Primary School Self Defence lessons
Bullying in New Zealand schools is at a critical level. Did you know that? More and more kids every day are being bullied in New Zealand schools than any other country in the OECD. What can you do?
A lot of parents are turning to self defence classes for their kids. Others think that these classes teach simply how to react physically so avoid them altogether. But both types of parents and caregivers have it a little wrong.
While teaching a child how to take a swing if swung at by a meanie seems like a good idea it is not perhaps the best approach. Self Defence is about taking a meaningful and practical approach to how you conduct yourself, view, and react to potential situations.
“Most fights can be resolved by verbal de-escalation or simply walking away.” says martial arts instructor Chris Cameron of Shield Martial Arts in Christchurch. “99 out of 100 fights are avoidable.”
Unfortunately, verbal de-escalation is an aspect of self defence that is skipped by most parents and anti-bullying groups. He says that there is a palpable avoidance of parents to teach their kids to talk tough and be verbally assertive fearing it’s viewed as impolite or rude.
A strong point of the bullying program that Cameron teaches is about being verbally assertive. Learn to make noise and use your voice. Not be quiet.
“Your ability to verbally assert yourself, without giving the bully the emotional reaction they want is a key skill. Kids have to learn this skill.”
Only after talking has failed should anything ever get physical explains Cameron. “You have the right to defend yourself when you are being physically harmed. No one has the right to hurt you physically.”
But, there is a but. This does not mean you swing at a bullies’ nose. When swinging it simply turns into a game of chance. This is important especially in schools that adopt a zero-tolerance approach when it comes to physical altercations. Who knows who started what when. So both culprits get suspended.
The best bet for teaching your child options for them and what to look for in a self defence class is the following:
Teach them to be verbally assertive and standing up for themselves maintaining a calm and confident manner
Use role-play to help kids stress test how to react to a bully
Don’t teach kids how to swing for the fences but teach them how to create distance or close distance to decrease physical options available
Enroll your child in a good bully-proof or martial arts school
With an investment of time and money, your child can learn how to submit people and deal with many scenarios But this takes training.
Cameron says that any parents who are unable or unwilling to put their child into a martial arts or bully-proof program should at least make sure they are role-playing bully scenarios at home so their children are prepared.
People do not react in a certain way unless they have had practice. Practice verbal de-escalation and ways to create or close the distance between a would-be attacker. Or better yet enroll your child in a bullyproof or martial arts program to learn all the skills they need as well as grow in confidence and self-esteem.
Every once in a while you are going to hear your kids complain about going to classes when involved in the Martial Arts. It is the same as going to school in the morning or going to work. Some days we just don’t want to.
As a parent, you get tired of the battle and hearing your kids using phrases such as “I don’t like karate anymore?”, “I don’t want to go to class today” and “can I stay just stay home instead?” This causes the thought process that your kids are not enjoying it so they should be allowed to just quit.
However, before you agree to this you need to consider the reasons why they don’t want to do martial arts, and for that matter, any other sport. There are two main reasons why kids want to quit karate. Both of them have to do with a type of “fear”.
REASON 1. FEAR OF COMMITMENT
It was not too long ago when they started classes. A new uniform, new people, brand new belt and thoughts of being a real-life superhero. But after they start class, their enthusiasm drops. Their first few months they did burpees, push-ups, star jumps. Did some punches and kicks but they did not become a superhero and did not get their black belt. Maybe they have had a short holiday break. Now their enthusiasm drops but not their desire to achieve their goals. The desire is still there. They still do want to be a superhero or get their black belt. The problem is that they have not experienced INSTANT GRATIFICATION.
As adults, we get it. Nothing in life is simple and comes fast. Worthwhile things take time and effort. The question you still have though “is it worth pushing your kids to continue?”. The answer is not simple either: It depends. It all depends on the lesson that you want them to learn.
Assuming you are happy with the school, the instructors and you see other students achieve success then the only thing left to figure out is the ultimate goal.
QUALITY TAKES TIME AND EFFORT
Is the goal to teach them patience? Awesome. You should be teaching them this lesson. If this is the case then it is worth it to keep pushing them. Talk to your instructor before making a decision you might regret, and just because your kids want to quit karate. That’s not enough. Let the sensei’s know what the kids are going through and their lack of enthusiasm.
Your kids will mask this fear by saying phrases like:
“I don’t like the class anymore”
“I am bored, I don’t understand what they teach there”
“I rather play another sport”
Think about it like this: when YOU went to high school, college or beyond, did you like it all? Were you happy the whole time? Were there moments you did not understand a subject, things were not clear to you? Have you considered switching careers? Do you remember having doubts?
These feelings are very normal, but as adults, we know quality takes time and effort. Giving up too early will not pay off in the end. A good instructor has no issues with dealing with the knowledge that students may be struggling. It is their job.
PUT IT THIS WAY, NO ONE WILL GIVE YOU A CERTIFICATE ON GIVING UP OR QUITTING
But I am tired of hearing them whine about it. Trust your instructor. Talk to them about how the kids are feeling. Ask them for help and let them know that you have their back. The key is unity and a unified message being given.
When you signed your kids up there was a reason. A goal. Let your kids know their feelings are valid, and that they are simply experiencing fear of committing to a long term goal. The benefit will be there. When they finally achieve their black belt, you will hear the gratitude from them. they will not complain about you encouraging them to keep going. I have never met any blackbelt that regrets achieving it. A black belt is equivalent to saying “I don’t give up even when it gets challenging. I see it through.”
Think about it this way. What do you want to see that on an adults CV? Would you rather see “I never keep my promises.” and “When the going gets tough I just will quit.”
REASON 2: FEAR OF THE UNKNOWN
Martial Arts is a team affair. We need the support of the sensei’s, the students and the parents. But what happens when you just let them go at the first sign of them getting bored? Do you want to teach them that when things get tough in life they can simply ask and expect you to bail them out? We can all agree that is probably not what we expect when they grow up.
If we all know these things will happen we want to make an agreement between the parents and students and instructors so everyone understands we are all in this together. The agreement is simple: we will guide you to your goal of being a black belt, but when you are tired you are not allowed to give up.
Many many things can change a child’s desire to train in the Martial Arts:
“They don’t like exercising”
“They don’t like someone else in the class”
“It is too hard”
“They don’t want to practice”
“They want to do another activity now that they will do for a short time and then leave it as well”
The difference between karate and other activities is that karate teaches you to be disciplined. The hardest part of having discipline is staying the course. So parents say “I want my child to learn to be more disciplined“, then let them quit which is, in fact, the complete opposite of what hey brought them to learn. Children don’t understand about staying on course for a long term goal. It is our jobs as parents and educators to show them.
“They have other activities [insert anything here] that are on at the same time.”. They could be football, rugby, dance, singing, etc. Guess what, this resembles life in general. You may have work, school, family, other commitments, and managing all these does not get easier, each one requires some part of your busy schedule. When working out the schedule of what they want to do ask yourself what you want them to learn. Now which activity best suits those lessons. Then make the time.
Showing our kids the meaning of Martial Arts will always be more valuable than letting them quit. No one ever learned anything from quitting, except that it is easy. Next time you hear about quitting it is a great opportunity to educate.
Like everybody our youth have their own emotions and impulses. As adults, we sometimes forget they are building their own roadmap. Good behaviour is a learning process. Helping our youth know they are not on their own in building their future and we are there for them is important.
The funny thing we forget is that being a parent is a learning process too. Sometimes we rely too heavily on our own emotions and impulses which means that when a child misbehaves and we jump straight to punishment we are missing a valuable opportunity to teach them.
Discipline vs punishment is a fine line that if you can learn how to walk the tight rope (and it is hard) you will see amazing benefits.
Let’s compare the two words and what they actually mean:
- Punishment – means to inflict pain or suffering as a penalty.
- Discipline – means to teach.
When your child makes the same poor behaviour choices again and again it can be very frustrating for you as a parent. However, the better we respond the better the results we can expect. The better we respond and reinforce good behaviour skills, the better the results we will see in our youth’s decision.
- The first thing to do is to decide what you actually want to achieve. What are your goals for your child when they misbehave?
- The primary short term goal is to get them to co-operate
- Your second longer-term goal that is usually forgotten is that it is to teach them to make better choices without the threat of punishment or consequences.
- Think PPI. Patient, Present, and Intentional when interacting with your child.
So when developing good behaviour skills how do punishment and discipline compare?
Punishment vs. Discipline:
- Teach your child and they will develop self-discipline skills to manage their emotions and impulses. Punishment is behaviour shut down action.
- Discipline will develop a higher level of trust and self-confidence.
- When you punish you will build a proverbial wall and decrease trust and self-confidence.
It is important to develop a strategy and have it in place when you are faced with disciplining your child when they misbehave.
There are 3 key steps of discipline:
- CONNECT – this doesn’t mean to be permissible or passive, but to set clear expectations. When your child is upset they are less likely to hear what you have to say. As your child calms down emotionally and feels your caring approach you must be patient. You must try to remain as calm as possible which is the hardest but most stress-free way to discipline.
- RE-DIRECT – spell out what the poor behaviour choice was. Follow that with what the better choice may have been. Engage and be fully present in this step as it is crucial to ensure they hear you and see you are there for them.
- REPAIR – Once calm has been in place and the behaviour has been discussed then discuss necessary steps on how to solve the current behaviour problem, review better choices, and set ground rules should the poor behaviour choices continue. Show them you are there for them and in this together with them.
A good tip is that it is better to say ‘consequences’ instead of ‘punishments’ so that you are setting your intentions as goal orientated and not pain orientated. One key thing to remember is that this strategy won’t work all the time, you need to have back up plans as well.
Once you have clearly outlined the ground rules consequences are ok if you have worked through the above 3 steps and your child still disobeys the ground rules.
The key though is to match the consequence to the behaviour and make sure it is considered a reasonable consequence. For example, if they lose their temper when using a device, take that device away for 24 hours.
One thing to remember is that children do not sense time as adults do. A week is a long period of time and will probably trigger additional anger and rage. Smaller timeframes allow them time to remember and self-correct their behaviour. It also allows you opportunities to acknowledge the behaviour change back to the incident while it is freshly in mind for both of you reinforcing the good choices.
What consequences are not ok and will do more damage than good?
- Retroactive ones. While taking away good things such as karate lessons may seem to be a good move because it’s an activity they like a lot and the pain of losing karate will teach them a valuable lesson, it’s actually doing the opposite. Taking things they like away may cause more bad behaviour and instilling long-term distrust for you. Also consider the fact that they lose all the positive benefits their karate class teaches them such as discipline, confidence, fitness, positive social interaction, and more.
- Decreasing their morale. As a child’s self-esteem and morale decrease the less chance you have of them believing and making proper choices. They lose trust in themselves and begin to believe they are simply incapable of making the right choice.
So, what do you do if you have a child that is misbehaving all the time with bits of rage, back-talking, and defying the rules?
Map out with your child good behaviour strategies:
- If they hit someone then they must write a letter apologising or meet face to face with a pre-framed apology.
- If you throw something then you lose a personal item for 24 hours
- If you use poor manners you write a letter apologising and explain the proper manners you should have used
- If you cause drama at bedtime then you must go to bed earlier the next night.
You need to ensure that for your consequences to work that you also provide rewards. Reward them if they go a week without misbehaving. But remember the reward should not always be material things. Use more relationship building rewards more often. They can pick the family movie or place for family dinner.
I would suggest you sit down and make a list of rewards and consequences you can refer back to so that you are prepared.
Like any change in approach be prepared to give the new strategies time. You need to be reasonable in your expectation of how long it will take to consistently make better choices. There will be ups and downs but stick to the plan and the ups should quickly outweigh the downs.
I hope this article and these strategies help you and your child make better choices.