Our son attends Karate every Monday evening. The setting is informal – it is not a dedicated Karate Dojo. Instead, it is a class run by two (sometimes three) black belts and taught out of a school gymnasium. At least two of the black belts have their own Dojo, and I believe this is a way for them to reach more people than they could in their own Dojo. It’s certainly not charity, but for us it is a much less expensive alternative than putting our children into a class taught in a proper Dojo.
Of the 20 or so kids in this class, there are only a small handful that take it seriously and pay attention. Also, of the 20 or so kids there are only a small number of parents who are regularly present and pay attention to their children’s class. Many of these parent-less kids are the ones not paying attention and disrupting the class for everyone else. Where are the parents?
There is a mix of people in this class – most are kids from 5 years up to probably grade 7, with a few adults and more seasoned people at various stages of their belts.
Our son is almost 7. He started this class just after he turned 5. At the beginning I don’t think he knew why he was there, and he, like most 5 year olds, had the attention span of a goldfish. He was not great at paying attention in class. But at least either my wife or I were present, and regularly reminded him to pay attention to his Sensei. He was not always well behaved, but he was always corrected and guided. Over time he has improved… There is an occasional mis-step, but each week there is a small improvement in his ability to concentrate and his willingness to learn and pay attention in class.
There are a few kids who have excellent concentration and are clearly focused. But the majority do not pay attention when the Sensei is demonstrating an exercise, and spend most of the exercise time goofing around and not practicing. On a number of occasions we have called our son off the floor to remind him to pay attention. But unfortunately as much as that keeps him on the right path, the parent-less kids do not have this guidance and continue to distract everyone around them, including our son. The large class makes it very challenging for the Sensei to keep the kids in line. Plus I don’t think it’s their job to act as parents to these kids.
I don’t know where the parents go. I imagine them being at the coffee shop or running errands. I know there are a couple of parents who sit in the lobby in the comfortable chairs and spend the hour and a half on their cell phones. Probably facebook, wasting time. I suppose it doesn’t really matter where they are. It’s where they aren’t that matters. I think this is a problem for a number of reasons:
- They are not showing an interest in their children’s activities or in their children. Actually, they are showing an active DIS-interest in them. If the parents don’t care enough to be there, why should the kids care about being there?
- The parents aren’t learning. Part of my enjoyment of attending my kids activities is that I also learn a little about it. It means I can help my kids at home to make them overall better.
- If the parents aren’t there they can’t see how disruptive their kids are to the others, and how little they are gaining from the class because of their behaviour. The parents can’t take an active role in correcting and teaching their kids how to act or behave. (Of course, I’m assuming that if the parents were there they would correct their kids, or at least give guidance afterwards… Maybe this is a bad assumption.)
Swimming class looks a lot like Karate, where kids are dropped off and parents disappear. Again, I don’t know where they go…
Many other activites our kids are in have much better parental involvement. For example, at Hockey and Soccer I often see at least one parent actively there, watching the games or practices, and cheering for their kids. At dance class, the Moms tend to be more present and they often will sit in the lounge and chat.
I think there is huge benefit to being at your kids activities. I don’t think both parents have to be there – one is enough. It is positive reinforcement for your children with a real-time ability to influence their behaviour. It shows you CARE.
So, parents, stop treating some of these extra-curricular activities as a baby sitting service. Sign your kids up for lots of things, but be there. You might actually enjoy it!