All sports provide the opportunity to learn about perseverance, determination, loyalty and sacrifice for a greater goal.
For the martial arts, these lessons are integral to the sport, not a byproduct of the experience. Instruction is designed to develop coordination, social skills, physical fitness and mental strength through structure and positive reinforcement.
The focus is not on being perfect but on doing your best.
It’s what Sensei “MJ” Manjinder Singh calls a black belt attitude. We call it having a success mindset, but the goal is the same: children with resilience who know the more they try, the better they’ll get.
“Having a black belt attitude allows children to develop persistence and not give up when they are facing a challenge,” said Singh, chief instructor of a martial arts studio in Matawan, New Jersey. “The number one reason most parents enroll their children in martial arts is for these mental benefits. Over the years, we have seen children’s behavior change as they start believing in themselves.”
When social distancing orders closed his martial arts studio, Master Charles Jackson said he gave himself a couple of days to wallow and then snapped back and began offering a robust virtual training schedule.
“What we teach in martial arts is never giving up. You get knocked down 100 times, you get up 101”, said Jackson. “That mindset is what I applied when it came to reopening.”
ROUTINE BUT NOT RIGID
Jackson recommends providing kids with routines to normalize the current situation as much as possible. Set and follow the same schedule every day: get dressed, have breakfast, do the days’ schoolwork, tackle chores then some screen time. Find whatever variation works for you and your family.
While it is important to identify and stick to a schedule, there are times when flexibility is in order. Routine but not rigid is the right path.
When Singh noticed some formerly engaged students were uncomfortable on video and skipping the live online classes he has been offering during quarantine, he posted recorded versions of his classes on YouTube. Rather than have parents force their kids to participate or face being penalized for missing classes, he knew being able to support and grow his athletes was the right decision.
“We found that students learn best when they are feeling their best,” said Singh. “If we can get the student in the right emotional state, then we can inspire them to do more and be more in and outside of the martial arts school.”
BUILDING A BLACK BELT ATTITUDE
Both Singh and Jackson emphasize the first step to developing a black belt attitude is teaching children to believe in themselves. To do this they suggest using a Praise/Correct/Praise format.
- Praise your child for their effort and accomplishment
- Offer a gentle correction
- Give them a chance to work on the correction and as soon as they make even the smallest improvement, praise them again.
This will help them build confidence and develop a can-do attitude. When children believe in themselves, they take positive actions on their own behalf and approach life as a challenge, not as something that is happening to them.
BELIEVE TO ACHIEVE
Another way to help our kids to believe in themselves is by utilizing SMART goals.
“We set small, tangible goals. When they meet these goals, the kids become more confident in him or herself, and that’s where they grow,” said Jackson. “It’s about having them achieve something every day. The more they achieve, the more confident they become. We say ‘You have to believe to achieve.’”
As parents, we are trying to achieve a lot at the moment: teacher, coach, employee, entertainer (for starters). That’s a lot to juggle and it can be overwhelming.
Having reasonable expectations for yourself as a parent will help you keep your expectations for your kids in line, too.
We don’t know what we are facing on the other side of coronavirus. We don’t know how our world is going to be changed in the near future or the long term. Helping our children get in the right mindset now can help them deal with whatever changes they have to deal with later.
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