This article will start with two true stories that I personally encountered while teaching at my karate studio. These two stories will clearly illustrate the intent of this post.
My first commercial karate studio was located in a space that was 1100 sq ft. At one point we had around 225 active students (not all at once of course). We were maxed out. In order to maximize the training space, we only had a small area in the front of the space for parents/spectators. Only about 6 people could comfortably watch class although at times we could squeeze 8-10 in. In today’s COVID times, we would only be able to have 2 people watching, just to give you some perspective. About 10 years ago, I was teaching a class of preschool age kids. These classes tend to have the most parents watching as well. This particular class was a full house, no seats left. About halfway through the class, a mom who was about 6-7 months pregnant came in to watch her daughter do class. She looked around for a few moments and noticed there was nowhere left to sit and opted to sit on the floor. I saw all of this transpire with shock. The main reason everyone was oblivious to her entering and did not offer her a seat was because their faces were glued to their phones. I immediately stopped class and instructed someone to give her a seat and to please put their phones away.
Fast forward about 8 years. We moved into a larger space, about 2500 sq ft, with ample seating for parents and spectators. Due to a variety of factors, we are no longer maxed out in space, but classes are still fairly large. I was teaching the preschool age class again (go figure) when a rambunctious 4-year-old girl was super excited at the end of class for earning a stripe on her belt. She looked back at her mom for recognition and her mom was glued to her phone and missed the entire thing. The little girl yelled out, “Mom! Put down your phone and watch me!” The mom was clearly embarrassed.
These two stories are extreme examples of times when we need to put down the phone. We are all guilty of spending too much time on our phones playing games, checking email, reading, or checking apps. However, there is a time and a place for this. When you are supporting your child, you need to be present. Being present does not mean just being there. You need to be actively engaged.
Over the years, I have seen kids who have parents that are actively present achieve much more success in martial arts than kids with parents who drop off or are cell phone parents. The same is true with any other physical activity, sport, or academic pursuit.
So, you’ve decided to put the phone away and be present. What does being present and actively engaged entail? You can’t just sit there and tune out, that is probably worse than being on the phone. Below are some tips on how to achieve this state of active engagement.
- Smile, nod, wink, or give a thumbs up
- Take note of things well done in order to acknowledge after
- Take note of things not well done to positively address after
- Scowl, shake your head, or verbally address
- Coach or correct, let the instructor/coach do their job
- Be overly critical afterwards if it was a bad class/session, try to find something positive
I understand that we can’t be actively engaged 100% of the time but I think we can all do a better job of being present for our kids.