Raising children is fraught with unknowns and questions. As parents, we get ‘one shot’ at raising our kids to be as successful in life as possible. Master Tim Loomis from The Silent Mind in Twinsburg, Ohio, is a parent of two grown children, with over 45 years of experience teaching children martial arts. Understanding the importance of teaching self-discipline at an early age, he’s decided to share some of his insight and experience with Northeast Ohio parents. By heeding this Sensei’s advice, not only can you discover how to help your children become successful, but how youth activities can play a major role in child development.
Everyone has a bad day now and then. There are days when kids don’t want to go to school, martial arts, music lessons, etc. However, if a pattern begins to emerge it must be dealt with swiftly. Taking the appropriate steps to correct this pattern of unhelpful and unwanted behavior depends on the age of the child. As Master Tim Loomis is familiar with this issue through his own experience as a parent as well as his teachings at The Silent Mind in Twinsburg, he would like to explain to Northeast Ohio parents how such a situation is handled at his school. He has found the following strategies and techniques work well with other negative patterns of behavior as well.
Children Age 3-7
Children ages 3-7 can’t articulate their reason for not wanting to participate in youth activities such as martial arts. During the earlier years of this age group, the child is developing his/her will. They act shy and willful, and will not comply with parents’ or Sensei’s direction to participate. The child wants parents and teachers to ‘help me do it myself’. However, children of this age group do not have decision-making power for themselves; the parents are solely responsible for directing their child’s activities. If the child finds that ‘bad’ behavior works in swaying their parents, they will use it again and again. So, curtailing willful behavior when it goes against the parent-directed activity must be done quickly before an unwanted pattern of behavior can take hold.
Telling the child there will be consequences for their non-participation is a must for child development. In the dojo at The Silent Mind, non-compliance with Sensei means time-out. The length of time depends on the instructor’s judgment as to when the child will fall back into compliance. If a child, while still at home, tells the parent they don’t wish to go to class, a time-out period of equal length of class time (45 minutes) is appropriate. The time-out should be conducted sitting at the dining room or kitchen table, or in another place where the child can be monitored. There should be no activities for the child but sitting quietly. Also, the parent should not interact with the child during the time-out period. In order to change behavior, the child must feel the ‘pain’ of consequence for their behavior, and figure out that the behavior is not worth suffering the consequence again.
Children Age 8-13
Children of this age group are more able to express their resistance, but it often comes out as a story they made up to fit the situation rather than the truth of the situation. Example: “I don’t want to go because ...” And parents, haven’t we heard some doozeys?
Children of this age group don’t have direct decision-making authority for themselves. Parents guide the child’s activities with some input from the child. In the case of martial arts at The Silent Mind, when making the decision to enter class, the Sensei and parent talk to the child to make sure they understand that they are committing to a course and time period of training. It is very important that the child understands and agrees with the commitment. Later, if a pattern of willful behavior emerges, the parents and Sensei remind the child of their commitment. It is important that the child honor their commitment and that the parents instill and support this sense of self-discipline and commitment. The time-out consequence is still effective for this age group. If they don’t or won’t go to class, they sit at home for the commensurate time in time-out. Getting Sensei involved frequently helps. He will discuss why the child does not want to participate and dispel all the issues. Sensei will modify the child’s training experience at the dojo when necessary.
Teenage Children 14-17
These young people can make some decisions for themselves. And at 17 or older, they should be given the responsibility to make decisions. It is up to the parent as to how much authority they give to the child. It is most important to hold them to their word and commitment once they make it. As parents, we struggle with the question of when to let our kids fail. This age group needs guidelines set down by the parents to help frame their decisions. The parent steps in when they move outside the guideline to curtail the behavior or activity. Children of this age group do not as yet possess the power of reason. Trying to reason with a teenager is an act of futility as they are ruled by emotion and peer pressure. However, if they have been raised with confidence, self-discipline, and a sense of personal integrity, and respect themselves and others, they can and do make the right decision when it counts. Teens want to be treated as adults. Give them responsibility and make them accountable for the outcome.
In all stages of child development, the parents must stand firm. Both parents must agree and support each other in the execution of the consequence. Younger children must learn that the parent is in charge and must be obeyed. In older children, demonstrating self-discipline by following through with a commitment is an important life lesson they must learn. With teens, parents need to start letting go and guide more than dictate. Though Sensei Tim encourages parents to use these strategies for children participating in such youth activities as martial arts, they apply to all aspects of life. Those who have enrolled their children in classes from The Silent Mind in Northeast Ohio have found that it’s an excellent way to develop confidence in decision-making, something that will greatly benefit children in the long run.