A blog by Christopher Allen, Founder of Tring Martial Arts Academy, 14th January 2022
I was speaking on the telephone recently to a parent of a 9-year-old boy who, when asked what he would like his child to gain through martial arts training, said, “I want him to toughen up”!
We all want our kids to be strong, to have the strength to endure tough times and to be able to rise up to any challenges in life.
Why Do Parents Want To Toughen Up Their Kids
We like the word “tough” because it sounds, well, tough. From a young age, we learn that the opposite of tough is fragile or weak. No one likes to be fragile or weak.
Therefore, we want to be tough.
Toughening up children make them strong. Makes sense, right?
Wrong, parents really want is our children to be mentally strong enough to handle adversity in life. Parents want their children to persevere and bounce back from hardship instead of falling apart.
There is a better term for this…we want our children to be resilient, not just appearing tough.
From resilience research, we know that one of the most important resilience factors is having a warm, close connection with an adult (usually the parent).
Authoritative parents are warm and responsive to a child’s emotional needs. They naturally create close relationships with their children. On the other hand, authoritarian parents who are cold and non-responsive to their kids’ emotional needs do not usually enjoy such close connections with their children.
So contrary to conventional wisdom, tough love parenting does not create tough kids. Even worse, it usually results in mean kids.
When parents allow their children to show emotion and help them learn to regulate it, kids have better emotional regulation skills, which will protect them and help them weather tough times.
The conversation with the parent reminded me very much of my own experience when my father decided I needed to toughen up. No longer did we hug or kiss, it was a handshake. That’s a lot for a 9-year-old to cope with. Dad would continue to state that it was to toughen me up, but, it just meant that I always felt that I was never good enough for him. Fortunately, I found martial arts and over the course of a few informative years it completely changed the direction of my life
Martial arts can lead to both physical and mental skill improvements.
As your train and learn physical self-defence skills, one of the many mental skills you develop is resilience. Resilience is a measure of your emotional strength and endurance. It’s your ability to cope with any setback or obstacle.
You might assume that resilience is something that you either have or don’t have. But just like any martial arts skill or technique, resilience is another trainable skill. Martial arts is a great environment to increase your resilience. As you train and learn self-defence, you’ll encounter a variety of challenges and obstacles. But with practice, you figure out how to adapt and deal with these and other obstacles.