Summer has come to an end and whether we like it or not, it’s back to school time, which can be challenging for some families as they adjust to new schedules, new bedtimes, and new transitions in the school system.
As parents we have tendencies to pull back from commitments during times of transition, which can make sense as we try to simplify life and make things easier on our already tight schedules. Our St. Charles karate dojo tends to see this in kid’s karate during certain times of the year; late Summer being a prime example.
Parents think that if we pause, or “take a break” from something our children are involved in, maybe because it takes up an evening or two during your work week and it’s hard to make yourself get there after a long day at work, or maybe because you worry that the stress of school and homework will be too much for your child, that we are helping them and ourselves to prepare for the new school year.
But in reality, in many cases, pulling your children out of something that they enjoy, like karate, that also can benefit them in school in more ways than one, can be detrimental for them and actually have an adverse effect.
Here are 5 ways that karate and martial arts can help your child with the transition to the new school year, which carries over into their everyday lives, both in and outside of the dojo. You will see the benefits of karate in their lives, as will their teachers and peers.
1. Accountability. Homework, book reports, attendance, parent-teacher conferences, the science fair- these are all things that might not be of most importance or at the tippy-top of our to-do lists, but we have to do them anyway. We have to show up, do it right, and get it done. By showing our children that we are accountable, and that we expect them to be accountable too, we are setting them up for success in their school and later, in their employment lives. Giving them the message that quitting is an option can have lasting adverse effects, just like modelling hard work and perseverance can teach them positive characteristics.
In the dojo, accountability is everything. Our students understand and learn to respect the fact that attendance and practice are key to moving forward and earning accolades. Just like in life, if you don’t put in the work, by showing commitment and accountability, you will never fully reap the rewards.
2. Courage. Many kids struggle with worries and anxiety, especially when they are heading back to school and facing new teachers, different sets of friends, schedules, and sometimes new schools entirely. In karate, we are always encouraging our students to step out of their comfort zones in a safe and comfortable environment. By pushing them past some of their fears, we are enabling them to realize that they can reach their goals and accomplish the very things they worry about by tapping into their courage.
Because we are a small, family-owned karate dojo, we are able to work with children individually based on their specific needs, whether it be performing or grading in front of a group, looking an adult in the eye when speaking to them, completing a routine that they didn't think they could memorize, or getting to a belt level that was once only a dream for them.
3. Focus and Self-Control. This is a big one and probably the number one complaint we hear from parents as they are looking to enroll their kids in karate. Parents say that their kids have issues sitting still, keeping their hands to themselves, looking at them when they are talking, and concentrating on an activity for a particular length of time.
This is basically the foundation of what we teach at our dojo in St. Charles and the building block of any successful relationships in life; parent/child, teacher/student, coach/athlete, boss/employee. Before you can open your mind to retain any particular knowledge or information, you much first have the tools and the ability to get, and stay focused, and understand appropriate control of your body. At school, they need to listen to their teacher and sit still at their desks for a good portion of the day, which is difficult for many kids that are on the go-go-go all Summer long and have to quickly readjust to life in a classroom.
It is good for kids to understand the importance and relevance of why we need to show our focus, (so teachers see that they are listening), and how it can help them in everyday life (to retain the information so that they can pass the test, understand the homework, etc). There are plenty of opportunities for fun in the dojo, but just like in school, we need to straighten up and get serious in order to learn and grow, and the ability to focus makes all the difference.
4. Discipline. School is obviously a place for learning, but it is a place for discipline as well. When kids don’t follow directions, or if they use their hands or bodies or words in inappropriate ways they will find themselves facing very real consequences that can be jarring to some children, especially as they are just starting in school or coming back from long Summer vacations where they may have not had as many rules to follow.
Our instructors take their roles very seriously, and are aware that part of their job and their commitment to you as parents, is to reinforce behaviors that we want to see both inside and outside of the dojo, like in school. Students know what is and isn't acceptable behavior in the dojo and also face consequences as they learn that their actions have meaning and are important to their success.
Also, we love hearing about their grades and school life! Parents, please feel free to let us know if you are concerned in any area with behavior outside the dojo. It is important to us to be leaders in our community, and we want our students to be good role models as well.
5. Peer Relationships. It’s no secret that bullies are a major concern of both parents and children today. Playgrounds, rowdy bus rides, and social media sites are all places where we tend to hear about and for our kids to experience bully behavior. It is important for children to have safe adults that they feel comfortable talking to, and sometimes it's easier to speak with someone that isn't a parent.
Our instructors are adept at looking for changes in mood and progress and keeping an eye out for times when they may be able to step in and ask if everything is going okay.
Also it is important for kids to know how to be assertive and to stand up for themselves. While we don't advocate for violence, we do teach basic self-defense skills and boost children’s confidence when they learn that they have more control and abilities than they may have thought prior to starting Martial Arts. We also encourage peer support of each other in and out of the dojo and often notice that our karate kids have developed an alliance at school which can help at times of transition when kids can feel nervous or isolated.
Kids are resilient and creatures of habit, like the rest of us. They like consistency and discipline, and by keeping your commitment to them, and allowing them to remain committed to Martial Arts, you are teaching them accountability and that they can rise up to a challenge, and figure out how to make things work.
By removing them from karate based on the fear of over scheduling, even before you have had time to test the waters with it, you are setting a precedent that their sport of choice isn't as important as other things, and that when things get tough, quitting is the easiest option.
We understand that life is short, and schedules are busy, but before pulling your child out of a sport or an activity that they love which is benefiting them in everyday life, give it a try for a while. Reach out to the coach/instructor/teacher, and talk to them about your concerns. Maybe you can develop a plan that can ease some of your worries or fine-tune the program so that you are seeing the benefits more clearly if you have specific issues that can be addressed.
At our karate dojo, we are parents ourselves and we work for you! We want to do our best to help your family see results from our program and find ways that we can benefit the community at the same time. Please let us know how we can help you or your child get back to school with ease using qualities, characteristics, and values from karate.