So NOT The Karate Kid


Last week, we had an appointment with Dr. Steven Curtis.  He strongly believes that our son needs to develop mastery around something other than video games.  He feels that my TBP must experience the struggle, persistence and success felt only after going through this process.  Starting at a novice level and reaching expertise, will bring him self-esteem and confidence that will benefit him.

I agree with this 100%.  So what’s the problem?

The problem is that my precious boy is currently obsessed with Mine Craft and video games and isn’t interested in much of anything else.  He is an excellent reader, creative thinker, and enjoys creating detailed drawings.  He doesn’t like to be told how something should look or be, so although he is interested in art, he is not interested in outside instruction.  “Why do I want to go to a drawing class when I already like how I draw?”

My TBP has shown interest in fencing, archery, and computer programing but when we go to sign up for a class, he says that he is no longer interested.  We know that he is highly introverted and is hesitant to perform on command for others so we suggested private options and were surprised that he was still against it.

A few years ago, he took over a year of piano classes.  He was very good and the teacher said that he had a natural talent that she was excited about.  Once the selected pieces became challenging (but within his reach with practice) he refused to play.  He would not come out of his room for the lesson and argued about practicing. To be honest, once he was determined NOT to play piano, trying to make him play and attend to the lesson was torture for me!

Right now, I can hear you through the screen!  Some of you are saying, “If he doesn’t like it, don’t make him do it.”  The other camp is loudly saying…”Why don’t you make him!  Just say, ‘Because I said so!’  If he was mine I would…”  Because of the piano situation, we waited for him to show interest in an activity, making frequent suggestions and getting turned down each time.

Dr. Curtis believes that it is time for a firm approach.  He suggests that we give him two or three choices and insist that he picks an activity that he will practice consistently and work to his fullest potential.  As the doctor spoke, I pictured Ralph Macchio with all the “wax on” and “wax off” practice and his unwavering focus.  I know that success through practice and determination is motivating and fulfilling!  I want that for my son, but I only see that kind of tenacity when he plays video games.

So now…share with me your wisdom smart readers!  What would you do?  Should I force my child to participate in an activity that he has little or no interest in?

6 thoughts on “So NOT The Karate Kid

  1. When you figure it out, let me know, too – OK? We had much the same issues – tried swimming, gymnastics, karate, boy scouts, tennis….we are on round 2 of karate (new instructor, much less waiting time) and maybe it’s maturity, but so far, so good. Both kids are enjoying it.

    Personally, I’m not convinced about the mastery thing. I am encouraging persistence, but I think it might be something they can handle better with age or find something that really floats their boat. I get that video games are tempting – they suck them in with flashy graphics and instant gratification (I succumb to a bit of Candy Crush addiction myself).

    I think maybe they will find some path they enjoy eventually. As long as we teach them, coach them to not avoid everything they feel uncomfortable with, then it will come. Maybe I’ll be proven wrong and I’ll have messed up my kids, but maybe not. Stay tuned – work in progress.

    • I love the “work in progress” attitude. I think that explains where I am right now. I agree that persistence is the key and that is also where we have had the biggest push back. Just when something gets challenging, he gets overly frustrated; however, he can push through frustration with most video games. I agree that maturity is part of it too. Thank you for your comments 🙂

  2. I just found this post on SITS Sharefest and I don’t know a lot about your son. With that said, I think it can be valuable to nudge a child outside of his/her comfort zone. My caution would be to make sure it is an individual activity if you think he’s not going to like it. There are lots of ways that team sports and activities can be great for kids, but if you get a kid on a team who adamantly doesn’t want to be there, it can ruin in for a lot of other kids who may not have the capacity to understand why it’s happening. Just my two cents, since you asked! 🙂

    • We have tried team sports in the past and so far, they haven’t worked well. He enjoyed T-ball when he was hitting or being coached but all of the waiting time was hard for him. He is also highly introverted and when he makes a mistake he gets embarrassed. I think “nudge” is the perfect word for where my comfort level is right now. I haven’t seen great results from too much pressure. I appreciate your two cents 🙂

  3. I very much agree with the doctor. The key is breaking down the lessons into easily chewable and digestible pieces. Almost anything can be done in small enough increments…given enough time. I think the key is in the securing of a worthy goal…having closely spaced objectives…and having lots of positive reinforcement along the way. A true victory goes a long way towards future success.

    We also always had our son earn his play time on a daily basis. His daily objectives had top priority. The more quickly he had achieved them correctly…the more free time he had (basic management by objective). However, we were with him every step of the way (in the early days). Besides giving him positive reinforcement…we explained the lessons by concept. We kept the sessions short (with interspersed breaks)…but there were many sessions on the same subject (easily digestible pieces). We watched for a sticking point…explained the concept…had him do similar problems until mastered…then had him accomplish the task. This way, there was no frustration, and he had foreknowledge of a previous success (true confidence). He then loved doing tasks.

    Just as it is in academics…it is in sports and music. The key is to have each session come out as a success. In easily digestible pieces (because being easily digestible…it will be easily mastered)…he will be adding success upon success. In time…he will surpass what he had thought possible…and he will love showing what he can do (your only effort then…will be to keep him humble 🙂 With just a few successes under his belt…he will see that this concept applies to everything in life. He would then realize that there wouldn’t be anything that he couldn’t do (in the realm of possibility). Children are great at seeing patterns. By learning in an efficient and successful manner…a child will start having great pride in his ability to master tasks quickly, easily…and in a way which stimulate his thirst for further knowledge in a wide variety of disciplines.

    Also, don’t underestimate the power of competition. By having him master a subsequently tested task in competition…a win is almost a foregone conclusion. With public acknowledgement of his task mastery…competing becomes addictive (positive addiction). He will later internalize the external rewards…and he will start achieving for the self pride and other internal rewards over the external. This will later lead him to living life on a positive spiral. He will realize that the seeds he plants through his self discipline and efforts…will give much greater rewards up the road. When he has successive plantings of these seeds…he will always have something in which to look forward as he starts reaping the fruits of his labors. He will see all of the other fruiting trees on his horizon…and he will always want to plant more…as this will further lead to greater anticipation for his future.

    I think that too many disciplines excel at finding the naturally gifted in that particular area (testing is used to weed out…instead of using it to identify areas needing to be mastered). Instead of making all the children masters of each small step…before moving up and on…stratified grading is handed out. 100% understanding should be the objective for each task. With small enough steps taken…almost any child can master almost anything. When a child learns at a slower pace…break the steps down even smaller. Stay at the task until mastered. That is the only way to not get frustrated at the following steps.

    Of course, until advancement by merit (100%) is common place in schools…instead of passing on to the next level before mastery…this won’t be corrected.

    With home schooling or with private teachers (same with sports and music)…mastery of each small step before moving forward can be assured. The only variable would then become time…not quality.

    So far as initial motivation for a sport or musical instrument…don’t forget the great power of modeling. Children know cause and effect. They associate attributes to rewards. The tobacco and alcohol paid movie and TV studios to have all of the heroes smoke and drink. the T and A industry went on to gain great financial success because they hired psychologists to design a method of manipulation through deceit (just to demonstrate the power of modeling).

    A positive example would be something like the movie…”Top Gun”. The fighter pilot got glory…peer respect…and the beautiful woman. As a result…many, because of that movie…became pilots.

    By showing your son positive examples of people who became successful in the desired area of effect…he may become motivated to master that particular talent…especially if the rewards are motivating to the child.

    Everyone loves to be successful. It is the fear of failing and looking foolish that keeps so many from trying. With small enough steps thoroughly mastered…success is assured…it will just take some longer than others. But with a success…they will realize that with more time spent…they too, can advance quickly. This is where determination will lead to drive (they will out work the others). This is why drive is the greatest determining factor of success…and not inherent intelligence.

    In conclusion (sorry…trying to keep it short :)…small easily digestible pieces…many smaller sessions of practice on same area until mastered. A knowledgable person monitoring for sticking points…guiding by concept or principles…simple similar tasks with success…have apply to desired task. Many closely spaced objectives will give positive reinforcement due to successful completion of each. (ex) Piano practice…instead of one long session…many smaller sessions of achievable tasks. Simple successes add up to large gains over time… without frustration or boredom.

    Now if everything else fails…a choice among many would, at least, make him not feel forced. (ex) When I was young…my mother had given me the choice of learning another language…going to a religious study (I am not religious)…or playing baseball. I played little league for 7 years 🙂 I thought my mother was being foolish for giving me such an easy choice. Little did I know, that my choice was the one she wanted me to “choose”…I was the foolish one to think otherwise 🙂

    I hope I wasn’t too long winded.

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