10 Tips for Helping Kids Practice at Home

It is time for your son to practice his karate. Your son loves karate but every time you tell him to practice, you get push back. In this post, I will discuss the 10 tips for helping kids practice at home that will greatly decrease the likelihood of pushback when practice time comes around.

Whether it’s karate or any other activity/skill that requires lots of training, such dance or learning a musical instrument, at home practice is essential.  The class or lesson is meant for enhancement, correction, and introduction of new material from an experienced teacher.  Building muscle memory and improving aptitude are things that can be, and should be, done at home by the student.  We all know it is true, the more time you spend on something, the better you will be at it.  Below are a few tips for helping kids practice at home (I use karate as an example but anything could be used).

  • Short durations

Go to your room and study.  Don’t come out until you’re a doctor.  It’s true, the more you practice and study, the better you’ll be.  However, there is no need to cram it all in at once.  This leads to burnout and resentment of the activity.  Remember, this is supposed to be an activity that brings enjoyment and we don’t want to change that.  Start with short 5-minute sessions a couple times a week.  Slowly increase the duration once it starts becoming routine.

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  • Avoid stimulating activities immediately before 

If I was on the last level of a video game I love, I wouldn’t want to stop to practice something that is hard either.  Avoid having your kids doing any sort of stimulating activity right before having them practice as you won’t get them to want to stop and switch gears.  This includes video games, television, playing with friends, etc.  

  • Set a schedule

It is a fact that if you schedule something and make it a routine, you will be more likely to do it consistently.  Setting a schedule for practice time is a great way to help ensure it happens.  Having a schedule can also help you avoid doing overstimulating activities immediately prior to practicing as well as being prepared in other ways to have a successful practice session.

  • Don’t bribe

If you practice karate for 30 min you can play video games for 30 min.  This is a bribe and it does not teach kids the discipline required to improve at anything.  Kids typically breeze through their practice just to get through it in order to get their bribe.  A bribe is different than a reward.  Rewards are great ways to reinforce good practice habits.  If your child has been practicing for a week without being told to and is giving genuine effort, allowing them a little extra video game time is a great reward.  Just make sure not to do it all the time so it becomes expected.

  • Have them fed/hydrated/rested

Have you been in a late afternoon meeting after skipping lunch, forgetting your water bottle, and being up late the night before?  Probably not the most productive meeting you’ve had.  To ensure success in getting kids to practice, schedule practice times for after they’ve had a snack and not immediately after another activity.  Asking your kid to practice karate right after a 2-hour soccer practice will not go well.  Make sure your child is drinking enough water throughout the day as well.  Staying hydrated has a tremendous impact on energy levels.  Lastly, avoid snacks and drinks with lots of sugar.  They will have a hard time focusing then will crash hard.

  • Have them teach you or perform for you

A little role reversal is another great tip for helping kids practice at home. We all feel great when we are good at something and someone takes notice of it.  When someone hands us a compliment we can’t help but smile from ear to ear.  If you can give this feeling to your kids regarding what you want them to practice, you’ll likely be successful at getting them to do it.  Kids especially like it when they get to be the person in charge.  So, ask them to either show you something or teach you something.  You need to be specific though.  You can’t just say “Show me something you know.”  You need to phrase it such that you provide them a compliment first.  For instance, say “I’ve really noticed your side kicks are getting super strong, can you show me how to do that?”.

  • Trick them/make it fun

There are times to be serious and times to be fun.  Teaching martial arts to kids helps them understand when it is appropriate to be one or the other.  Let’s face it though, kids want to have fun so the more fun you make something the more success you’ll have.  When it comes to practice, don’t be a drill sergeant making them do knuckle pushups for every mistake.  Kids like to be creative.  Let them use their imagination to come up with a martial arts game the two of you can practice.  

You could also channel your inner child and come up with a game of your own.  This way, you are playing a game, not practicing (there’s the trick).  Even if you are doing regular practice, be sure to be lighthearted and have fun while doing it.  Crack jokes, be silly, but be sure you are still engaged in the practice.

  • Re-enforce the class

There are two ways to go about this one.  It’s kind of like the good cop/bad cop routine.  One way is to utilize any positive feedback the class instructor instilled to your kid during their class.  Perhaps the instructor commented on how you child’s horse stance was looking better or his/her punches were snapping out for the first time.  Use this to encourage your child to practice more.  You could also notice something yourself; you don’t need the instructor to point it out.  This only works however if you consistently observe their class.  If you only watch class once and awhile, your kid will realize that it was an empty compliment.  

The bad cop version is to reinforce any improvements the instructor noted for your kid.  Maybe the instructor said he/she needed to get stronger pushups.  You could tell your kid that their instructor said you needed to work on it and they will know if you didn’t.  Do not however tell them they need to work on something that the instructor did not point out.  Your kids will think you don’t know what you’re talking about (even if you do) and won’t want to listen.

  • Be an idiot

You’re kids already think you’re an idiot, so why not act the part?  What I mean by ‘be an idiot’ is try not to act like a know it all when practicing with your kids.  Unless you are their teacher, instructor, or coach, don’t give them technical guidance.  Just be their partner or simply be present when they are practicing.  Be encouraging, complimentary, and upbeat.  Your mom used to say, nobody likes a know it all.

  • Don’t push it

It’s easy to get frustrated when your kid does not want to practice or gives little to no effort when practicing at times.  While you don’t want to give in right away, you also need to know when to let it go.  Pushing too hard is not going to be beneficial and will ultimately lead to the kid resenting the activity.  Know where that boundary is and when you get close to it, throw in the towel, sit down and figure out a better strategy for next time (maybe some of these tips…).

There are certainly more ways of helping kids practice at home, whether it’s karate or something else.  If you’d like more ideas, feel free to contact me.  If you have some of your own that you find successful, please share!

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