“I don’t want to!!”
Have you had this experience? You are happily moving along through the day until you announce it is time for class and BAM! Your child says (screams, cries), “I don’t want to!!” Is it inevitable? No, it isn’t. I have met many students who would spend every waking moment in the academy if they could. However, if you have a child who is like the other 90% of the population, the dreaded fight to get to class may just be in your future. Even I have had – and will still have – days where I just want to stay home. This is normal. Most everyone feels that way at times. Resisting the urge not to train is part of the journey. But sometimes our children react to the call to leave for class in an unexpected way. I am talking about a more specific and more serious refusal. A more serious “I don’t want to!”
How do you react to the “I don’t want to” challenge? Depending on the parent’s style and personalities of parent and child, there is a range of reactions to a child’s refusal. One parent may react immediately to the challenge, where another parent may not react until the behavior escalates. This friction is often the reason for choosing martial arts in the first place. Parental methods to confront this behavior run the gamut – scolding, lectures, holding life lesson meetings, rewards (bribes), consequences (punishments), and everything in between. The point is, no matter your situation with this challenge, there is no one sure cure. I do have some great ideas, however.
Talk to the instructor. Telling the instructor about the “I don’t want to” challenge provides you with an ally. This can be an extremely difficult fight to win alone. Together, you may not immediately solve the challenge but when the instructor is on the same page, you are confronting the behavior on and off the mat. It takes a village to raise a child, right?
Set goals. In my experience, this is the next step to defeating the “I don’t want to” from the start. No matter your philosophy on a child’s personal autonomy, this step is essential. For a pre-determined time, a child should understand and agree to a no quit policy from the start of martial arts training. As the set amount of time expires, (I recommend 6 months, minimum), the conversation can be held about whether to quit or continue. Six months gives the instructor time to get to know the child; to know what they are thinking and actively talk about their successes and failures, progressively. This process invests the child and helps them see the benefit of continuing. Can you set a goal at any time during their training? Absolutely! Didn’t think of it before the challenge started? Don’t worry, most of us are reactionary. Set the goals now and make the goals clear and attainable.
Here is a fun experiment that I have seen work for those really hard cases. Give your child a goal. Celebrate any success. (Check below for some specifics about how to celebrate.) Hold back on scolding and get creative instead. Household chores! Every child should have a set of chores at home. Find one that lasts more than 10 minutes and that they are not very fond of. This chore should be assigned shortly before it is time to get ready for martial arts class. After a few minutes, stop them and excuse the remainder of the chore. Tell them to get ready for class instead. Amazingly, the response may be a very eager willingness to get ready and leave without a fight. Just an idea and results differ, but shoot me a note if you do try it and it works!
*THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU CAN DO TO FIGHT THE “I DON’T WANT TO” FIGHT*
Repeat the following out loud to yourself, please!
“I love to watch you practice.”
If I could give only one directive to parents it would be- SAY THIS TO YOUR STUDENT every time they are in class. (Yes, that means you do have to actually watch.) This 6-word phrase is the key to ensuring your kids will love to train in martial arts for years to come – with grades, belts, accolades, and trophies acting as natural byproducts – not goals. Simple, yet very powerful.
So, the next time you bring your child to class, remember the following!
Before class begins:
- “Have fun.”
- “Do your best.”
- “I love you.”
After class ends:
- “I LOVE TO WATCH YOU PRACTICE”
- “Did you have fun?”
- “I’m proud of you.”
- “I love you.”
Let me leave you with this: coach less and love more. The number one thing your children work hard for is your undivided attention and approval. Give it to them! Tell them: “I Love to watch you practice.” They already see you as the ultimate measurement of their safety and success. Celebrate the successes! Those who celebrate the steps (and not just the accolades) see the true growth and rewards that are so readily available through training in martial arts.
I love to watch you practice!