I can’t get him to come to class, but he loves it when he is there – an email from a parent.
Does your child complain about going somewhere only to have fun once you get them there? Once they are at a fun activity (birthday party, friend’s house, karate), does your child resist leaving? Sometimes, parents tell me that their child is difficult to get to class, but love it once they are there. As parents, we worry that our child may be losing interest in the activity. The good news is that this behavior does not necessarily mean that the child doesn’t like the activity. Instead the child is demonstrating a behavior known as “present focus”
What is present focus?
Present focus is a child becoming focused on a current activity and not wanting to stop to start another activity even if they enjoy it. Younger children have difficulty thinking into the future and tend to seek instant gratification. For example, if you offer them a piece of their favourite food now or a bag of the same food a week from now. The child will most likely choose the piece now. Children lack the impulse control of adults, therefore, an important part of parenting is becoming the child’s impulse control until they create good habits and make good decisions.
Remember that the child may love karate, but still display the present focused behavior. Over the years of teaching, I discovered many effective techniques to help parents refocus children, in order to get them into class.
Tips to Combat Present Focus
1. Remind them. Remind them about their karate classes early in the day. Children easily forget their karate schedule and resist activities that they are not mentally prepared for.
2. Talk positively. Talk to them positively about karate class. Build an image in their minds about how much fun they have in class.
3. Build excitement. Practice some of the fun karate activities at home before class. This helps get the student excited about going and puts them in the right mindset.
4. Limit highly stimulating activities. Don’t let the student play their favorite video game right before leaving for karate or any other activity that seems to cause resistance to leaving. Have your child perform less stimulating activities like eating dinner or finishing homework right before class.
5. Change at the karate school. For kids, getting ready for class becomes a major sticking point. Make the barrier low to get into the car by grabbing their uniform and changing at the school. Also, favor your student wearing flip flops or another easy slip-on footwear compared to lace up shoes.
6. Get a Friend involved. Children love hanging out with friends. If their friends are in class, they are more likely to stay committed too.
7. Join yourself. Lead by example and reap some of the benefits of the Martial Art too! Children model their parent’s behavior. We always say that “Families who workout together, stay together.”
8. Give the a household chore 20 minutes before its time to leave for class, something they don’t enjoy such as tidying their room, then when its time to leave, they will be ready to go!
By applying these tips, you can combat the present focus behavior in your child so that getting them to classes is easier and less stressful, and you’re guaranteed to reap all the benefits that Martial Arts has to offer your child.