Often when teaching children, we encounter a term full of baggage: Discipline.
It’s a word that brings varied reactions. Is it a virtue, a punishment, a necessity?
Maybe it’s all of these. But, it is also a path to achievement. For children, age
appropriate discipline in attitude, school work, athletics will lead to success as an
Teaching children to have discipline is challenging, but doesn’t have to be
unpleasant. Letting them know what is expected of them is the key (along with
expecting of them what their age and development level dictate). It starts with
very young children and the most basic of disciplines: sitting at the table until
everyone is finished or not throwing the sippy cup on the floor.
As they get older, expectations are added in increments: saying yes ma’am
and yes sir or asking politely and saying please. Once in school, children are
expected to attend every day. If they play a sport, they must attend every
practice and every game (notable exceptions such as illness apply, of course)—
the team depends on them and their performance depends on showing up and
trying their best.
At Karate International, we have a code of discipline and it begins with our 3 year
old Little Dragons: always say yes sir and yes ma’am. As they get older and join
regular classes, expectations increase. Students are expected to show respect
when entering and leaving the training floor, address all black belts as Mr. or
Ms., and practice assignments outside class. We also ask they bring in their
report cards, meet the requirements of each rank and wear the proper uniform.
Eventually students take on the role of leader by introducing themselves to new
students and helping them out, helping to teach and eventually teaching classes.
All of these disciplinary requirements are added gradually and every student
understands the expectations.
Allowing children to grow up with sporadic discipline does not give them the
tools to succeed in the world as adults. Attending activities only when they
want to, starting a sport or scouts or musical instrument and quitting before
the season or year is over, conditions the child to believe that it’s okay not to
finish. Conversely, asking a child to make an age appropriate commitment and
helping them see that commitment through will infuse that child with a sense of
accomplishment, leading to future successes.
As adults we’ve all experienced the feeling of not wanting to go to the gym and
of feeling better when we do go, despite the momentary temptation to not attend.
This is the feeling we seek to impart to students of karate. We see as time goes
on that even the most unruly child begins to prosper and grow. A feeling of pride
and self-worth grows out of a sense of accomplishment derived from participating
in and meeting expectations. And that’s the best gift we can give to the children
in our care.
Shihan Ginger Gallagher
Master Instructor and the owner of Karate International of Lewisville.
For more information call 336.945.5063 or visit www.kilewisville.com