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COMMITMENT: Teaching Children the Lessons of a Lifetime
It has been said, time and time again, that for a child to learn what is most important, lessons must be shown by example, not words. And, if we want to nurture certain qualities in our children, we must first develop those qualities in ourselves.
I’ve been teaching kids martial arts for a decade and a half now and I’ve discovered something amazing about kids – they want to learn what’s expected of them. With all the ‘button pushing’, resistance to your wishes and what not, children want to know the rules and have a deep, almost inherent, need to “get it right”.
Unfortunately, I have also found that many of the parents who bring their children into our programs live off of two deep-rooted desires. And even though they express their wishes for their child to develop more self-confidence, discipline, and respect—not to mention the ability to protect themselves from the dangers they know exist in the world—they will almost always fulfill those wishes, even though it means their child may never develop these important traits and abilities.
What are those desires?
1) That their child is never angry with themand,
2) that they never want to say “no”.
Is this true for all parents? No, of course not. But it is true for many.
Even without these words, the message is clear and distinct when it comes in the following forms:
“She doesn’t want to come to class and I don’t want to force her.”
“Really,” I say. “And why not?”
‘Sorry?”the answer arrives. “I do not understand.”
“well,” i add “Aren’t you making her do other things she doesn’t want to do?” “I’m sure you make her brush her teeth everyday, go to school even when she says she doesn’t want to, and probably a dozen other things every day, right?”
“Yes, but that’s different,” is often the answer.
“Different?” I ask “how that?” “Don’t you think this is important?” “Isn’t that just as important today as the day you brought her in and told her to be confident and learn to protect herself?”
Here’s another one that my staff and I listen to regularly.
“I will not bind my son in a year (or three years) program. That’s too long for someone his age. He doesn’t know what he wants”
Again, my answer is that the parent is missing something in the logic, if that’s the logic that drives it at all.
“Is your child in school?”, I ask.
“Of course,” the answer arrives.
“So you think education is important and you’ll need a lot of time to prepare your son for the real world?”
“Yeah. I don’t see what that has to do with karate lessons.”
“It has everything to do with karate lessons, because this is also an education. What your son won’t get either at school or from a textbook. And what he learns here in the way of self-confidence, discipline, pride, respect and the ability to stand up for what he wants. is right, it will affect every other part of his life, for the rest of his life.”
Again, I hear “But this is different.”
“How?” I ask. “He’ll be going to school for the next eleven to thirteen years, not counting college. And, I’m sure you’ll make him go, even on the days he doesn’t want to. You’ll have all the right reasons to explain to him why this is important, right? no? No sir, this is no different. It is exactly the same. And, if it is important that your child learns the lessons you have brought him here to learn, it matters less whether he likes it or not. As for him that he doesn’t know what he wants, that’s what we as parents and teachers are for, right? To guide, provide opportunities and give our children what they need, even if it’s not what they want.”
Actress Bette Davis is quoted as saying: “If your child has never hated you, you have never been a parent.” I believe that because I believe that my job is not to be my child’s friend, but to be his guide, mentor and teacher for facing life’s challenges. If I won’t, then who will? In addition, there is plenty of time to be his or her friend after they grow up, have the same experiences in the world, and can relate on an adult level. There is a huge difference between being ‘friendly’ and being a ‘friend’.
I’m sure that all this seems harsh to many and that many, I’m sure, have already stopped reading. My point is simple. We, as parents and teachers, teach your children whether or not we open our mouths and say the words in a lesson.
If we want to teach our children to do what is important, not just what feels good…
…if we want to teach them the value of committing to a worthwhile endeavor because it is worth the effort, not just because it’s easy or convenient…
…if so teach them not to give up in the game of life…
…we must inculcate lessons whether love us for it or not.
How else can we teach and get our kids to practice things like commitment if we never give them opportunities to commit or allow them to give up because something isn’t fun? When was the last time our creditors let us stop paying the bills because it wasn’t fun?
Edward, the English monarch once condescendingly commented that we have the trouble we create because American parents listen to your children instead of the other way around. After a decade and a half of watching and helping parents help their children, I don’t know if he’s right, but I do know that the parents who are most committed to their child’s development, regardless of the child’s daily whims – this entity that changes so quickly that it doesn’t want the same things from moment to moment, let alone year to year – there are usually far more successful adults to be proud of when their children grow up. These are the ones who surrender devotion to devotionand a hundred other lessons, which are blessed with a grown-up child who can commit to himself and others and who can be counted on to ‘be there’ when the going gets tough.
Can you imagine? What kind of world would we live in if everyone we met was such a person.
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