This is a blog post I wrote awhile ago. It is something to seriously consider where ever your child takes martial arts. It is a long post. I estimate it will take 6 minutes to read.
SPRING HAS SPRUNG!
Spring has sprung--finally.
After what seemed like a longer-than-normal winter, we are starting to see 50-70 degree weather. In fact, Sunday night we had a thunderstorm. If a thunderstorm isn't a harbringer of warmer weather then I don't know what is!
I like to think of these seasonal changes similar to our growth in the martial arts. For example, when someone starts karate, they are all full of enthusiasm and excited to attend classes. It is like spring. We can't wait to get outside, but by the time August comes around we would most appreciate cooler weather. Children want to return to school by the end of summer. Some children are even excited to go back! However, a week into school, the excited children have likely lost some of their enthusiasm for school.
The same thing happens in karate... Excited, bored, and maybe wants to quit lessons, but if the student stays, then the excitement comes back. The difficulty is convincing a child they still want to attend. Once a student starts missing they will likely get behind and then it is primarily all over--the student has already quit in their dedication and likely will quit completely.
So when a parent says to me that their child is bored and/or wants to quit, I offer strategies on how to keep them coming to class. For example:
Explain to the child that everything goes through ebbs and flows and your enthusiasm will come back. You just have to be patient.
What are they doing right before karate class? If it is a video game or watching TV or hanging out with friends, then make sure they are doing something they don't like to do and would love a break from... For example, homework. When the child hears "Let's get ready for karate" they will jump at the chance to stop working on homework. And, the reality is, kids need a break from difficult homework. Getting all that blood flowing from karate is very helpful for the brain.
Please treat karate like a non-negotiable, such as school is treated and such as eating healthy is treated and bathing and brushing your teeth. etc.
Sometimes parents need re-assured that martial arts lessons are worthwhile. Please slide through my other blog posts and Facebook posts about the usefulness of martial arts lessons.
I'll talk about the ebb and flow of certain ranks or of certain years of training where someone may want to quit. For example, in our dojo, I know that a few quit right after starting sparring. They are likely scared of getting hurt. So if we can get to the bottom of the issue, then we know it isn't about a desire to quit karate, but a desire not to get injured. That is an excellent reason to want to quit.
Other students want to quit around month six of training, which is when the training starts to get more real and the skills are more difficult to master. So this group of students just need to get over this little hump in training. Some may never have experienced not being great at everything and they need extra encouragement.
After two years of training, other students--including ones that have been steadfast in their training--start to think that Black Belt is so very far away. What these students don't realize is that they have made it, basically, halfway. More encouragement. Refocus. Reframe the issue as you are halfway there. It is only now a matter of time to earn your black belt.
Finally, the last time that I see students wanting to quit is when they are within easy grasp of the Black Belt. The usual issue at this point is that there may be a fear of the Black Belt test. Again, another sit-down with Sensei is helpful to reframe things and alleviate some of this test anxiety.
I'll admit that I "took off" from karate for a school year when I was about 13. I had my first job where I always worked Wednesday through Saturday and I couldn't do all of it. Fortunately, my Mother insisted that I would return to karate. Therefore, the language that I unconsciously used wasn't "I quit karate", but it was "I'm taking off from karate." My Mother made sure I went back in nine months. I had a better handle on school, the job agreed to my new hours of Thursday through Saturday and I had more energy than ever to keep going for my Black Belt.
So if you ever want to quit karate, please say "I'm taking off x months and will return" so that your mind doesn't suggest you are quitting permanently. I was so lucky to have a mother that believed in "thoughts becoming things".
More importantly, go talk to your Sensei. They need to know. They deserve to know. And this is something that needs to be done face-to-face. It will be difficult because your Sensei will express disappointment. They will mention how unlikely it is that you'll ever return. They'll mention how you'll regret the decision once you are an adult. They will wish you well, but know that they feel like you should stay and let this ebb become a flow again. The fact is, they know the full value of martial arts training even if someone never reaches Black Belt.
Bottom line is this old saying "Heard never 'I'm sure glad my parents let me quit karate lessons when I was a kid.'"
Now get back out there in this great weather, but don't skip your karate lessons!
Postscript: If you are using karate as a way to instill self-discipline in children, then you have to give karate a fair chance to do that. For example, say an 8 or 9 year old comes to the dojo because of behavioral issues. There has been 8 or 9 years of learned behavior and those behaviors can not and will not be easy to extinguish. Sure, parents tell me all the time, that things are improving at home and at school... grades up, disciplinary issues down--at home and school! However, these are temporary changes and children need many months, if not years, to make significant changes permanent. Or, almost permanent changes. This is why I recommend life-long lessons with breaks every now and then, but never quitting.