December 19

How not to screw up training with your child


In my previous email, I talked about the importance of training with your child so that they stay super motivated about martial arts; however, I did say it can have a negative effect if done wrong.  

As a martial arts instructor, I found myself wanted to TEACH them at home rather than just wrestling with them.  They were instantly turned offKids don’t want to be taught by their parents – they want to play with their parents!  And I haven’t met the kid yet that doesn’t like to wrestle with their parents.

So my routine is that I’ll roll out the mat and call them over – and I’ll jokingly taunt them.  I tell my kids, “who wants to get their butt kicked by Daddy first!” and they’ll instantly say, “No, we’re going to kick your butt!’ and we start wrestling.  I have three kids, so often times I will wrestle all three at once to get them all riled up – then I’ll tell them that I’m going to wrestle with one first, then the next, and then the next, with 1 minute intervals, so they aren’t waiting out too long (if you have them wait more than 3 minutes, usually that will be too much for their attention span). 

Then once they’ve all gotten my personal attention – I’ll have them start wrestling each other.  I find that with my kids, if I try to get them to wrestle each other initially, sometimes they don’t want to – but they always want to wrestle with me.  So I’ll get their motors going and then have them go with each other.

Now this is when I take it to another level – I’ll start sportscasting their match 🙂  I’ll be yelling the whole time, “OOOOHHH!!!  MARCOS JUST WENT FOR A SHOT!  IS HE GOING TO FINISH IT, OR IS LLOYD GOING TO DEFEND IT!???  LLOYD STOPPED IT!  NOW LLOYD IS GOING FOR A TAKEDOWN!!!”

And they love it 🙂  Why?  Well, for one, they have my undivided attention – which kids absolutely crave.  They want your attention.

And two… it’s ALL PRAISE!  Which is today’s tip.

Motivating Kids Tip #2 = Praise, Praise, PRAISE!

Use nonstop praise with your kids, don’t worry about correcting them.  I know this sounds counterintuitive to some people… “Are you saying we should just ignore their mistakes while training?  Won’t they keep making those mistakes otherwise?”

For that, I’m going to quote Pope John XIII, “See everything, overlook a lot, correct a little…”

If you try to correct everything in one day – you will most likely fail.  At the same time, you don’t want to ignore all the problems, you want to see them all and identify them – but you will need to overlook them and just correct a little.  And if you correct a little everyday, before you know it, you will have accomplished A LOT.

With the kids, when we say “correct a little” – as parents, we want it to be nothing more than one concept or technique per 20 minute session… and the addressing of it shouldn’t take longer than one minute – then back to play wrestling.

One way of sneaking in instruction without teaching them I got from Rener Gracie – which is to physically manipulate your kids into the correct positions and moves without saying anything – and then praising them afterwards!  For example, if your kid grabs your legs for a double – you dive to your side (in the direction they should be pushing) and then say “GOOD JOB!” then you physically pull them into side control and say, “great side control!” and then after a bit, you physically grab their pantleg and pull them to mount and then say, “Great job getting the mount!”

This way they get praised and learn the positions, even if it is on a subconscious level, and with time they will start hoping into those positions on their own.

Another detail about praise… general praise such as, “Good job!” is better than no praise – but the best kind of praise is specific praise, for example, “Great job pushing my leg down to pass guard!”  Or even, “awesome job getting right back up to your feet quickly after that scramble…”

So you need to be a good “finder” and find specific things to praise for maximum praise effectiveness.

Follow this for a few months and then you’ll be able to expand past a minute of instruction and maybe do three to five minutes of instruction in a 20 minute home training session.  I sometimes do about 3 to 5 minutes of instruction at home with my boys – but only if they want it.  I’ll say something like, “Lloyd, want me to show you how to make that double leg better so you can take down the kids at class?” and if he says yes, I’ll show him.  If he says no, we keep play wrestling.



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