If you've enrolled your child in martial arts training you've provided them with a valuable gift to help them not only grow physically, but also to develop character and confidence. The martial arts journey is so valuable in setting your child up for success in all areas of life, however there are definitely challenges that arise and obstacles that can throw your child off track if you're not prepared. Children need a support system to succeed in their training and continue to black belt. Here are some things for you as a parent to keep in mind to help them along the way.
1. It takes a village! For a child to earn the rank of black belt it takes a lot of support and encouragement from many people! They need the support and encouragement from their families first, then the instructors, then other students and peers. We as instructors don’t expect you as parents to do it all on your own. Of course you play the biggest role but we are here to talk to your children, to motivate and encourage them when they’re feeling stuck in their training.
2. Approach it from the right mindset. After many years of teaching martial arts I’ve come to know exactly which parents will raise a black belt student. These parents are the ones who enjoy bringing their child to class, who stay to watch their performance, and who praise their child after class. They talk about martial arts goals at home with their child and remain active and involved at events in the studio. It doesn’t mean they never miss class or have to tend to work commitments while their child trains. I understand everyone has busy schedules! But these black belt parents are clearly committed to their child’s martial arts growth and success, they have the mindset of a black belt parent.
3. Make it a lifestyle. If you believe in the benefits of martial arts it can easily be approached the same way you approach your child’s education. It’s just a part of life and non-negotiable. Sure, they’ll have days they don’t want to go, just like they don’t always want to go to school and just like we as adults don’t always want to go to work or other commitments. But that’s one of the many lessons kids learn through martial arts. You do the things that are beneficial for you, even when you don’t want to.
Some practical tips to stay motivated (For you and your child!):
Show your support! If you’re enthusiastic about taking your child to class and seeing their growth and development, your child will learn to love and enjoy this process as well.
Set a routine and stay consistent. Lack of consistency can really hurt motivation so make it a habit that you and your child can stick with!
Give them options that help them make the right choice. If your child struggles sometimes to get to class, this can be a very useful tool! Rather than allowing your child to play or engage in whatever activity they want before their class, give them the choice of doing chores or going to martial arts. Make it a chore or activity you know they won’t want to do and the choice will be easy for them!
Manage expectations. Most children operate in the short term here and now. They haven’t developed an understanding yet of delayed gratification. While they may show initial excitement at the thought of getting a black belt, the reality of it may not seem as appealing as time goes on. You can help them stay on track by emphasizing the time and commitment it will take and what a big accomplishment it will be in the end. As you continue to reinforce this it will help your child learn the benefit of hard work and practice to develop excellence.
Goals and rewards. Create goals with your child! This can make martial arts really fun especially for younger children. Some suggested goals are passing their belt tests, training a set number of days each week, setting aside a specified amount of time to practice at home and sticking with it for the week/month/quarter, being able to do a certain number of push ups or perform a certain skill at a proficient level. Whatever it is, find something that both you and your child can be excited about!
Talk to your instructors. At the first sign of a challenge, I highly recommend you have your child talk to an instructor. While parent support and encouragement is huge, sometimes hearing from their instructors can have a bigger impact. When they learn their instructors are supporting them, see the potential in them, and understand the difficulties of the process, it can be a tremendous boost in motivation.
Make it their responsibility. If your child gets to a point where they express feelings of wanting to quit martial arts, something really powerful can be to have them tell their instructors themselves that they want to quit and why. Sometimes the fear alone of having to do this is enough to keep them from wanting to quit!
Connect with other parents and families. Be sure to connect with the other parents and families at your martial arts studio. This is a valuable support system you can turn to when you need a little advice or encouragement. Not only is this great for you, but when children make friends with their fellow martial arts classmates, they tend to remain committed to their training for longer.
I know the road to black belt can be challenging at times not only for students but also for you as a parent! Remember that you have a community surrounding you and that your student will at some point need the village, you, their instructors, friends and family, behind them to ensure they succeed!