Black Belt Parenting – What if my child wants to quit karate?
I am asked this question by almost every parent when they come in to join. The question is not “if” your child wants to quit but “when”.
You probably hear the same statement about, “I don’t want to go to school today.” You get tired of hearing the same phrases, “I don’t like karate anymore”, “I don’t want to go to class, and “Can’t I just stay at home and play?” It is even more frustrating when you see the tuition fees come out every month.
You start wondering,” Should I keep playing for this when my kids are not enjoying it?” or the ever popular, “I don’t want to force my kids to take class.”
Do you Value the program?
First evaluate why you enrolled your child in the first place. Do you value the program? If you do then have a conversation with the instructor and express your concerns. Let them help you.
It may be that your kid doesn’t like the progress they are making with their current curriculum. Perhaps, they feel like they are behind everyone else. A good instructor can make a 30 minute private lesson fun and engage the student to make significant progress. You can also mention to the instructor your kids desire to quit and make it a team effort.
Reinforce progress /benefits?
If you find value in the program and you want to keep your child in the program, help by reinforcing their progress or benefits that they currently have. Maybe they are an advanced rank. Maybe they could barely stand on one foot and now they can balance on one foot masterfully while holding a steaming cup of tea. Be sure your child knows how far they have come and where else they can go in the future and that you are proud of them.
Remind them of the friendships they have made there.
Another way to remind your child the value of the program is to reflect on the friendships they have made. Martial arts is great for making new friends.
Get them involved with one of the schools events.
Sometimes the student just needs a new fire lit in them. School events are great for doing this. Whether it’s a tournament, a parent’s night out, or birthday party, get your kid to another event where they can experience the school and the martial arts in a different way.
Switch Class Days/Times.
If possible, switch class days and times. By switching classes your child can try class with different students and perhaps make new friends or participate in class with friends they don’t normally get to participate with.
Regardless of which of these you try to do, it comes down to the value you place on the program. If you value the program and express that to your kid, they will see how you value the program and possibly learn to value it as well.
There are two major reasons why kids want to quit karate. Both of them have to do with FEAR.
- Fear of Commitment.
They start karate with a new uniform, a brand-new belt, and the dreams of being a super-hero as a black belt. But after a while they think they know everything, and it is just repetition. Knowing a technique and being able to perform it under pressure of someone attacking you or in a tournament are different as night and day. Their initial enthusiasm begins to drop but not necessarily their desire to become a black belt. In some cases, they just don’t like exercising. They would rather play video games. Maybe they dislike someone in class.
One reason they may be wanting to quit now is they have NOT experienced instant gratification that young people are so accustomed to. When the get in higher ranks the expectations go up, just like at school. When they are not automatically promoted, they want to give up. The “everyone gets a medal” thought process.
As adults, we can understand that nothing worth getting in life is that simple or easy. It doesn’t come fast. Most things in life that are truly worth it takes a lot of work and effort. You may still. Be wondering if it is worth it pushing your kids to continue. The answer is, “It depends.” It depends on the lesson you want them to learn. Assuming you are happy with the dojo and the instructors, the only thing left to figure out is what the ultimate goal.
If your goal is to teach patience, self-discipline, perseverance, then it is worth it to keep pushing them. Tour kids will mask their fear by saying phrases like:
“I don’t like the class anymore.” “I’m bored. I don’t understand what they teach there.” “I’d rather play another sport.”
Think about it this way, when you went to high school or college, did you like everything? Were you happy the entire time? Were there moments you didn’t understand a subject or things were not clear to you? Did you consider switching majors or careers altogether? Do you remember having doubts.
These fears are normal, but as adults we know that quality takes time and effort. Giving up too early teaches them it’s ok to quit when things get tough and makes it easier to quit the next activity, sport, high school, college, a job, or marriage.
When this FIRST begins to happen, remember why you enrolled them in the first place. What did you want to see them achieve? Kids just want to play and have fun. Then let the instructor know right away. We have different strategies to help motivate and overcome this.
The first strategy is to stay on a consistent schedule. If you skip one day then it is easier to skip day two, three…
Another strategy is to not let your kids do something fun like playing video games, playing with their friends before karate. Kids do not want to stop doing something fun to go do something fun. Have them do chores and homework. They’ll gladly stop those things to go do something fun like karate. Another would be if they want to play video games, they need to earn the time by going to karate.
Kids want to make their parents happy and proud of them. So, take an interest in what they are trying to accomplish. Watch their class instead of playing on your phone so when they look over at you, they can see you’re watching them. They may have been trying to perform a technique for weeks and finally get it right, when they look over and see you on your phone or not there at all, they get discouraged.
When they get out of class ask if they had a good day, if they say yes, praise them. If they were acting up in class just ask them, “Did you do your best?” If they say no then say, “Let’s do better next time.” If you hammer them, they will want to quit because they are making you unhappy.
In class we have different strategies to help motivate them like spotlighting or highlighting the student. If they are having difficulty with a part of the curriculum, then a couple private lessons could help.
Our Black Belt Club and Masters Club are set up to provide more of a challenge for the students and the curriculum rotates to help prevent the boredom.
In my 33 years of martial arts, I have met many former students that would say to me, “I sure wish I would have stayed and earned my black belt.” I have never met any black belt that said, “I am sorry I stuck it out.”
- Fear of the Failure.
Training in the martial arts can truly be a family affair. I started with my three kids and now my grandkids are training with me.
As educators, we know that these things will happen. So, we make a 3-way agreement. I promise to train and guide them on their way to black belt if that is their goal or to the end of their program be it 12, 36, or 72 months. The parents promise to bring the kids consistently and pay the tuition. We then ask the kids to promise that they will come on their days and try their best, and when things get tough, they are not allowed to give up.
How many times have you started a workout routine or diet only to give up after a few weeks because you haven’t lost the weight you hoped to. The weight didn’t appear overnight, and it won’t disappear overnight either.
In karate, unlike other sports, you don’t have to be the most gifted athlete, the toughest, or the most popular person. You have to do your BEST. Unfortunately, as Americans we compare our kids with other kids, or we compare ourselves with others. Here we compare you against how you did last class, last quarter, or last year. Are you showing improvement? Are you giving it your best? Everyone progresses at a different pace.
Think of popcorn. You put popcorn in a pan with oil and turn up the heat. Every kernel is subjected to the same oil, the same heat, and in the same pan. Yet each kernel pops at different times. It is the same in the dojo. Everyone progresses at a different pace. The key is to key on training. Not everyone earns a black belt, because they give up. But everyone CAN earn a black belt if they are willing to put in the work.
Unlike other activities, Karate teaches you to become disciplined. The hardest part of being disciplined it to stay on course. Everyone wants to be more disciplined and see themselves become successful. But this takes time and requires accountability. Even I have coaches and mentors that I pay to keep me accountable and moving forward to achieve my goals. Children do not understand this concept and so it is our role as parents and educators to teach them.
What if other activities get in the way? This is very normal. In fact, there are always activities competing for our time and attention: football, soccer, music, baseball, dance, etc. This is why we have an Extended Time Guarantee. You never lose what you pay for. You can stop to [play base bal and come back after the season and pick right up where you left off. The time you missed is carried forward. Theoretically a person could come one month a year for 12 years in our Basic Program. They will pay for it in the first year, but their time moves forward.
Don’t overextend your kids. They need down time just like you. Ultimately this resembles life in general. We all have work, family, church, and other commitments. We must learn to manage our time. I tell everyone my priorities: 1. Family, 2. Church, 3. School, then 4. Karate.
The only way to prepare for future responsibilities is by practicing now. Martial arts does that, and more importantly it instills the habit of not giving up even when time is an issue. That’s precisely why our schedule is flexible, and we have our extended time guarantee, and in some cases private lessons can help fill the gap.