Motivating Kids with a Sensei Approach!

Motivating your child at certain times of year may be easier than others. During a lockdown this is further heightened as kids will get cabin fever and can become increasingly irritable and unmotivated.

Although I am not an expert in child behaviour, I have learned a thing or two over the plus 25 years of teaching kids’ karate. Here are some of the things we use in a typical karate class that might inspire your child to get moving, active and motivated. With a little momentum and encouragement, you might see that little spark and a shift in attitude at a much-needed time.

  1. Positivity is everything. At First Choice Martial Arts we have an acronym PCP and it stands for praise, correct and praise. If you notice an unwanted behaviour perhaps you might get your child’s attention by leading with a compliment for something they are doing well. If they are more receptive to what you have to say, then perhaps they will be more willing to listen your advice. Re-enforce it with praise when they have corrected the unwanted action.
  2. Progress can be more powerful than achievement. The thing that is most important is getting your child to recognize the progress they have made. I love to pull out old videos of a skill that my son or daughter struggled with as a comparison to what they can do now. Sometimes the visualization can help them realize how far they have come. If they just hear they have improved that is one thing, on the other hand if they can see the progress it might help get them back on track. Things like old artwork, stories, videos and pictures can go a long way.
  3. Emotion is created by Motion. Every June after the last week of school kids will come to class wired both mentally and physically. In September after the first week of school kids can appear Zombie like as they are drained both mentally and physically. Recognize your child’s mood and take the right approach. For me if I get exhausted group, I might have them take a knee and give an inspirational mat chat to get them going. If they are bouncing off the walls, I might take that approach or give them an easy exercise and have them work till most of that energy is gone and they are better able to listen. The point is you must see your child’s body language and take an approach to see what does and does not work. Never be tied into one tactic if it is not going well. Being flexible will give you greater control over where to direct your child so that you can get them back on track. Perhaps a mandatory morning walk, recreating our old morning routines of getting ready for school might give them the mental shift they need to start their day. Doing your schoolwork in your pajamas is likely to create less structure. For us, we make our students wear their uniforms and belts during the Virtual classes as it helps create a sense of familiarity and structure. I find the kids are more in tune and mentally engaged. It works for us and it might work for you.
  4. To be interesting you need to be interested. Why do kids always listen better for someone else? A teacher can make such a profound impact because they take such an interest in the success of your child. If your child needs a little more outside influence reach out virtually to family members and friends. They do not have the luxury of seeing your child day to day so when your child demonstrates something, they are more likely to notice the improvement and progress. This might motivate your child to continue to work harder to impress these outside role models. I use this tactic all the time in class. Sometimes I will see a specific instructor can get through to a certain student and use that as a strength. I want to do whatever it takes to help each student at First Choice Martial Arts. When I see kids at grad taking photos with our instructors because they have a connection then I feel like I have done my job. It is not easy to put your ego aside but sometimes we all need a little outside influence for the greater good.

Keep up the tremendous effort and we hope to see you back in class soon!

Sensei Chris