I have been a martial arts instructor for over 20 years. In that time, I have seen thousands of kids as young as 4 years old come in and take classes. One thing I have learned is that every child is different. These differences are always most evident during their very first lesson. Some kids are shy and reserved, some are outgoing and energetic, and some are downright frightened to the point they won’t even walk in the front door. It is not just karate that these kids react this way to, it is all new activities or situations.
Over the many years teaching, I have seen just about every type of child. I have also seen every type of approach to getting them to start the activity successful. I’ve seen things that work and things that don’t work. This article will provide some tips for parents to ensure your kids have a great experience in a new situation or activity. Some may apply to you and some may not. Please feel free to pick and choose what works for you.
- Visit/watch/meet in advance
Some kids are very apprehensive over things that are unknown. By visiting the studio, watching a class, and meeting the instructor prior to the first class, these kids can feel more comfortable on their first day.
- Pre-Frame your child
Prior to going in for your first class, sit down with your child and go over expectations. Kids may think it is all games or it is fighting. Remind them how long the class is going to be. If the studio has a website with media available, watch the videos or pictures of classes/studio events with them. This will help limit any surprises that may arise due to kids’ wild imaginations.
Be sure your child has had a snack and is hydrated prior to class. We all get hangry or lethargic when dehydrated which makes it impossible to focus and have an enjoyable experience. Be sure to bring water and snacks to class just in case blook sugar levels drop and your kid needs a boost.
- Don’t overschedule
Especially for the first class, try not rush from a previous activity. Kids need some transition time to go from one thing to the next. This includes school or home activities. Sometimes doing a little less is beneficial in putting kids in the best possible mindsight and energy level for an activity.
- Don’t overstimulate
Very similar to #4, we don’t want to have kids do activities that are overstimulating right before doing something new. Playing video games, having play dates, watching their favorite TV show right before leaving can cause kids to have animosity about going. Why would they want to stop doing something so fun to do something they have never done before?
- Be on time
We have all been there, you’re running late. When we are running late, we get flustered and short tempered. Many kids will not respond well to trying to rush. Being late will also not allow time for kids to get adjusted to the atmosphere, meet the other kids and instructor, and just get comfortable. I know unforeseen things happen from time to time but we need to try to schedule our time so we are early.
- Don’t drop off
Believe it or not, your kids want you to watch them do stuff. Being there rather than dropping them off will show that you are there to support them. Even if they say they don’t want you there, they actually do, just make sure you don’t do the next item below.
- Don’t butt in, just watch, put the phone away
As mentioned above, kids want parents to watch them. Your support and recognition help build their confidence and sense of security. It is important however to be sure to remain an observer/supporter. Don’t coach or correct. If they look back at you, give a smile or thumbs up. Let them be on their own. Be sure to talk to them afterwards if there was something you wanted to say during the class. Make sure to keep that phone stowed away. If you are going to stay and watch your kids, do just that. Kids know when their parents are not engaged.
- Stay calm and supportive
Whether your child is having a great time or throwing a fit, stay calm and supportive. Kids can feed off of our energy. If we get angry and worked up, they will do the same. Be the example of how you want them to act and they will follow suit.
Good luck with those kiddos as you venture out into new activities. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact me!