“I Don’t Wanna Go!” – How to Respond
(5-10 minute read)
Every January and February, a super-contagious disease spreads through Martial Arts schools across the country. Whether the school teaches 50 students, or 500 students, kids around the world suddenly become inconsolable when it comes to attending the very same classes that they were so excited to be a part of just 2 weeks ago.
What the heck is going on?
“He LOVED Martial Arts before Christmas!”
“She just wants to try new sports now.”
“They cry every time I say to get ready for Karate!”
I’ll give you some insight into the mind of a child to tackle this tough problem, but first, something really important that you need to know:
You’re. Not. Alone.
I’m going through it right now, with my oldest. She’s grown up in the dojo, but she’s lost her drive. It has literally been a part of her life since she was born, but now, it’s a struggle just to get her to practice outside or come for Demo Team. She wants to do Theater now.
And what’d I do? The owner of the Dojo? The headmaster of classes?
I told her okay. I said she could pull back from her martial arts, and pursue other adventures. I encouraged her to take up Theater.
But I didn’t give her the option to quit.
Let’s go back further for a moment with a personal story. When I was about 13, I was a purple belt in Tae Kwon Do. My mom had just signed me on to be a part of the Demo Team, and my instructor was starting to see my potential. When I went to test for Blue Belt, though, I failed. My instructor basically told me to go practice more and try again later.
I was crushed! I’d failed a test, just when I thought I was going to be a beast! How could he do that?
That week, I started to hate Karate (technically, Tae Kwon Do, but it was called “Karate World”). I told my mom I wanted to quit. She dragged me to the front door, kicking and screaming. I didn’t want to be there; I was done with this.
So she kicked me out of the car, saying, “I’m paying for this. You’re doing it.”
So, with tears in my eyes and a scowl on my face, I marched in through those doors, prepared to let everyone know how I felt. Yet, the moment my instructor (Master Day) saw me, he pulled me aside and discussed with me why I felt that way. He even called it “Brown-Belt-Itis”, the disease a student contracts when they get in the Intermediate or Advanced ranks, when they realize how far away Black Belt really is.
So, let’s get back to your kid (or maybe yourself), and let’s analyze what in the world is going through their minds…
In the beginning, your child was excited to start Martial Arts classes. They would put their shoes on every Mon/Wed or Tue/Thu and wait by the door. Or, they’d ask you, “Is tonight a Karate night?” constantly.
But then, after a few month, there’s a break. Either Summer Vacation or Christmas Break comes along, and we give the kids a break from the routine. The kids build a new routine that involves Video Games or Outside Playtime. They schedule every evening as “Basketball in the Driveway” or “Football in the Backyard.” They create new habits, and those don’t involve Karate.
You prepare them to go back to school by pulling their bedtime back, making them wake up earlier, and cutting back on their video game time. You remind them that school is coming back up, and they whine or cry or complain, but you know the value of school (for them, and for your own sanity). So you ‘force’ them to prepare for school. That Monday rolls around, and you drag them, pouting, to school.
But then, at the end of that first day, you pick them up and tell them it’s time for Karate.
They weren’t prepared for that! They were going to play video games when they got home! They have “Basketball in the Driveway” scheduled! Their friends are coming over!
So you let it slide tonight. We’ll try again Wednesday.
Wednesday comes around; same thing happens. Tears, pouting, “I don’t wanna go!”. It’s time to throw in the towel. It’s time to call and cancel.
Hold on a second! Your martial arts instructor is a part of your TEAM! Together, we’ve built your child’s confidence, focus, and respect. We’ve inspired them to achieve amazing things, and built a love for exercise and cultivated friendships they didn’t have before!
I’ve never had a person tell me,
“I’m so mad that my mom and dad pushed me to get my Black Belt,”
but I’ve had many tell me,
“I really wish I’d stayed long enough to earn that Black Belt.”
Black Belt is a goal that makes all other goals pale in comparison. When your child spends 3 or more years achieving something they’ve worked for, they learn the value of putting in the time and effort necessary to accomplish their dreams. They learn that the best things in life come after struggle and hard work. And they carry those lessons throughout the rest of their life.
Black Belts statistically earn better grades, have more friends, and attend college at higher rates than those with no training.
“Okay, okay, okay! Martial Arts is great for my child! I know this. So what do I do about the fits?”
-A frustrated parent like you
Easy. Let us be on your team.
You know martial arts is great for you child; just like school, bedtimes, and limiting tablet times.
Tell us at the first sign of trouble. Don’t wait for it to escalate. Don’t wait until you want to quit. The first time they say, “I don’t want to go!”, talk to them about how it would feel to be a Black Belt, how they get to see their friends, and how good they feel after class.
Get them excited to come in, and then tell their instructor.
We won’t be able to help if we don’t know!
Set the routine.
Clear your child’s schedule the week before a break ends. Set aside their normal Karate times as “practice times” that week. Hold the pads for them; put training videos on the TV for them to practice with; show them pictures from their last graduation with all of their friends. Prime them to be excited to come back to class.
Let them do other activities.
You may still be wondering what I did with my daughter, the one that wants to do Theater now. I said I didn’t let her quit.
See, Martial Arts goes hand-in-hand with every other activity for kids.
Theater takes Confidence, voice projection, discipline, and practice.
Band takes Focus, practice, and ability to follow directions.
Football takes Practice, communication, and a bit of fearlessness.
Soccer takes foot-eye coordination, determination, and great cardio.
I haven’t seen a single thing in here that isn’t magnified by Martial Arts.
I let my girl pull back to 3 days a week (she was doing 5, because yes, I’m that parent). But I’ll never let her pull out completely, because it’s too good for her. It made a MASSIVE difference in my life; most of who I am today was because I achieved, and continued past, Black Belt.
Who am I to let my child’s ego get in the way of her success?
So, let your child pull back to one or two days instead of 3 or 4 per week. Let them try other activities. Let them ‘take a break.’
But prime them for the day they come back and take ahold of that Black Belt.
Remind them every day that they have what it takes on the inside to be a Black Belt, but they still have to earn the right to wear it on the outside.
And maybe, just maybe, they’ll look at you one day and say,
“Mom, I’m so glad you didn’t let me quit.”