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Self Esteem - 9 ways to build your child's self esteem

Posted: August 03, 2017

 Self-Esteem “The Joy of Being Myself!”  There should always be joy in being exactly who we are and not wanting to be a carbon copy of another person.  However easy that is to say it isn’t so easy to do.  Children have so much pressure to conform to what society deems popular at the moment.  Most of the time it is a negative peer pressure that our children deal with, pressure to quit positive things, be rebellious, and even look like a thug; the list goes on as the child gets older.  What can we do if we have younger children to give them the self-esteem to combat negative peer pressure?  Below I list 9 different ways that you can reinforce a positive self-esteem by using martial arts training.

9 ways to build your child’s self-esteem with martial arts training.

  • Positive self-talk: Remember to bow in and out at the front door with your child saying “Hello Sir, Hello Ma’am!” This helps your child have confidence when entering a building or leaving knowing everyone is happy to see them and enjoys their company.  This reminds your child that they should not be around people that are not genuinely excited to spend time with them.  When bowing on to the floor we require them to say “yes, I can” this is the best self-talk a person can do. If they get in the habit of believing that anytime they are faced with a challenge (and sometimes class is a challenge) “yes, they can” they will be able to move mountains with their self-esteem.  Also parents should stand up and say the oath with the students before and after class, the oath is a positive affirmation of what they believe in and are working towards.
  • Make classes a priority: Bring your child to at least 2 rank classes a week consistently.  The same days the same time.  This helps your child make positive friends, become comfortable with the instructors teaching style and effectively learn the material. Remember why you started, your child wanted to learn Martial arts, just like an instrument or foreign language after the novelty wears off the work begins. By creating a routine that is predictable, your child will reach a goal that they set and will feel very proud of their accomplishments. This simple knowledge of class structure and consistency creates an understanding of what is expected. Consistency helps your child be able to perform at the level the instructor requires for their next graduation. Knowing their material builds confidence, building confidence builds self-esteem. Self-esteem derived from hard work and consistency becomes a permanent building block in their character.
  • Graduate on schedule. The setting and reaching of short term goals teaches children how to set long term goals.  Each graduation is earned. Not given.  Your child is tested in class over and over again in preparation for their public graduation at the end of the cycle.  Missing graduation with their friends too many times starts to dilute their drive to achieve. It is hard for a child to keep training without consistent short term reinforcement and an external proof of their achievement (their new color belt) towards their long term goal of black belt. When learning a new skill that requires specialized instruction don’t leave their training to chance,  pay attention to the knowledge indicators, the knowledge stripes on their belt,  and react accordingly. By the end of week 6 if the child doesn’t have 3 black stripes on their belt they are behind and need a private lesson with an instructor to make sure they can stay on track for graduation.  Nothing effects a child’s self-esteem more than not “getting” the material for graduation after they have worked so hard.  Private instruction from their favorite instructor for a half an hour builds confidence in their material and reinforces a positive relationship between student and instructor.  Your child learns how to ask their “teacher” for help and enjoy the experience. It removes the stigma of needing help.   This will help in school when your child needs help with something academic.  It isn’t easy to approach an authority figure and ask for help.  I have heard several children in both middle school and high school tell me they were “afraid” to ask the teacher for help and didn’t know how to do it and not look “dumb”.  Private lessons in martial arts breaks down that barrier and helps the child learn how to communicate without fear of judgment, their need for help with a difficult subject.  Every successful martial artist has paid for private lessons at some point in their journey.  Lesson learned? It is ok to ask for help.
  • Support Instructors: Never allow your child to see that you are upset with an instructor.  No matter how much you tell your child it is the instructors “fault” they (the child) didn’t get the material in class, (the instructor didn’t “teach” it, the instructor doesn’t know how to teach…) the child will either A)personalize the complaint against the instructor and feel you really mean that something is wrong with them because the other kids “got” it and they didn’t, or B) agree with you and learn the lesson of victimization – to blame, complain and justify.  Either lesson is unacceptable and will damage a child’s self-esteem.  The child looks up to the instructor and wants to model themselves after their favorite instructor.  IF you are speaking poorly of the instructor in front of your child it makes them question their own judgment of character.  Your child will also wonder what you are saying about them when they aren’t around. This is a complicated lesson to teach a child and should be left to their mid to late teens if taught at all.  Children between 3 and 13 do not have the emotional reasoning skills to process the separation of their feelings from the projected feelings of their parents, about a person or situation.
  • Don’t get involved with Academy gossip.  Gossiping is a form of bullying and is considered friend exclusion.  No form of bullying has ever increased a child’s self-esteem.  If the child hears you bullying their instructors or speaking poorly of their academy they will follow suite and often times develop the habit of “tattling” (a child’s version of gossiping to an adult) this will stunt their social/emotional growth at school and damage their self-esteem. They will also learn the lesson of friend exclusion and could later become a bully themselves.   Instead, teach your child to be a “good finder” to be someone else’s cheerleader.  When someone wants to give up on themselves take a moment to encourage them and possibly help them with a difficult situation. Teach your child to say things like “you can do this” “let me do it with you” or  “We got this!”   We teach our students that a “black belt never leaves a black belt behind” This includes both color belts and parents because “a black belt is just a white belt that never gave up.”  Let’s teach children friendship instead of intolerance.  This will help your child become a super hero (seeing a need and taking an action) instead of a super heel (by focusing only on their needs). The current trend in psychology is the study of society’s lack of “empathy” and how it is becoming more and more common for school age children to lack empathy for their peers.  Becoming a “Good Finder” builds not only your child’s self-esteem but teaches them to build others self-esteem.
  • Teach personal discipline: Use the tools provided by the academy for success, in my school these are the good deed sheets.  We have all heard the old business adage “inspect what you expect” folks, as parents we are in the business of raising productive children.  The good deed sheets are designed around Erick Erickson stages of development and if used properly will create good habits that will last your child a life time. Being recognized weekly in front of their peers for “acting like a black belt” not only reinforces good behavior but also teaches the child that “friends” are happy for them when they do something right.  This alone helps with friend selection later in life. Social scientists have proven over and over again that good habits builds great self-esteem, because the child knows what are age appropriate social norms expected of them and how to take care of themselves. 
  •  Set Goals: While children do not come with a handbook they do come with some common sense guidelines.  Such as; you tell your child when to go to bed, how to behave in social situations, you take them to church/temple (or however your family celebrates spirituality), the doctors for yearly check-ups, the dentist, make them do homework and share their toys.  These are all things that a child naturally doesn’t want to do but you as a parent understand that it is necessary for their wellbeing.  Understand that at some point your child will tell you “I don’t want to go to karate today” This should be handled just like the statement of “ I don’t want to go to the doctor” or “I don’t want to go to the dentist” or I don’t want to do my homework”  Kids naturally want to take the easy road in life, they’re children. But just as success is learned so is failure.  Allowing a child to “quit” because you don’t want to “fight” with them anymore inadvertently teaches them that through whining and complaining they can get their way.  Not only do they learn to quit, each time getting easier, you learn to justify giving in to them. Today they quit martial arts, tomorrow basketball, next year band and maybe later high school, college or a marriage or maybe the pursuit of a successful career.  By allowing a child to quit something before they have developed a basic level of measurable skill (decided on when signing up – usually 1st degree black belt) the only lesson your teaching your child is how to get out of obtaining a goal they set publically.  Think about when your child started martial arts, you took pictures, posted them on facebook, told your parents about your little ninja, let them wear their karate uniform to the grocery store after classes when you stopped to get milk and bread.  They were being recognized by friends and family for taking martial arts classes then suddenly, classes stopped and they heard you give an excuse as to why they are not doing it anymore.  They learn rapidly how to “get out” of obligations previously committed to, they learn that their word is NOT their bond, and they learn over time that they have no social responsibility to finish what they start.
  • Get involved! Stay and watch your child in class, go to the workshops and seminars offered at the academy.  Have their birthday party at the academy.  Invite their school friends to take a class with your child.  Follow the instructors on facebook, make friends with the other parents. This early exposure to the martial arts lifestyle reinforces your child’s belief in the goals they set are the goals they get.  Get your child the necessary gear early in their training so that they have the ability to learn how to use it before it is required because of rank.  It is frustrating for a child to feel like they are “behind” their friends in sparring or weapons.  No one wants to be the last person to “get” it.
  • Go to tournaments. I have said over and over again competition isn’t about winning or losing it is about learning how to perform in public.  Public speaking is the number one fear in America. Competition teaches the child how much work it takes to “win”.  This translates to any other activity in life, life is a competition.  Why make competition a mystery?  If the idea of competition is introduced early in life it becomes second nature, the child begins to welcome the challenge, and look forward to the work it takes to reach a goal.  The child makes friends in other states through competition, and often time gains a much larger recognition as either a state or district champion representing not only their family but their friends and academy.  Competition teaches the child to step outside of their comfort zone and to try new things.  It teaches children to believe in their ability to succeed, to grow and to achieve.  There are a definite self-esteem lessons in competing.  The lessons of good sportsmanship, friendship and hardwork. 

In conclusion, try taking the superhero challenge. Every day for a month do three acts of kindness, build others self-esteem and be the good finder in your child.