Written by Christopher Allen, Owner and Founder of Tring Martial Arts Academy.
As a professional martial arts instructor with 15+ years of experience of teaching martial arts to children, one of the areas I am consistently seeing in many of our new recruits is a serious lack of self-esteem or self-worth. From my experience, low self-esteem in child has many causes, but the most common ones are:
- unsupportive parents, carers or others that play an influential role in their life.
- friends who are bad influences.
- stressful life events such as divorce or moving houses.
- trauma or abuse.
- poor performance at school or unrealistic goals.
- mood disorders such as depression.
- bullying or loneliness.
- ongoing medical issues.
Most of the children whose parents enrol their children in our martial arts training have a negative image of themselves, they might feel bad, ugly, unlikeable or stupid. Invariably they lack confidence and may “act-up” or “act tough” to cover up for this.
Children with a low self-esteem will often find it hard to make and keep friendships. They may find it easier to interact with older people or adults, especially if they are an only-child. Very often the feeling of loneliness and isolation can play a huge part in their behaviour and mind-set. They find it difficult to try new things and cannot tolerate change.
Ultimately, I believe it comes down to achievement, having strong role models and feeling part of the “team” from day 1.
At Tring Martial Arts Academy, we build self-esteem by enabling children to immediately feel a sense of achievement and that they are successful from day 1:
- First of all we establish a simple goal for them to achieve by attending their first beginners class. Everyone in a beginners class, is a beginner and our expectation for our new students is for them to feel uncomfortable and nervous. By expecting this my team of instructors have learnt how to reassure students and make them feel cared for. At the end of their first class, the student earns their first belt. The instructor presents the belt to them and the whole class applauds. Right there, in that moment, this child will feel special, recognised, part of the team and this is the first step we take to build their self-esteem.
- By wearing the same uniform as everyone else, they immediately feel part of the team and we encourage them to make friends by introducing them to the other people in their class.
- Often, we will have a member of our Junior Leadership Team (which is open to all students by invitation). A Junior Leader will have a few duties in each class, but primarily it is to introduce themselves to new people and “buddy-up” with them in their first few classes.
- The next stage of building self-esteem comes through the way we teach and test our curriculum. Unlike most of martial art schools who test their students every 3 months, we have broken down our curriculum into phases of 5 weeks and students take a “mini” test every 5th week on the content they have learned in the previous 4 weeks.
- Through testing every 5 weeks children with low-self esteem can see their progress, they start to believe in themselves that actually they might be good at this!
- Next we provide them with opportunities to build they self-esteem, perhaps through in-class demonstration with the teacher, helping out at class, completing their home chores check-list or by enrolling in the Junior Leaders programme.
- Our Instruction Team become role models in their lives, they walk the walk! In the eyes of our students, they are heroes, someone whom they would like to be.
I founded Tring Martial Arts Academy in July 2005 and have witnessed thousands of transformations in children. Whilst it is difficult to place a time on when these transformations take place, usually within the first 6 months we witness:
- Less of a target for bullies
- Generally happier and brighter moods
- More confident
- Better at communication
- Working better at school
- Getting on better at home with siblings
Of course, every skill must be practiced, and skills left un-practiced diminish over time. Children who have developed low-self esteem can often return to it at times in their lives. The best way for any child to feel a sense of total achievement and self-belief is to earn a Black Belt.
To find out more about how we can instil self-esteem in your child contact us today on 01442 795001 or see our website www.TringMartialArts.com