Children just want to play and have fun which means they love chaos, right? Wrong. Children are emotional basket cases until the age of about 25 and the last thing they need is an unpredictable schedule. As a martial arts school owner and instructor, I have had the opportunity and pleasure of teaching children (and parents) for almost 20 years. You name it, I have seen it. From super strict parents to free spirit parents to shy kids to hyper kids, and kids with special needs. There are an infinite amount of parent-child personality combinations out there and with each one comes unique circumstances.
At the end of the day the best part of my job is being able to watch our students evolve into improved versions of themselves. Whether it be increased confidence, sharpened focus, or strengthened self discipline, I thoroughly enjoy helping people of all ages become more successful in life. That being said, the one thing that needs to happen with all types of children and parents is keeping a consistent, weekly schedule. All of our programs, regardless of age, require students to attend at least two classes per week. In order for our students to experience notable benefits, we strongly encourage our parents to keep their children in the program for at least a year. The longer a student stays in the program, the more their character mimics the priceless martial arts culture of focus and discipline. The students who have started with us in grade school and did not stop their training until heading off to college all had one thing in common; they kept a consistent, weekly schedule. Here are three reasons why your child needs a weekly routine and schedule.
Self discipline is a myth. People who seem to lead disciplined lives have simply created and maintained positive habits. Nearly everything we do on a day to day basis is a habit. From the time we wake up to the moment our head hits the pillow, our lives consist of habits. A lot of our habits were created with the help of our parents during childhood. Brush your teeth before bed time. Make your bed as soon as you wake up. Rinse off your dishes after your are finished with dinner. There are a lot of tasks we do on a day to day basis that require little to no thought because they have become deeply ingrained habits.
Unfortunately not all habits are positive and it is important parents do their best to set their children on the right path to success. People who have achieved great success tend to maintain a strict, weekly schedule that consist of daily habits. The earlier our children understand the importance of this, the better. Our bodies operate on a biological time clock and yearn for predictability. As soon as a positive habit is established, we no longer have to use as much willpower and brain resources to complete the task. It just becomes part of our daily routine and we feel “off” if the habit is not executed. If our children experience the power of positive habits throughout their childhood then the transition to adulthood will be that much smoother.
Recent studies are showing that grit is one of the important character traits needed for success. Grit is simply the ability to not give up when times are tough. The earlier a child starts to learn about this vital trait, the better. How do we teach our children grit? According to Angela Duckworth, author or the best selling book, “Grit”, we must keep our children involved with the same activity for at least a year. As you can imagine, this is no easy task. There will be days our children will want not want to go to class. There will be days where we don’t feel like leaving the house because the weather is unpleasant. There will be days we just want to sit and relax while watching the newest episode of your favorite show on Netflix. Life is unpredictable which can make keeping a schedule seem impossible. But when we make the commitment to do everything possible today to improve our children’s tomorrow, we push through and endure. When emotion is removed from the equation, the logical answer is almost always, “push through and do it.”
Keeping a consistent, weekly schedule will teach our children grit when we don’t allow the habit to be broken. When its time to get in the car to go to karate class and your son is whining and complaining, you help him learn grit by not giving in. When the weather is nice outside, your favorite sports team is playing, you going to church anyways shows your child what grit is. Maintain the weekly, positive habit and a year will go by in the blink of an eye. You then can reflect on the experience with your child and show her it is possible to persevere through the times of feeling uncomfortable and unmotivated.
As I mentioned before, children yearn for predictability in their lives. When we constantly surprise our children with doing random activities on random days at random times, it can make them anxious because of not knowing what is coming next. Their brains are still in the early stages of development which means they are not capable of regulating their emotions as effectively as adults. Unexpected events can cause the child’s brain to escalate into fight or flight mode which can manifest into tantrums or completely shutting down. All of these negative experiences can put a strain on the relationship between parent and child.
Successful relationships are built around fulfilling expectations that are clearly understood by both parties. Maintaining a consistent, schedule helps foster a healthy relationship between parent and child because expectations are fulfilled every week. Parent is happy because child is going to class every week. Child is happy because parent is giving the child a consistent, predictable schedule. Yes, there will be times the child will be angry with the parent when it's time to go to piano. But the majority of the time the child will be happy and back to himself after the lesson is finished. Just like in any relationship, having clear expectations understood by both parties is vital for long term happiness and satisfaction.
Maintaining a consistent, weekly schedule with repeating daily routines may seem like it makes humans turn into robots. There may be truth to this but the fact that it promotes long term joy and success for both parent and child makes it completely worth it. Yes, it's going to feel difficult and almost impossible in the beginning but when we understand it is for the future of the most important people in our world then we don’t quit and make it happen. The beauty of this is we parents also improve from the inside out. When we put our children first, it forces us to lead by example and find the best version of ourselves. When it comes down to it the only thing stopping both parent and child from finding future success is our own laziness. It's time to step it up and be the best parents we can be for our children. And the first step is creating a consistently, weekly schedule that consists of positive habits. Now lets get to work and lead the way for the most important and precious people in this world; our children.
After five years of crying and complaining, my eight year old daughter is officially a junior black belt.
January. For most people, it marks a fresh start. New opportunities. New possibilities. It is a chance to reset and move forward.