Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Karate Kid: What's Your Motivation?

How can I get her to want it?

Miss Boo has reached the point where taekwondo requires practice outside of class. She has suddenly developed the attitude I was expecting all along, of just showing up and barely going through the motions.

Mrs P called a conference last week and challenged her to only come if she is going to try. It was meant to get her to want to try. Instead, she has spent the week moping around saying, "I just don't think karate is my thing."

Really? Karate was all she could talk about for three months before she started in January. Now she says she didn't know what she was getting into. She didn't realize it would be so hard.

I have to say, it's not really hard. We just practiced together for 20 minutes and I learned half of the 23 steps of the form. It's not hard, unless you expect to only ever do things that come naturally, at a time when you feel like doing them.

Which rules out horseback riding, telling stories, becoming an artist, or any other successful discipline for the rest of her life.

But how do I get her to want it?

My mom made me take piano lessons for ten years. I hated it. But I had to keep at it. I didn't appreciate the accomplishment until ten years later, when I was a decent pianist. I love that I can play the piano, but I have regret. I could have been really good had I practiced and studied theory better. And I feel like I wasted my opportunity.

The Captain shares similar feelings about his own experiences with organized activities as a child. He tried the smorgasbord approach and never really achieved success in any one area. Like me, he wants more for his kids. Does that require forcing her to continue with an activity for years whether she enjoys it or not?

I don't view parenthood as a chance to make up for my past mistakes. But I sometimes wonder if another approach might have worked to help grow my inner desire for success. Maybe a proper incentive might have encouraged him to stick with one activity long enough to develop mastery. I don't know what that approach or incentive would have been; I just wonder if one might have existed. And if it is possible, I want to help my daughter learn something I still struggle with: personal discipline.

So how do I get her to want it?

Boo requested Daddy escort her to her last class. When they returned, even he was defeated. From the first minute of class she was off kilter from the rest of the group, even the ones newer to the discipline than her. She just marches to the beat of a different drummer. Martial arts, which stresses uniformity, control, and precision, seems to be crushing the fragile flower of this girl's confidence.

I was stunned last week to hear her express a thought she worked out on her own:
I don't like karate because it's all about war-making and fighting, and that's just not me.
How do you argue with that?

Parenting is so challenging. The stakes seem so much higher than just the issue at hand, because you set precedents:
  • If she stops, is she a quitter? Or is she brilliant for being able to verbalize that this is not her cup of tea?
  • If she picks up something different, what if she wants to quit that too?
  • If we force her to stick with something, are we building character or damaging her trust that we will take care of her?
  • Are we the problem?
We walk a tightrope between celebrating her for her unique approach to life, and making sure she is prepared to live in a world that will require more of her. Our society pushes "different" people to the fringes, unless they also know how to fall in line at the proper times.

I don't care what the venue is, I just want to find an organized activity that will spark (and hold) her interest, and give her practice in persistence, self-discipline, and taking instruction.

On paper, karate sounds like a great way to accomplish that. I was so hopeful that this would be a breakthrough for her. However, until she starts to want it, I think I'm done forcing this activity.

1 comment:

  1. I guess I created some structure and sometimes some small incentives for you to practice because you seemed to enjoy knowing how to play. You never said that you didn't want to do it anymore. About a year or so after you did quit, you decided on your own that you wanted to continue.

    It has been a good thing that she has lasted as long as she has. I would make sure that you commend her for the positive aspect of that.

    Perhaps you could let her quit now (after this session is over) with the caveat that she may want to do it again in another year or so.

    I don't know what her objection is, but another incentive might be for one of you to go do it with her and practice with her at home.

    If you try to keep her going when she is so actively resisting, it may simply become a power struggle.

    Just some thoughts .....


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