The other day, my eight year old, WC came home and asked if he could quit karate. Since he’s been completely obsessed with advancing to the next belt level and never uttered the slightest hint over the past year that he was unhappy (and I just signed a contract for another year). I said no. Then sat down next to him and asked what was up.
During the progression through his blue belt, he’s had to lead a class of lower belt levels. He has a more reserved nature and usually doesn’t like to draw attention to himself outside of the house (yes, this is the same child who ran butt naked across the front yard). The first time he had to lead class, his instructor warned me when I walked in. He hurried over to me and said just to let me know he had WC lead class today because he knew WC would be complaining about it. Leading and speaking up do not come naturally to WC (or me). This is good practice for him and gives him an opportunity to become comfortable.
Sure enough it was the first thing out of WC’s mouth. He complained the whole way home. I advised him that it was good for him. He didn’t buy it.
Then the second time he was tasked with leading class, he told me. “Sensei said to lead class and then he just stood there!” But he appeared to make it through without too much trauma.
The day he asked if he could quit was his third time to lead. He’d taken my advice and thought about how sensei leads the class and go from there. He’d taken the instruction to lead class seriously. He was truly upset with “his students.” He’d told one kid (a friend) that he needed to work on his kata and the kid was angered by the suggestion.
I explained to WC, that sometimes, people have a hard time taking constructive criticism from someone their own age or younger. “But, it was true,” he countered. “I wasn’t mean about it.”
“It’s a whole different thing to teach people, isn’t it?”
“Why do they have to be so dumb,” WC asked in exasperation.
“Whoa, hold the phone there…you don’t call people dumb.”
“Well, if I hold my arm like this (he gets up and demonstrates) then hold your arm like I am. Not back like this (pulls his arm back). How hard is it?”
I gently remind him to remember what it is like learning new things and not everyone learns quickly or even the same way. If they hold an arm wrong, then calmly point out the arm placement needs to be corrected. I don’t even go into it that they might be slacking because he’s their peer.
I explain to him that it takes patience to teach people. And this opportunity gives him a different perspective; he can now understand what it’s like for his school teachers. And while he is leading a class, he can also understand what it’s like to learn. It should give him an appreciation for both student and teacher.
I always knew he expected a lot from himself. This gives me insight that he also expects the best from the people around him. He’s already begun to learn that they always don’t give it.