I don’t want to go to karate

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“I don’t want to go to karate again.”

These were not the first words out of my son’s mouth after leaving the first session with his sister close behind, but they followed soon after.

No, the first words were a “hiiiiiiyaa!” and a demonstration of a double punch-kick to my hand and an unsuspecting shin that made the instructors a bit embarrassed as I coiled over in the parking lot.

They must have had fun, I thought, but now I think they were just putting on a show.

Apparently, while there were moments of glory for Sam and Vivian during that first session, there were also intermittent tears of tiredness and awkward moments in-between sections where mingling with new kids and adults was uncomfortable and stressful. In short, it wasn’t all playtime.

Welcome to life, kids! 😃

I know that it can suck to try something new with a group of strangers and try to make friends and not embarrass the hell out of yourself. But if pushing through all of that and still doing something isn’t one of the most important skills I can teach, I don’t know what else is.

A new family rule was formed shortly after that first session and subsequent declaration that the kids weren’t going to be able to fit karate into their schedule next week:

We don’t quit after the first attempt. When you commit to trying a new class, you have to keep going for the full time. That’s the rule.

Saying “that’s the rule” really makes it sound extra-official. Also, we added the following “explainer” in bits and pieces to help really drill it in for our 7 and 4 year olds:

You don’t have to keep doing it after that if you don’t want to, but you can’t back out after the first couple of sessions. We complete the season we sign up for. That’s the rule.

It felt really good for my wife and I to declare that rule (note the repeating of “that’s the rule” again and again, this is key!). I want to declare more rules really. I like the “We” parts because by saying that, it’s less like you are telling them to do something and more like doing this is a requirement of being in this family. Boom! 💥 Doing otherwise sounds much more scary and serious after you say that. At least it will for a few more years, I hope. Teenage years are coming, I know. 😬

The rules we create will evolve, grow, die, and grow again as time goes on, ages and abilities change, and patience runs thin, I’m sure of it.

For example, a prior boss told me his rule for his kids (who were teen and pre-teen at the time) was that they had to play a sport. It didn’t matter which one, team or individual, but they had to be committed to a physical sport, that was the rule.

Another colleague said that his rule was that their kids (same age as mine) had to play an instrument. It didn’t matter which, but they are required to take lessons and be learning something.

It’s funny how the rules you make for your kids mirror your own values and priorities, which likely aren’t the same as your child’s. But would you be surprised if the kids of those parents were pretty good athletes and musicians?

I’m not saying I am going to be a slave driver and stick to the rules 100% of the time or force my kids to do lots of activities for the sake of it, and I’m not advocating they should start something they don’t find really, really interesting.

But, I’m pretty sure that without some pushing, ok, a lot of pushing, I would have been much worse off as a functioning member of society than I am. Some of my most memorable and favorite experiences have come after pushing (or being pushed) through fear and discomfort. Sometimes you need a little push to see the other side.

So long story short, karate is happening!!

We will have at least 6 more weeks of classes.

We will finish the season. That’s the rule!

After that, it’s up to them.

🥋 👊

10 responses

  1. That’s solid parenting right there, my friend.

    1. Thanks Alex. We’re just making things up as we go really. 😉

  2. My parents also had the same play a sport rule for me. I got to choose, and I had to finish the season, but I had to do it. I am not very good at sports, so I didn’t enjoy it really, but I am glad they made me do it. We are mostly following the same rules with our kids. It is not easy though, and some days I do let them skip practice, like on days where they already did sport for 2 hours at school, and are just tired. Remembering the mantra that we are in a marathon, not a sprint, is super important for parenting. It is the longest marathon of our lives.

    1. That’s a great perspective to have. Every child is so different and any rules should be adapted or scrapped accordingly. 👍

  3. We have the same ‘rule’ for our kids. If we/they start something new they have to stick it out for the full session (usually about 10 weeks – tied to school terms here) and then they can decide.

    > We’re just making things up as we go really.

    I feel like this is the parenting tip you only figure out once you’e doing it…

    1. Yes!!! There is no way to prepare really for this parenthood thing aside from the very big task of working on yourself as much as you can before having kids.

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  5. Great rule, thanks for sharing. I teach karate for a living and see parents allowing their kids to quit after the first or second class or after one bad class. I wrote a short post on how parents can help prevent their kids from quitting something new prematurely: https://masterelmore.com/2021/05/26/set-your-kids-up-for-success-in-any-new-activity/
    Thanks again!

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