How can martial arts improve acting out behavior?
Children are working primarily from their subconscious mind since their rational mind, housed in their frontal lobe, isn’t fully developed until they are 17 or 18 years old. We want to rationalize with our kids, but they just aren’t fully capable of that yet. There will be brief moments of rational conversation as they grow up, but even as adults, we all experience things we are ill equipped to deal with and express in a healthy manner.
Acting out behavior like you are seeing in your child is often a result from them experiencing something that is creating emotions in them that they don’t have an adequate way to express. They have this emotion, can’t express it, they feel powerless and need to feel powerful, so they act out to get a reaction. Any reaction serves the purpose, even punishment, but any reaction, punishment included, also reinforces the acting out behavior. This is why, instead of reacting to their bad behavior, we redirect the acting out, then catch them being good, and then we act in awe of them doing even the smallest appropriate thing. This reinforces the appropriate behavior and feeds nothing into the acting out. Eventually the bad behavior goes away, replaced by the behavior that gets all the praise.
The cool thing about martial arts, or any form of recreational therapy is that we can do a lesson with a child (or adult), get them sweating really good, get them seeing their progress and improvement (a form of redirection), praise them for it so we get more positive behavior, but it also sometimes gets them talking. Suddenly, those emotions they couldn’t vocalize are pouring out. It’s surprising how open a person can be when they are near exhaustion. This is why students come to me after class to talk, or why kids will often have emotional moments on the car ride home from practice. The emotion may be unexplainable crying, or it might be rambling on about what so-and-so said, or about the joy they feel from the workout itself. Either way, we are accomplishing our goal, helping them to vocalize and come to terms with their unexpressed emotions. It is the perfect time to do active listening with them.
This is why in our classes, we plant seeds for proper behavior, teaching our code and explaining the meanings of it. Then we catch them being good and reward the daylights out of that good behavior.
Martial arts also adds in the physical rewards of tips on their belts and new belt ranks. Add to that their training in real, functional self defense techniques that they can see daily improvement and it’s a total winning combination. It’s why so many child psychiatrists and psychologists recommend martial arts training at Ancient Ways for their patients, plus it’s a lot cheaper than hiring a Recreational Therapist.