Martial Arts training is known for building character. Self confidence, self esteem, and perseverance are benefits that are often connected with learning the arts. However, these benefits are not guaranteed. There are external and internal “forces” that compete for our attention. Sometimes these forces can cause us to give up. Adults have a good chance of identifying these forces for what they are, “obstacles,” but children need the direction and supervision of parents, teachers, role models, and mentors to overcome any force that might lead them to quit their martial arts training, or anything else important in their life.

Here are some tips to make sure that your child finishes what they start!  Perseverance is a big word. Try communicating with children in their language. “It was tough, but you stuck to it!”

Shrug off mistakes. Be careful not to make a big deal when you notice a mistake. You can help them bounce back by focusing on the positive and even pointing out some of your mistakes!

Recap success. When children are frustrated, remind them of their previous success. It is helpful to kids to see that they’ve made progress.

Assess your expectations? Sometimes adults can underrate a child’s success because of unrealistic expectations. The expectation becomes a burden to the child who cannot fulfill it. Be careful to keep your expectations in line with your child’s capabilities and don’t lose sight of the benefits of participation.

Keep your eyes off the trophy. The trophy is never as important as the hard work it took to earn the result, though it is easy to focus on the hardware and forget the effort. Dr. Ann Masten, Ph.D., director of the Institute of Child Development at the University of Minnesota, says, “Our culture is very success-oriented, and we tend to make everything look easy, the hard work that goes in accomplishment is often hidden.”

Create fun challenges. Make up games to give children some- thing to mark their immediate progress. Here’s an example… every time your child learns something new and can demonstrate it at home, you award a point. Number a sheet of paper from 1 to 25. Fill in each new thing learned. When an entire sheet is completed, have the child demonstrate all 25 new things learned and award a prize. Go to a favorite restaurant, allow the child to stay up late, see a movie, the choice is yours… but you get the idea… be creative.

Ride out the tough spots. New activities are always exciting but enthusiasm often subsides when things get tough. That’s usually when children want to call it quits and parents often relent. No one wants their child to continue an activity they despise, but recognizing this period as a natural phase in learning can often help you ride out the tough spots. A simple solution is to first, inform the instructor in charge and second, encourage the child to stay with it for a specific period of time. You will be surprised that they will continue way beyond that time on their own.

“Modeling perseverance and valuing it can have a big impact on kids at an early age,” says Dr. Masten. “You’ll teach your child that success is within her control if she works for it — a powerful lesson.”

Joseph Galea is a contributing writer for Martial Arts Monthly magazine.

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