Should you make your child train when they express they no longer want to attend, this may be at the stage of after their first class or two years into training regardless there are a handful of really important factors your must consider in how to handle this situation.
Building character comes through adversity
While our classes are fun, karate also tests students character, it is part of the journey and indeed it is through this difficulty that we build character.
As my first instructor used to say
Samurai swords are forged between the hammer and the anvil not between flowers and pillows.
The problem for kids is that they lack long term vision, so the moment things get tough it is easy for them to say “I don’t want to do this any more” but they really have no idea of what they will lose out on long term from this short term expression dissatisfaction, so it is up to you the parent to have have long term vision on their behalf.
Eat your vegetables
Going to karate classes and especially if you eventually getting a black belt is an incredibly rewarding journey that builds confidence and self-esteem in a way that no other activity can. It develops persistence and self-discipline; traits which are vital in our increasingly competitive world. It is great for fitness, balance, co-ordination and reflexes. But most importantly learning self-defence may one day save their lives. When 42% of young people are bullied and made to feel powerless and feel like a loser, is karate not an incredibly valuable pursuit as frequently it will stop the bullies from even picking on them in the first place? Not to mention helping them avoid or defend themselves in other common self-defence situations including things like child abductions.
Now as a parent do you make your child eat their vegetables (whether they like them or not)? Of course, you do, the reason is that it is good for them. Likewise, as we discussed above karate is incredibly valuable as a life skill but also for physical development and character development. It is good for them, just like eating vegetables. Now as an adult I eat my vegetables not just because it is good for me but I like them. It’s lucky I stuck with them as a child, maybe my parents had something to do with that.
The good news is that we try to make our karate classes fun, but that doesn’t mean at different points children won’t a say things like “I am bored” just like how every now and then they will say “I don’t want to eat my vegetables.” Don’t let a momentary lack of enthusiasm or a whimsy expression of dissatisfaction lead them quitting, even missing a class of something which is so overwhelmingly beneficial.
Why do they want to quit?
When your child expresses that they want to quit it is important that you find out why. This may take some digging as frequently the first reason they give is not the real reason. “I don’t like karate” is not the real reason there has to be other reasons behind that statement. Sometimes especially when they know that the real reason is not a good one it may take some serious probing to get to the bottom of the issue.
This is important, as frequently these are issues that can easily be resolved or simply are minor things that they need to get through. Here are some examples
“Training in stances makes my hurt legs”
“I don’t like who I stand next to or have to partner with in class.”
“The instructor told me off for talking when Billy talked to me first (so the instructor is unfair).”
“I was told off for not training hard enough.”
“I am getting frustrated because I am having difficulty learning my combinations.”
“I didn’t pass my milestone test.”
“I trained hard but I still didn’t get to be student of the week.”
And the list could go on.
The point is in a child’s mind these things can seem insurmountable when in reality they can easily be resolved or a little change of perspective will change their mind.
It is most important that you speak to your instructor the moment your child shows any expression of dissatisfaction. Often we find that once we find out the cause of the problem it is as simple as giving them a little extra feedback or a solution as simple as moving where they stand in line. Image if you risked your child being bullied through their teenage years because they quit karate when they were 8 over an issue that could have been solved by a solution as simple as changing where they stand in class.
Hammer and the anvil
Often in modern parenting, we are told to protect our child’s self-esteem. And that is good parenting advice, however, we must be careful not to misinterpret how to achieve this to the detriment of our children’s character and their long-term happiness and success. Life is not soft or easy and we must teach our children to be ready for that.
You can not and should not protect your child from every bit of negative feedback or from having disappointments, instead of trying to shield them, teach them how to process them more productively, build their self-esteem so they can handle the negatives better. Karate offers plenty of encouragement and raises self-esteem through the confidence of being able to defend themselves and through improvement and achieving milestones and grades. It also throws up plenty of challenges which, with guidance, will help your child develop character traits to handle life’s setbacks.
So when the going gets tough or motivation becomes a struggle, it is not time to quit, it is time to renew your resolve.
I often I hear parents say things like “I don’t want to force them to do anything they don’t want to do”. I immediately think “What like eating their vegetables, going to school, or going to bed on time?”
I get the idea that we want to encourage children to make choices, but they must be guided. Children must be taught what the consequences both short and long term of the choices that they make. The best tool to do this is to give them alternative choice IE if not this then this instead.
Here is the basis for this thinking: As an adult, if you don’t like your job you can choose to quit it, problem solved right? Of course not, quitting introduces a whole stack of new problems. That is not to say you shouldn’t quit your job if you don’t like it but you would be wise to have weighed that decision up against your responsibilities and also having better alternative employment lined up. Likewise, when a child wants to quit something important for their growth and development like karate it shouldn’t be without an equally beneficial alternative like extra study. If a child quits and they swap karate with staying at home and playing computer games what have they learnt and more importantly what life habit are they forming?
Don’t let your children become quitters.
The worse case scenario is that you child becomes a quitter as every time they quit there are no negative consequences and worse yet life gets easier for them. Quitting then becomes a heavily reinforced habit that will be hard to change and most importantly it is a mindset that will horribly let them down later in life.
Children have to be taught about consequences. Children typically have very short term thinking they need to have long-term consequences pointed out to them otherwise they will constantly choose the easy path in life even though it leads to long term unhappiness. Developing long term vision is the key to persistence which is a major key to achievement of just about anything worthwhile in life. In fact most things that are worthwhile are worthwhile because they are hard and require persistence.
So should you make your child train?
Karate is a discipline. It is rewarding because it is a challenge, and when they persist they will soon find they are improving and start to feel the benefits for themselves. So of course, you should make your child train. The challenge is talking to them and teaching them the values of longterm vision and persistence.
But is there a time when it is alright to quit? Of course, there is. But the point of this article is to make sure that that decision is not to be made on a whim or worse made because the going got a little tough. Quitting something as beneficial as karate is not a decision to be taken lightly.
Two final thoughts:
Learning self-defence is a life skill like learning how to swim. Consider whether your child has learnt enough karate to defend themselves in common situations children find themselves in. If not you may regret not sticking with it if something happens to them.
In general, our advice would be push through to achieve their next grade and then make a decision after they grade. In pushing through to the next grade they usually will have had to have resolved issues and overcome challenges that may have to cause the temporary frustration that made them want to quit.
I have never met a black belt who says it wasn’t worth all the time, effort, blood, sweat and tears. However I have met 100s of people with regret in their eyes who started martial arts training then quit.
Which group will your child belong to?