Has Your Kid Wanted to Quit Yet?

Years ago, when I was running a school and teaching classes every day, I would ask the parents of newer students the following question:

Has your son or daughter wanted to quit yet?

It probably seemed like a strange question to get if you were a parent of a relatively new student, but I was curious.  Because the truth is, EVERYONE wants to quit at some point during their first couple of years.  

Sure, when a new student begins taking classes they absolutely love it.  Our students come to class twice each week, and in that first month or two, it is not unusual for kids to wake up every single day and ask their mom or dad if they get to go to karate today?  Eventually, the newness wears off and kids stop asking. That doesn’t mean they no longer like karate, it just means it has become part of their normal routine.

At some point though, maybe the two-month mark, at sixth months, or perhaps after one year, they will start to complain about going to class and want to quit.  How do I know?  First, I’ve literally seen it hundreds of times myself, and had that many conversations with parents!  Second, even though I am an 8th Degree Black Belt with over 40 years of experience, guess what?  Yep, I wanted to quit too!  I loved karate when I started back in 1979, but a couple years later, when I was a brown belt, after a disappointing tournament experience, I walked away for a month.   Fortunately for me, my friends at the school and my instructors convinced me to come back and start training again.  

The point is, whether you are a student or a parent, you should expect it, and understand that it is natural. Think about it this way, no one is ever motivated 100% of the time.  We all have ups and downs in our enthusiasm and levels of motivation. Why would we think that karate training is any different?

Once you recognize that the swings in motivation are normal, you can address it. The key is to persevere, and not give up!  The benefits developed in karate training don’t come in the short term, they take time. You don’t build confidence in a few weeks, and you can’t snap your fingers and develop self-discipline. These traits take consistent time and effort to attain.

One day your child is going to tell you they don’t want to go to karate today.  They want more screen time, or they want to play with their friends, or karate isn’t fun, etc.  At those times, it’s important for parents to remind themselves why they enrolled their child in karate to begin with.  Did you want them to learn to protect themselves?  Did you want them to improve concentration, or gain self-esteem?  Why did you enroll them and do you want your child to achieve those goals?  If the answer is yes, then you might need to gently nudge your child through that rough period of time.  

Interest sometimes wanes, but that doesn’t mean we give up on our goals.  Students can hit a difficult stretch where the skills they are learning are more challenging.  Maybe they don’t like sparring practice, or form practice, or some other element of training.  By working together, we can get them through that difficult stage.  You’d be amazed at what earning that next belt does to increase a child’s enthusiasm.

We understand that it is our job to motivate our students to train, and to make learning fun.  That doesn’t mean that your child is never going to hit a rough spot though. Things will eventually get easier, and you might even get a “thank you” from your child for not letting them give up.

It takes patience, perseverance, and a few years of practice to earn a black belt.  Students will have ups and downs in motivation during that process, but it is well worth it when they get that black belt tied around their waist. Remember, keep pushing, keep growing, keep getting better, and don’t ever give up!