As adults, we’re expected to set and meet goals. You don’t just wake up with this innate sense of drive and the motivation to accomplish, nor is it handed to you when you graduate highschool. I have parent envy for those who begin teaching their children at an early age consistently how to set and meet goals. I could do better.
Typically the goals in younger years are a duality of parents incenting kids to meet daily or frequent must-dos, while the kids are simply driven by the end reward. Example: Brush your teeth every day, kids, and you’ll get a reward, like a sticker, at the end of the week. I actually like this example because even though it’s end reward is nominal, the reward doesn’t come until the end of week. Mine goal/reward propositions tend to be a bit more immediate gratification-like, which can be effective but may also backfire when they start lobbying you for rewards for every little thing they are supposed to do without question.
My kids at 6 and 8 might have some catching up to do. I struggle with having to incent them to do daily tasks. I’d rather just say, “Fine don’t brush. It’s you and your placque-covered teeth at your next dentist visit.” I’ve tried to be creative – - selling them on the fact that the activity I’m pushing them to do is SO much fun whether it’s teeth-brushing or washing dishes. They are on to me. In hindsight, I can see where their association with the goal/reward process, no matter how counterintuitive enforcing it may seem, is a stepping stone for larger things.
All is not lost. As mentioned, we’re not into rewarding them for every little thing they do, but at ages 6 (Calvin) and 8 (Ava), my kids recently surprised me by what they had learned through their TaeKwonDo practice. They did daily lessons all summer as part of a day camp, then continued on, twice a week when school started.
They’ve participated in a gamut of sports from team to individual, each with their valuable lessons. The noticeable difference TaeKwonDo brought was a focused connection between mind and body – - the power behind a swift kick, the element of self defense, the importance of a repetitive, specific movement to achieve a result and the follow-up of moving on to the next belt level after a mastery of required skills is reached.
My husband and I recently joined their class for a special “Making the Yellow Belt” testing. The testing took place in sparring pairs, two per 25 minute testing session. They “hupped” (vocal call that signifies movement and order), roundhouse kicked and channeled some Danielson (from Karate Kid fame) for their tests. At the end of these precise movements with partners, they each went on to the ultimate – to break a board. They had already broken a board – each a lighter weight one – for their first test. This board was heavier. They checked their alignment, did a few practice kicks and went for it. They each broke their board first try. (thus Breaking Board title with reference to Breaking Bad just because I like it)
The highlight for me is the follow-up after the physical portion which quizzes each child on some basics and prompts them to answer how they felt before testing – scared, nervous, anxious, doubtful – and after testing – proud, confident, satisfied. The instructor and owner of Classic TaeKwonDo Studios, Carolyn Boston, paralleled the practice to some daily situations kids could relate to and also encouraged them to channel the right attitude about applying themselves in all aspects of their lives to make things happen.
There are other types of practice that evoke this same sense of discipline, most certainly. What other sports and activities do your kids do? What are some meaningful ways to have them set goals with appropriate rewards?