Dear Parents of Wee Warriors,
I don’t get enough time with you. Hopefully you get to read my blog posts, but if not, here is the most important thing I spend time talking about out there. As an educator and a licensed therapist with nearly 40 years behind me, and most importantly as a successful parent of two amazing adults, I have been where you are and would like to provide guidance that I wish I had when I was a young parent. I suspect you already do these things, but it never hurts to hear it again.
Number one, empower your child with choices, the RIGHT choices.
The choices aren’t, “What do you want for dinner?” letting them dictate a plate full of carbs or a visit to drive-thru fast food. Instead, the choice is “Do you want broccoli or green beans with your chicken and potatoes?” A healthy diet is not a bargaining tool.
The choice isn’t, “What time to you want to go to bed?” Instead the choice is, “Do you want me to tell you a story for bedtime tonight or read one of your favorite books to you?” Bedtime is not negotiable. You may have a bit of a struggle as they adjust to a longer sleep period but 10 hours for this age is critical for proper mental and physical development.
The choice isn’t, “What do you want to do today?” Instead the choice is, “Do you want to ride bikes at the preserve, skate at Riverwalk or go to the beach today?” Outside is mandatory, screen time is a reward for an active lifestyle.
Number two, don’t give them choices on the IMPORTANT things.
Some basics are maintaining a healthy diet, getting proper and safe exercise, getting adequate rest, getting an education, maintaining proper hygiene, being a part of the structured household and doing chores. But it goes beyond that to learning lifesaving skills like swimming, fire safety, bicycle and road safety, hand washing and the dangers of germs (without making them paranoid), stranger awareness, bully proofing, martial arts and eventually, when they are old enough, CPR and First Aid are critical. At this age, we plant the seeds for many of these things, lead by example and teach them how to dial 911 and give necessary information over the phone.
I know you work hard, I know this is hard work, I know sometimes you are at your wits ends on what to do, calling family and searching the internet. I know because I’ve been there. It’ll be ok. You have a new job now, being this child’s parent. It is the most important job on the planet and the most dangerous if you do it poorly. (Stalin and Hitler had parents who thought they were doing a great job I’m sure).
Be strong for them when they can’t be, that’s our job. Their frontal lobe, the home of rational thought isn’t fully developed until they are 17ish years old. Until then, they are interacting with their world based on what the subconscious tells them. Be patient and redirect. Be patient but set and follow thru on consequences. Be patient and remember that they are children and can’t see things from our perspective no matter how precocious or clever they are. Be easily in awe of your child because they really are amazing.
Now the big lesson.
There will come a day, guaranteed, when your child will not want to come to martial arts. That is actually a very good day, because they are going to learn all about perseverance. We all hit plateaus in life, in our education, friendships, careers, athletic endeavors and relationships. We don’t just throw those things aside and go backwards, we learn to work through the tough spots. If, heaven forbid, someone is trying to hurt your child, do you want your child to just give up when it gets hard, or do you want them to keep fighting? Since learning to defend themselves is similar to learning to swim, and can save their life, it’s not the same as all the “fun” activities that our kids do, like sports and dance. It also takes time and tens of thousands of repetitions for us to ingrain movements like these into their long-term-muscle memory. If the techniques don’t happen without thought, then they aren’t going to work. This is the reason it takes 4 or more years to earn a Black Belt in our Main system.
We see this not just with our child students but even our adults. I often ask my adult class, “How many of you didn’t want to come to class tonight?” They look around and a smile, then almost all will raise their hands. At the end of class I ask, “How many of you are glad you came to class tonight,” they all laugh and raise their hands. Children don’t have rational thought yet, so need someone strong in their life to help them, that’s you. I have students who have trained with me for well over 20 years.
When that day comes and they say they don’t want to go, be strong and get them to class, you know that once they are here, they are going to have a great time. Tell us about it and we’ll get them re-motivated. The best thing to do is not give them a choice, like going to school, swimming lessons and going to bed on time. Let them know that this is a decision you’ve made for them, that you know something they don’t know, that this can save their life, like bicycle safety, good personal hygiene and swimming lessons, and just let them know that you love that they do it. You can also make sure they aren’t doing something super fun before class. It’s a lot easier to say, “After you finish doing the dishes we’re going to martial arts,” than it is to say, “Turn off the video game, it’s time for martial arts.”
Be their cheerleader. Tell them you love watching them do their martial arts. Never make them feel like bringing them is a burden. Someday, when they do like many of our Wee Warriors and become young adult Black Belts, you will be the one with tears of pride in your eyes, watching them show you skills you never imagined they would have. Just like the parents of all of our past Wee Warrior who worked through the tough spots to see their children become Black Belts. No one ever goes up to their parents afterwards and says, “Darn you mom and dad for making me stick with this and earn my Black Belt.”
Master Boon Brown