For kids getting started is one of the hardest parts of getting them into a sport, especially one which is not as mainstream as football, rugby or other sports they see on TV and play at school. It is however very often the children who are the least confident and the most reluctant to join in who enjoy it the most!
My advice for parents who feel like this is JUST DO IT. It may be the best thing you ever do for your child! Something I mentioned in my previous article, and will most likely continue to use as a theme is this: your child needs to see the value in something before they'll join in. There's only one way of doing this, and that is to bring them to the class!
Quite often for the first class your child will be daunting, a new environment, new children, new adults and a new person telling them what to do. After all, we teach them from a young age, don't talk to strangers! It can even take a few weeks for them to just set foot on the mats, but when they've watched for a few weeks and we've encouraged them well, they will usually get there eventually. I can name at least 5 children off the top of my head who struggled with joining in when they first started who are now thriving in the classes! But it took time, effort, encouragement and a few weeks of watching for some of them.
So first of all let talk about the value kids will see and get from the class before I show you a couple of case studies!
Now when I say value...
I don't mean the values we see them gain and experience, I mean the perceived value from your child's point of view.
Obviously children think very differently to adults, so lets address this first. What is important to kids and motivates them. Well the number one thing is: FUN! Fun is usually the most important thing to kids and it doesn't take much to go from this looks scary to this looks fun. They just need to see all the other kids bouncing around and it looks fun. Equally it's very important to let shy kids have a go at hitting the pads or try a technique on their own at the end so they can see how fun it is! There's usually a WOAH! moment when a kid hits a pad for the first time and everyone around them says well done, good job high five!
Other values kids find in activity include friendship and recognition. All kids want to be told they're doing a good job, you're awesome. I think: "Here's a sticker" are the 3 most powerful words in the English language for children (and maybe adults).
Isaac came into the club around a month ago and wasn't willing to come onto the mats in his first session. In fact, Isaac wouldn't talk to me, or even look at me, clinging onto mum, we decided he should watch for now. Once he saw the other kids having fun, he stood at the back corner of the mats and watched from there (see pictures), he even had a go on his own at the back, emulating techniques. It was at this point I went to see if he would come over to the class and join in. As soon as he saw me come over he ran back to mum, safe to say he was very shy.
But once the class was over, mum brought him over to have a go at the technique on the pads. With the additional encouragement from his mother, he decided to have a go at hitting the pad. This is where he had his WOAH! moment. Bribing him with a sticker he agreed that he would join in the next week, which he did, although it took him another month to get used to me greeting him at the door. Now he comes in, gives me a high five and jumps straight on, his technique is great and he's even been our class champion!
Here's what his mother has to say!
"My 4 year old started with Phoenix 4 weeks ago and already his confidence is improving. Martin is a fantastic teacher, making time to encourage each child individually. Glad we chose this martial arts school over others in the area."
George joined at the same time as Isaac and just like Isaac really struggled with his confidence joining the class at first. George was in fact so shy that he cried in his first class. He too hit the pads at the end and really enjoyed it earning himself a sticker! George too joined in the next week with some encouragement and now has one of the best side kicks in the class!
So that's it really.
For me the key for shy children is this:
Value - They need to see the class to want to join in. Remember, the value for them is FUN!
Encouragement - Children respond very well to positive reinforcement and sticker bribery.
Persistence/consistency - If they don't join in straight away, it's likely they will if they are encouraged consistently. It takes longer to build rapport with a child than an adult as they don't understand the new environment so well. One class is often not enough.
Thanks for reading! I hope this article helps you.