1906 West Broadway Avenue, Maryville, Tennessee 37801

Who's the Boss?

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Parents, if you are easily offended this may be a long tough read. Like all of you I have seen a change in this generation of children. They are more disinterested in school and activities. They struggle controlling their emotions and their responses to their emotions. They are slow to get motivated and quick to quit. They do and say things that “we would have never thought about when we were kids.” (Yeah, I’ve heard you. Sounds like I’m talking about your kid doesn’t it?) However, working with children for well over two decades I’ve realized that kids are kids. They haven’t changed really. Parents have changed. Parenting philosophies have changed. The family life within the home has changed. Everything around the child has changed and the changes we see in the children are products of their environmental changes.


I read an article this week about how this generation of parents has grown dependent on the school system to help them raise their children. Unfortunately many parents also expect other adults in a child’s life to also take some of the responsibility of parenting from them. This is called co-parenting, and it is NOT good for your child. You see, we have taken this “it takes a village” mentality to a place where it was never intended to go. It does take a village to raise a child, however it does not take a village of parents and parent substitutes. Imagine a village of only doctors. Could you survive? Where would you get your groceries, get your car fixed, or buy your next iPhone? In a village you need a doctor, but you also need a farmer, a mechanic, and a retailer. Your child needs YOU to be the parent, but they also need their teacher to be their teacher, their ball coach to be their ball coach, and their taekwondo instructor to be their instructor. Each of these individuals should hold 100% of the authority in each of their respective roles. When we cross these boundaries our kids’ progress suffers.


Let me explain. Children naturally know and respect authority. They haven’t yet been taught the whole “question authority” thing that is so prevalent in our society. When an authority figure tells them something they naturally respond. That’s why students on our mat do so well. Our instructors are in absolute control of what our students are learning and experiencing. The students feel comfortable and naturally trust the process. They know there are expectations and boundaries, and children thrive on that. For the most part our instructors have 100% of the authority in our school.


Now consider three examples. These examples are purely fictitious. Any similarities to persons or situations in real life are merely coincidental. (At least that’s what the end credits of the movies tell me.)


First, a concerned parent sees their child struggling with a taekwondo skill during class or not paying perfect attention during the instruction. Although the instructors have worked with their child on the mat this parent feels obligated to discuss at length the importance of paying attention and not getting distracted during class on the car ride home. (Yep. I know all about that.) They have just stolen a percentage of our authority. Now we only have 98%, and the parent has 2%. Later that evening the parent pulls out their child’s focus target and calls her in to the living room to practice the technique she was struggling with. (Now you’re convinced I’m talking about you.) The child is upset, mostly because taekwondo is over for the day and she was playing Fortnite. She begrudgingly comes to practice, probably whines/cries/complains a bit, and at best gives 50% effort and attention. Why? Because mom and dad only have 2% taekwondo authority. Well, now they have 5% because they just took another 3. Would you give 100% effort to someone who only has 5% of your trust in a particular area? Now the next time this child attends classes she will most likely be a bit less focused because her instructors have 5% less of her respect. You can imagine what will happen if this pattern continues for a few weeks or months. Although done with good intentions this parent has now taken our authority on the mat for himself and reduced the positive impact that we can now have with his child. (You didn’t realize you did that did you?)


Second, a child who happens to be a taekwondo student is struggling with behavior issues at home. He yells at his siblings and parents, is quick lose his temper, and throws some of the biggest temper-tantrums ever. (I know about these too.) These parents are obviously concerned and at the end of their rope so they contact the taekwondo school and ask the instructors to “talk” to their child. (Thanks for not using Facetime so you can’t see my eyes roll. Not trying to be rude. Let me explain.) I mean it makes sense right? We teach valuable life-skills everyday on the mat, and this child does a great job in class. He would never act that way toward the taekwondo instructors. And he has so much respect for all of the instructors. (It’s scary how I know your thought process isn’t it.) That may be true, but it’s a bit off the mark. He has 100% respect for the instructors in the taekwondo school. He has 100% respect for his parents at home. By us “talking” to him about his at-home behavior the parents have freely given 10% of their at-home authority to the taekwondo instructor. Now this child respects them even less at home. Things may be better for a while but will most likely get worse in the long-term. But that’s not all. Now this child respects the taekwondo instructor less at the school because that talk took 10% of the taekwondo authority from the instructor, and he’s now seen as 90% instructor and 10% parent. This instructor’s ability to make a positive impact on this child is now less than it was because he crossed the boundary of his authority. We are now only a couple weeks away from another “talk” and these “talks” will get more and more common until this child eventually quits and their parents let him because taekwondo obviously doesn’t work for my child. (This is why my eyes were rolling.)


Third, the child is struggling in school. His grades are dropping, homework is taking forever, and he often “forgets” to turn in assignments. (How do I know these things.) This child’s parents as a last resort ground him from attending taekwondo class. For two weeks he’s not allowed to attend. Again, on the surface this makes sense. He loves taekwondo and wants to be there all the time. These parents want to get his attention by taking away the thing that he loves most. (This is usually an emotional parent decision in which the parent gets satisfaction from causing their child pain. Generally not cool.) However, they have taken away something that is actively helping them address the problems he’s facing. How can the instructors help their child if he isn’t in class? These parents have taken 100% of the instructor’s authority for the next two weeks. Now when this child goes back to class all of his friends have stripes. He doesn’t even know what he’s doing. The other kids know almost all of their curriculum, but he’s still struggling with the basics. He’s two weeks of training behind. How is he going to catch up?


Let me be perfectly clear: I desire for all of our students to observe the tenets and oath of taekwondo and live with a black belt attitude. You’ve seen this on the mat I’m sure. I am extremely concerned with their behavior at home and at school. But I have no authority in those places. To ask me to help your child’s behavior at home by “talking” to them is impossible. I can and will help their behavior at home through consistent character development training at the taekwondo school. His is accomplished by clearly defining expectations and regularly reinforcing them through mat chats. I can help them at home by giving our parents the tools necessary to do the same things at home. But this is where my authority ends.


So what can a parent do? It does take a village, but each villager needs to be in 100% control of their role in the upbringing of this child. Parents, you need to be in absolute control in your home. Here are some tips:

  • Set clear boundaries and follow through with consequences if the boundaries are violated. Be sure to discuss with children after they’ve been disciplined why they were punished, remind them of the expectation, and let them know that this situation is now over and behind them.
  • Be more giving of praise than you are of discipline. Our instructors maintain a 2:1 ratio of positive comments to corrections.
  • Let your children know that they are loved and have value even when they do wrong.
  • Think about all of your decisions carefully and don’t act emotionally.
  • Do not take the authority of coaches, instructors, or school teachers by dabbling in those arenas. Trust these individuals to do their job.
  • Most importantly, you be their parent and be fiercely selfish of your authority in the home. Do not give your authority to others by asking them to parent on your behalf. This happens very easily and often without us realizing. Every time a parent asks a teacher, grandparent, coach, or instructor to do something that falls under the parenting umbrella their children lose a percentage of respect for their authority. It doesn’t take long for all respect to be gone.


Stay the course parents. It’s a marathon not a sprint. Your job is difficult. We’re here to help, but only in the role we’ve been assigned. 

Proud to bring family friendly martial arts to Maryville!

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