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Instructor/parent the Umyong of teaching.

Instructor/parent the Umyong of teaching.

By Steven Lemner

There are certain situations where a parent is also an instructor with a child, spouse or sibling that is  the student.

This is something I have faced in  two of the situations. All my children were students of mine as a martial arts instructor.

When they began they were of the age about 5 years old. Now one thing I never did was force them to begin training. Being around me and watching was the first thing that raised their curiosity. So I let it naturally evolve. Before they “officially” started I would “show” them just enough to spark that interest. Short “lessons” that were fun and challenging. From trying  to kick or hit a pillow to kicking high. I tried to adjust what was natural traits of the age for development to the lessons.

“Let nature take its course”

Ship Sam Seh

I focused on what they did well. As an example my daughter loved to “ organize things”. So when I was having a class she got a note book and I wrote names of the students in it. She wanted to take “ attendance”, when the students came in. So she would stand at the door with a little notebook and pen and check off the names of everyone that entered. This also enabled her to learn the names of the students. After a few times she then asked if she could train with them. So it began.

I recognized right away, that she would be a great teacher. So I reinforced that consistently with saying to her “someday you’re gonna be a great teacher”, and that’s exactly what she has become as an adult and excellent teacher.

When I was practicing, she would mimic what I was doing, and actually got really good, very fast. Children absorb everything around them from what we say to what they see and how we act. So what better example could I give my child and by leading the way.

My sons of which I have two followed the same kind of pattern.

Now my boys really liked the action, so that’s the direction I lead them. Flying kicks, jumping, working on speed targets ect. I knew this would help their coordination skills that would later show up in other sports activities that they got involved with.

Now of course, there are times when they didn’t want to train or practice, which I knew was natural, their kids.

So I would “play” sneak attack. I would surprise them them with a target and have them react. This had to be short time periods, and then I would walk away.

Before long, they would ask to “play” sneak attack. This also worked when I would challenge them with schoolwork by using flashcards. They would show me the flashcards and see how many I got right, and then I would do it to them, and the one that had the most one.

Again the amount of time that we would do this was just a few minutes, then I would stop and walk away.

But then because it was a challenge they would ask me to do it and challenge me. Sometimes I would let them win and sometimes I wouldn’t. And of course there are times when they actually did beat me. But it became a very fun way to study different things. So I thought this would be a great way that I could teach them as an example some of the Korean terminology that they had to learn for the class. This also involved in challenging them to do a technique, so this format worked very well. It’s some thing that we did together and we both had fun doing.

As they formally started to train more, I slowly introduced the concept of discipline, focus, respect through examples. I would highlight when they would do well especially more so than when they wouldn’t do something correct. The corrections were short and simple, and just directing them to the right way to do that.

I think as parents we have a tendency sometimes,as I did to look for the negative things they do rather than positive things first. Sometimes to quick to correct. Once I realize that and shifted it, the other way around things shifted in their actions and manners. There is no guidebook really to bring a parent. It evolves through experience. They were becoming very more self-reliant and focused.

Kids love a challenge with an outcome. So that was the model I used in class. Techniques became the example and I challenged them with it. Only when they succeeded did I praise it. If they did succeed not I did not make to big a deal of it, and let them know that’s the same thing I did when I was learning it. Making sure to take time with it and look for the small accomplishments.

Attitudes are always fluxing with children. So my “read” into it was key. I knew when to press them and when not to. They new also what was acceptable and what was not. Silence can br a powerful tool. Sometimes not saying anything and just walk away looking sad does it. It makes them think. A simple statement such as “well I am disappointed” walking away and say nothing else works wonders.

There was no grey area. I wanted them  to learn accountability. So actions had a good and bad side.

They understood when I was on the floor teaching I was the instructor and not just dad. So whatever rules had to be done, they had to follow just like everyone else. There were times, for example, in competitions when they were competing, I actually had to disqualify my own child because of contact let’s  say. But they understood they knew it was the rules. Of course, as a father I didn’t feel good, but I knew the lesson was more important.

I had to make sure the standards that I set, for the students with the exact same thing of my own children. Some people may think well “they’re letting them do that because that’s their child”. Well, that was never the case, and it was very visible.

I think one of the best highlights of having my children train with me along with my wife,stepson son, son  in law was that he gave us a  common ground, something we all shared. This created many great conversations, adventures and trips over the years about our experiences together in the martial arts.

Unlike times when parents have their children involved in activities where they sit on the sidelines and cheer them on,this was different.  We know exactly what they were going through because we both were experiencing it. I think because of that they held a greater respect for what we did together.

There really is no easy formula because each child is different so adjustments and awareness to those things I think is key.

Working with a spouse also has its unique challenges but overall it’s pretty much the same thing. It does bring a different level of relationship to a couple. It’s one more thing that they can share together.

In all the situation’s patience, care and compassion is key.

“ discipline goes beyond your feelings and desires”

H.C. Hwang

Kwan Jang Nim


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