Building Students’ Confidence and Competence

I want to request that parents to cooperate with me in giving our students the space that they need to come to class and train. I know that parents are sometimes anxious about the progress of their children and believe that “being there for the kids” means physically accompanying the child as they enter the academy, helping them with their attendance cards, taking them to their Dojo and even putting away their shoes.
At the karate school we teach children self-discipline, self-confidence and self-esteem as part of our program of personal growth and development by letting students learn how to do these tasks themselves. The Junior level is distinguished from the Dragons and Tigers by the degree of independence that we expect from the children. For example, in the half-hour Little Dragons class the staff fills out the attendance card for the child and the parents are allowed to bring the child into the facility and to shepherd the child to and from the classroom, helping the child put away shoes if necessary. In the forty-five minute Junior class the child is expected to be capable of doing these basic tasks, or of learning to do them, on their own. As parents and educators it is important that we all work together towards a common goal: providing opportunities for the children in our care to learn how to be self-sufficient.
Abraham Lincoln was once quoted as saying that “we don’t help others when we do for them what they could and should do for themselves.” At times people are confused about how children learn competence and confidence and how this relates to self-esteem.

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(Sparring practice will quickly build the students’ confidence!)

Nathanial Brandon, who is the author of several groundbreaking books on self-esteem, is very precise when he defines what contributes to building this attribute in children. He believes that the two most important components of self-esteem are self-respect and competence. When a child is shown respect by the adults in their envi-ronment, they learn to respect themselves. When children are allowed to learn how to take care of themselves, they learn competence. In order to learn competence a child needs to be able to make mistakes, to try something and fail, and to be permit-ted to struggle with difficult tasks on their own terms, without being rescued prema-turely by a well-meaning parent, adult or older sibling. We can not learn for them. They must learn for themselves.
Children can pick up on adults’ anxiety and learn to fear “failure”. Their natural ability to learn is shut down under the well-meaning guise of parental protection and in-volvement. Self-esteem is based on, and built through, learning how to be competent in life skills, according to Dr. Martin Seligman, a leading pioneer in the field of com-petence and depression. He says that we teach our children to be helpless when we prevent them from learning life skills, for them-selves. As parents we can give our kids opportunities by placing them in structured learning situations (with appropriate supervi-sion) and supporting them in their efforts to learn, by letting them go through the process on their own. Seligman’s book “Learned Optimism” explores this topic in detail, with research and empirical data compiled through years of observing the American pro-cess of child rearing. As adults we need to make the proffering of “rewards” (praise is a reward) contingent upon the delivery of reasonable, correct behavior from the child. Self-esteem is best developed when the child actually learns how to do something cor-rectly, and that happens only through the process of trial and error on the part of the child.
I encourage you to view our classes at any time through the windows. Many parents bring chairs to sit and watch their children train. If you have a question for the staff or instructors or need to schedule an appointment or purchase an item, of course, you are welcome to come inside for those purposes. If you are concerned about knowing what your child is learning, you may choose to purchase a DVD of the belt material your child is studying for home viewing and practice, or you may decide to take class yourself as many parents do. Additionally, by bringing your child only a few minutes before the class time, and picking them up promptly after class, you can help us to maintain good order in the Dojo.
Moving forward towards 2018 I anticipate renewed growth in our program. I welcome any efforts that can be made by our current body of students and their parents to bring us new members. I have been working with the Sensei’s who teach classes to further develop their teaching skills and build on their experience to lead our members forward towards the goal of Black Belt and beyond. It is because I have the assistance of the senior Black Belts that we are able to offer classes every week, seven days a week. Any stu-dents ranked Purple belt or higher who are members of our “Black Belt Club” may apply to be Sempai (class instructor assistants). Forms are available at the Front Desk. It is from this program that students can be selected for training as Instructors after achieving their Black Belts.
Shihan Robert H. Mason ©2017