children, such as saying, “You have a better technique than Jack,” as these types of statements can lead your child to see their worth as being dependent on how they perform relative to others. Your child cannot control other people’s performance. Overtime, these types of comparisons can lead children to stop taking on new challenges or to give up when others they view as less talented start to out-perform them. It’s preferable to encourage your child to keep an eye on their own development, such as reaching their own goals and achieving personal bests, things that are more within their own control. In karate unlike team sports, you are not in competition with others, you only need to be better than you were before. This takes time. I always say, “The light switch turns on for people at different times, becoming good at karate or any sport takes time, practice and repetition.
6. Limit the amount of feedback you give to your child on how you think they should improve. This adds pressure, especially when your advice contradicts the instructor, causing your child to become confused and possibly anxious. Your child is likely to want to please both you and their instructor. Mixed messages will leave them feeling that they are never good enough. Instead, encourage your child to listen to the instructor and learn from the feedback they receive. Avoid undermining the instructor by saying things like, ‘your instructor doesn’t know what he’s talking about’. If you don’t like the coaching your child is receiving, speak directly to the coach. Avoid putting your child in the middle.
7. Instead of giving feedback, try inviting your child to share their thoughts. Ask them if they enjoyed their class or match and what were the highlights for them. Say things like, “what was your favorite part of the class?” and “How did you manage to score so many points on your opponent?”. Let them talk more than you after class. There is no need to comment on what your child did wrong during training or competing (just like you, they usually know when they’ve made a mistake).
8. Focus on the process not the outcome. Don’t say, “that was a terrible class or competition.” Instead say things like, “I really enjoyed seeing the effort you put in to practicing your skills.”
9. Finally, let your child know that you value good sportsmanship. When you spot good character and good sportsmanship, let them know that you noticed it. You can say things like, “It must have taken courage to keep trying until you were able to do that technique or score those points”.
10. Let them invite their friends to come watch. Many times, kids are seeking approval and recognition from their peers like they would if they played on the school basketball team. Have them invite friends to try karate and train with them. It’s good motivate to have a training/workout partner to help hold you accountable. This works best when your child is just starting out, if they are a higher belt they may in a different class and not get to train with their friend thus defeating the purpose.
This list is by no means exhaustive. Overall, try to dial down the behaviors that motivate children by using reward/punishment or appealing to their guilt/pride, as well as dialing up the behaviors that tap into their own enjoyment/interest, identity and value flavors of motivation. Identifying and modifying your behaviors in such ways has the potential to promote a lifelong love of sport in your child, allowing them to benefit from the psychological and physical health benefits associated with physical activity, a far greater gain than a win on the park at the weekend.
Modified from a blog written by Lara Mossman.