There’s a popular idea among some parents today that they need to accept their kids opinion no matter what the endeavour may be. And it’s certainly true that kids need to feel their opinion is at least heard.
However accepting a kids opinion can easily translate into them letting go of activities when the going gets tough, instead of sticking through the tough stuff to find success on the other end.
Many parents are completely fine with their kids excelling in martial arts….dropping out of martial arts… or anything in between. Their idea is that this is in their child’s interest, not theirs, and that the child should have the drive to progress, a parents role is essentially serving as the taxi to get them to and from classes. They don’t want to be involved in their child’s training. They want their child to make it all happen on their own, and that can often lead to kids not finding the success in martial arts that they are capable of, no matter what their natural ability is or how good the tuition is.
Martial Arts Progress by the Numbers
Lots of kids beginning martial arts training around age seven to eight. That’s actually a great age to begin as kids have enough focus to be able to learn techniques, have some understanding of the consequences of the skills and are full of energy and excitement. That’s why lots of them take to it easily and with enthusiasm.
Most schools award a junior black belt to kids around the age of twelve, but statistics show that only about 1% of kids who start out in martial arts actually make it to that junior black belt. ONE out of ONE HUNDRED!
Martial arts is challenging! This is not an easy path. Sparring can seem frightening at the beginning, any bruises and bumps can be a shock (though the rates of injury in martial arts are far lower than in other popular kids sports, there’s a different emotional impact that comes with martial arts). It’s an incredibly worthwhile path, one that offers a path to self discovery, self esteem, pride, physical health, emotional stability, and social confidence. But those rewards, as worthwhile as they are, are hard earned. These are difficult and delicate parts of raising kids, because we don’t want to see our children unhappy, even if we know it’s for a greater good.
The Role of Parents in Martial Arts Training
Why do we see so few kids make it all the way through the system? One answer has to do with parental support.
Let’s be clear here – the majority of martial arts training comes from inside the child. But a parent’s influence is very important, parents can help their kids see that they have the potential to make it, even though it won’t always be easy or nice.
There is no child who doesn’t want to make it to that black belt. That same thing that drove them to want to step into the training hall for the very first lesson is still there with them, even as they struggle with motivation, or become intimidated by the process. There will be ups and downs along the way, and the question is whether kids have the support they need to get through those bumps and stick with it to the other side.
To find success in the martial arts, most children need an extra push. That’s where parents come into the picture, and where they’re essential!
Children don’t have the life experience to deal with the slumps that are a natural part of anything. Those seemingly endless periods of practice, the repetition, and the wonderful lessons in loss are all huge challenges for kids to cope with. They’re huge challenges for adults to cope with in martial arts training as well.
Your child is unique. They bring their own personality to the martial arts. We definitely recognize that there are some kids for which this just isn’t a good fit – they won’t get that black belt no matter how much parental support they receive. However most kids are in the middle, which means that they are able to get their if they have the right amount of great teaching, instructor encouragement and parental support.
The role of a parent of a child who is pursuing martial arts is to push them when they need a push. Almost no child is going to make it to that black belt with parents who aren’t interested in their progress. Sometimes that means pushing them to make it through another month so that they can remember why they loved it to begin with, and sometimes it’s just listening to them whinge and offering some gentle encouragement. Whatever it is, the role of a parent of a child pursuing martial arts is to help them see the long game that leads to that black belt!