“We often miss opportunity, because it’s dressed in overalls and looks like work.” – Thomas Edison

Last week, we discussed how a quality martial arts program can build a strong and lasting foundation for your kids in a number of critical areas (listed below). This week we will continue the discussion with reasons 6-10 —with particular emphasis on the work aspect.

  1. Self protection
  2. Physical fitness & motor skill development
  3. Improved listening skills
  4. Self discipline
  5. Respect (for self and others)
  6. Responsibility
  7. Leadership skills
  8. Self esteem & confidence
  9. Goal setting & achievement
  10. Value of hard work

Responsibility: Many children (and sadly too many adults) are quick to blame others for their unwanted outcomes. Martial arts instruction demonstrates the link between what a student does (cause) and what happens (effect) with real life examples. The dojo is no place for excuses for not meeting expectations or for not completing tasks. Quash that ‘victim mentality’ early, because kids who always find a way to focus the blame away from themselves often have a tough time achieving any measure of success later in life.

Goal setting & achievement: How often do you hear someone say something like “I’ve always wanted to play the guitar”? I think, Really? Always? If that is true, what steps have you taken to become a guitar player? We all know the answer is usually: none. What separates the “wanna-be’s” from achievers is that achievers set goals and take action. Studies show that people who write down their new year’s resolutions achieve an order of magnitude more success at keeping them than those who don’t. A martial arts curriculum is perfectly aligned with the practice of goal setting via the belt system. Allowing kids to set short-term micro goals and long-term objectives.

Self esteem & confidence and the value of hard work: Experts now agree that teaching kids the value of hard work and determination is more important than building self-esteem, and the skill of perseverance is essential to a child’s social and emotional development. So, how do we foster an understanding that hard work is essential—especially in a world where things come to us, and our kids so easily? Long before Facebook, microwaves, remote controls, cellular phones, and well-stocked grocery stores (if you wanted milk, you had to go find the cow and milk it). Hard work was an integral part of nearly all facets of life. But today, in a society where we award trophies for 14th place and kindergarteners have ‘graduation ceremonies,’ opportunities for tough lessons and earned victories are few and far between.

This can be more of an uphill battle than we realize. Consider this example: Two kids are on a playground. One can sail across the monkey bars on his first attempt with seemingly little effort. The other is unable—lacking both strength and coordination. But after a semester of trying and falling over and over again, the weaker kid finally makes it all the way across. Who really deserves the gold star and high praise? Who has learned the valuable lesson? Who will be better prepared to weather life’s storms going forward?

We might all hope our child possesses a deep reservoir of talent, but we would be unwise to overlook the determination demonstrated by the second child. It’s clear our society places a higher value on talent than work. (Even the schools call the accelerated learning programs, Gifted and Talented!) Let’s not, for a minute, think the kids who are not part of that program are neither gifted nor talented. Rather, take a minute to consider what each child might become if he/she learns to overcome adversity.

As a parent, I realize I am guilty too. But in lavishing too much praise on children who achieve through natural disposition, we can eventually undermine their confidence. Because life will expose them to tasks for which they do not have a natural aptitude. And, then what? How about preparing them now for that eventuality.

A good, kid-focused martial arts program will be led by coaches who praise your child’s hard work—not simply the results. Praising effort keeps kids motivated to eventually reach their goals. This process gives kids the opportunity to truly earn respect for themselves, from their coaches and their peers—which is a vital confidence building-block. These are life long lessons that lay the foundation for a bright future.

Leadership skills: Martial arts training instills many important life skills, which combined, represent a ‘super-life skill’ called leadership. Our society is short on leaders. Most people wait for others to take the lead. Often nobody does. It takes someone with confidence, respect, discipline, responsibility, and a strong work ethic to be a leader. And the best news is…all of these skills can be learned.

So really, what are you waiting for?

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