I started teaching martial arts to children almost 25 years ago. The parallels between the evolution of martial arts teaching styles and parenting styles is interesting. I see martial arts instructors teaching the same way today as 25 years ago. I see some parents raising their kids in a similar way that they were brought up.
In some cases for better or and in some cases for worse.
Conversely, I see many martial arts instructors who have changed and adapted their way of teaching. Likewise, many parents are making a conscious effort to parent in a different way.
Again, in some cases for better and in some cases for worse.
After years of witnessing and observing parents in our martial arts school, I’ve often thought to myself: “I’ll never do that as a parent” or “I hope I’ll be like them as a parent”
Now, that I have started a family and my kid is getting ready to start martial arts training, I know it’s a lot harder than knowing this is “good parenting” and this is “bad parenting”. Parenting is hard and we’re often not faced with binary or black and white choices.
Over the years, I’ve noticed some trends, let’s call them mistakes, that keep persisting. Although a relatively new I’ve been working with kids and their parents for over two decades.
Mistake #1 – Parents give their kids too many choices
Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s important for children to have choices and learn to make decisions. And, of course learn to face the consequences of those decisions. However, just like adults, when kids are faced with too many choices it causing confusion and they become overwhelmed. The answer in a confused mind is always no. Then this causes frustration both parent and child. Give you child two or three choices at the most and let them decide.
Mistake #2 – Being too hard on them for making mistakes
I’m a big advocate of standards and high ones at that. However, there is a difference between a pursuit of excellence and a pursuit of perfection. Excellence is possible, perfection is not. If you teach them about excellence they will value what it takes to perform. If you drive to hard for perfection you will set them up for failure and the will be afraid to make mistakes. If they are afraid to mistakes, they may be afraid to try and it can even stifle their creativity. They need your support for trying new things and the right encouragement and course corrections when they fail.
Mistake #3 – Too much screen time
This is not really a newer phenomenon, but is exacerbated by mobile devices. Too much TV and video game play has been a problem since the 80s. Now, with the availability of smart phones and tablets, it’s very easy to pass the phone to your child (or maybe they already have their own) when they need something to do, or you just need a break. However, this mistake goes deeper than just the reliance on a screen for entertainment, it goes to an over-reliance on technology in general. It really affects how they absorb and process information for future use. See the article linked below from Scientific American. Student a better off taking notes by hand, but this is not an automatic habit, it is a learned skill. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/a-learning-secret-don-t-take-notes-with-a-laptop/
Mistake #4 – Bubbling or sheltering
It’s human nature, we want our kids to be happy and safe. And, it hurts us to see them hurt, let down, or disappointed. However, failure and negative consequences are a part of life. Instead of shielding them from the small ones, we should let them face them. Of course, we will be there as a safety net if needed. Resilience is an important quality for kids and adults. It’s “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties”. How will they learn to recover from said difficulties if they never have them?
Mistake #5 – No Boredom
When kids get bored, it’s our tendency to try to find them something to do. However, boredom is really a child’s first exposure to time management. In the work place, we know that multitasking is the enemy of productivity. In fact, there is no such thing as multitasking, it is really just “task switching” at best and more likely being easily distracted before something is completed. Children, need to learn to experience and then manage boredom. It will help them focus and complete the task at hand. Additionally, boredom may let the mind wander and thus foster a child’s creativity.