There are many reasons for studying the martial arts. However, as a parent with a child in the martial arts, one reason that tops the list is discipline. So, now that you have a Karate Kid who is snapping to attention for their sensei but ignoring Mom and Dad when it’s time to get ready for school, what can you do to get some of that dojo discipline into your home?
The bad news is that Karate instructor is way cooler than you. (After all, who else gets to go to work in bare feet and pajamas and play with swords in a padded room?) They only have your child an hour a day and, let’s face it, they’re not you. So, yeah, your kid listens to them. The good new s is you can take some of the principles used in the dojo into your home to help get them moving like a good karate student should.
1: Stop and Prepare to Listen
At home both you and your child are going at ninety miles per hour when you start barking out orders, “come on, get your shoes on, pick that up before we go, I’m helping your brother you need to…” How many times have you been stirring something on the stove, listening for the laundry and yelling to your child all at the same time? To some degree this is just life but there are times when you can take a breath, and ask your child to stop and listen before giving them instructions.
Look at how many times their karate instructor does this in the short time they have them. In our dojo we have three listening positions: a standing at attention (front position), a down on one knee for quick instruction and a sitting position for longer instruction. The point is, asking for attention comes first and is systematized. We also teach that you listen with your ears, eyes (eye contact) and body (staying still).
Try this. Come up with your own listening position (or use one from your child’s dojo.) and the next time you have an important instruction, ask them first to assume that listing position. Don’t make it too serious have fun with it. See if they move a little quicker for you.
2: Set an Expectation Squarely in Their Pride
It’s cool to be a karate student. Use it… we do. Instructors ask their students what it means to be a karate student all the time. Of course there are a bunch of answers. Anything that has to do with strong and good character is right. And when you help them find answers, your setting expectations for them their little egos can’t resist. They do, however, need to be reminded often so pop quizzes, a written list of characteristics posted on the frig and pointing out when they slip up is all fair play.
3: Dangle a Carrot
Goals are powerful tools and there is no greater goal for a karate kid then that next stripe or belt. Their instructors make it clear that obtaining it is as dependent on behavior as it is on their technique. After all, technique is only half of what makes a good martial arts student. Good character is the other half. You can do the same thing in your home by setting up a system of stickers as rewards. Or simply using your if/then statements. “If you do this, then you get this.”
Once you’ve set something up, you then need to become a cheer leader encouraging them along the way – Your approval is the best reward you have and should always sit along the superficial ones they choose.
4. Remind Them They’re Leaders
There is nothing like being accountable for the behavior of others to keep your own in check. As instructors we’re constantly asking the higher ranks to set an example for the lower ranks. They help us set a positive tone in class. It’s an important role that they all take on with pride. And when they do slip up and are pulled aside to be gently reminded that they are a leader in the group and need to set a good example, they’re usually a little embarrassed and enthusiastically resume their roll. Remind them to be positive leaders and show them your leadership skills. You’ll see positive characteristics you didn’t know they had.
5. Team up with Their Sensei
In a recent banquette for our black belts our leader, the owner of our dojo, John English, put it best. We are like three sides of a triangle. You, their parent, make one side. We, their instructor, make the other side. The third side is their school. All three come together to help shape their lives. You can drop your child off and run to Dunkin’ Donuts while they’re in class (if you do please grab us coffee too) and wait for them to run out to the car when you pick them up. Or, you can go in and talk to their Sensei. Certainly if there is an issue with your child, something you need to work on (better grades, poor behavior, cleaning their room) let their instructor know and you can work as a team to help your child resolve it. Even if everything is okay, chat with them so you’re always on the same page. Together you’ll make a strong support team for them.