Kevin Cyr – First Degree Black Belt – Central Academy of Martial Arts
At some moments, karate camp is equivalent to hell; children run rampant, tormenting you with high squeals and pounding fists – only missing their flaming tails and pitchforks. Other moments, this hell is controllable, rewarding and even enjoyable.
I enjoy teaching. It’s one of my passions. When I’m away from karate, I crave it. I crave animating a class, standing before a row of students and making them smile. I love teaching. Here we go, one last time. I love teaching. I love teaching and I’d like to think I’m good at it. This post covers how to deal with children who are trouble makers, the rare kids who don’t listen and need extra help.
With the disclaimer aside, I’ve decided to divide ways to deal with these types of children, the ones with broken concentrations, into different attitudes. Some I’ve used and some I’ve seen.
1. Supreme Power
Utilize assistants. If you don’t direct them, they’ll end up standing against the wall. They are there to assist and it’s your job to give them direction. I pin assistants on specific kids. Pin, might be a little docile. When I have assistants, I staple them to the trouble children. If I have two terrors in camp for the week, I let the assistants know who their buddies are.
Think through the lens of a child. If a child doesn’t have focus, or respect for rules, they most likely won’t listen to their assigned assistant. Expect it. This asserts you as The Supreme Power.
When you’re young, being sent to the principal’s office is a death threat. In my case, the teacher is the assistant and I am the principle. Though the principle is hardly seen, the students are terrified to be sent to his office. They aren’t sure why but they flinch at the threat. The principle is The Supreme Power and it’s the teacher who asserts this.
Having assistants to staple onto crazy children creates a mystical shroud, transforming you into the supreme power. Without having to say a word, they automatically respect you more, than they would have without the assistant. This is effective. It gives the assistants a task, and keeps a blanket of awareness around the room.
2. Trouble Balloon
A teachers attention is a blanket, and the children are balloons trying to rocket towards the sky. If your blanket is focused too much on one child/balloon, the rest fly away. It’s your job as the instructor to balance your attention, and keep every child/balloon blanketed.
Keeping the attention of every student is difficult. At moments, keeping the whole class under the same umbrella is easy; you teach, they listen. Some balloons become filled with too much helium and risk popping through your blanket.
There comes a moment where you’ll have discipline a balloon/child and ask for the student to stop disrupting. Speak calmly. If disrupts the class again, you need to act. If you let the child keep going, he will grow bolder and bolder until he puts himself or others in danger. Getting a little angry to keep the campers safe is justifiable.
I’m going to let you guys in on a secret way, a secret way to keep all these balloons in one place, without using that smelly and stained blanket. Pop one.
Call the child out on what he’s doing wrong:
“Kyle, man, what are you doing?” I say. “What did I ask you to do? What did I ask everyone to do?” At this point his smirk will fade. “I asked you more than once. I can’t have that. There’s no games for you. Sit in the corner.”
The child will hesitate, stand, laugh nervously. Your gaze should support your words.
“Do I look like this is a joke. No more games. Sit in the corner.”
He’ll walk, he’ll sit, and he won’t disrupt the class anymore.
I only have to yell once. Follow through with your punishment. If you don’t take him out of games, and etc. he will stomp over you the next weeks. No matter his cute pout face. You can then, once he’s sat and understood your seriousness, talk things over and call him back into the activities.
3. Fear the Fingers
I learnt this technique from a friend. He’s a calm person. He doesn’t like yelling.
The first day he teaches, the kids will be running around yelling, laughing and talking. He doesn’t yell. He sits. The well behaved kids, there are always well behaved kids, will begin hushing the others. Sometimes doing this will work, others, it won’t. That’s when the fingers come in. He raises a hand and begins counting fingers. At the beginning of the week the kids ignore the fingers, but during the last days, they learn to fear the fingers. The room hushes so fast you don’t have time to yell.
What the fingers represent is the time taken away from their privileges. It he gets to five fingers up then everyone gets five minutes out of swimming. (We go swimming on Tuesdays for an hour)
If there is no trip or privilege the next days he does something interesting:
He says, “You guys wasted my time for five minutes, so I’m going to waste your game time for five,” Game time is like gold. “Sit, legs crossed, mouth closed. If I hear a giggle I’m adding a minute.”
At end of those five minutes, the class is in some sort of hypnotic, dreamy state. The room is freaky quiet.
4. “Friends, please…Friends, stop!
I’ll try and explain this tactic objectively. This method relies on being buddies with your students (buddies and students, not a good mix…there goes my objectiveness). If you become friends with your students, they’ll listen to you.
“Friends, c’mon, stop please. Let’s all just sit here and be quiet. Please, Lucas, Cameron, stop.” This is what it sounds like, over and over and over, and then over.
I’ve never seen this method work. It involves frantically trying to calm the children.
Students can be your friends if they understand your role as instructor comes first. I teach a youth grappling class on Saturdays. These kids are fifteen and sixteen years old, four years younger than me. We’re friends; I take interest in their lives outside of school. We usually end up chatting for the first bit of class. These kids know that above all I’m their instructor.
The problem with having young students and trying to make them your friends is that they can’t differentiate the two. If you are their friend then they don’t have to listen to you, you’re their buddy! Let the teacher come in and control them, right?
Parents use the martial arts as a cure for their child’s misbehaviour. The martial arts can become a remedy, only if the parent is dedicated to setting their child straight. If the parent tosses the kid from the car once a week, doesn’t come in to communicate, and doesn’t support our lessons at home, martial arts won’t fix anything.
I love teaching. This is post isn’t a rant about how I hate kids; this is a post on how to deal with troubled children, nothing more. Teaching karate isn’t all finding ways to deal with trouble children.
I’ve changed lives and helped children grow:
Recently, a child with autism began training. I teach Saturdays, and he trains Saturdays. For three months I taught him every week. He would cry through the whole hour, not even wearing his uniform. Everything was too hard. He wouldn’t walk from one end of the room to the other without complaining his legs hurt.
One day, I left him alone. I began teaching and didn’t say a word to him. He then slipped into line and joined the other kids.
Once his experiences with classes became fun, so did the summer camps. His confidence and his ability to power through his discomfort grew. He still breaks down at some points. He complains the belt doesn’t fit properly, but he’s slowly learnt to shake it off. Martial arts isn’t a cure from his autism, but it reinforces his focus.
Knowing I was the cause for the improvement of his attitude, and life, is the most rewarding feeling I have experienced.
Children like discipline, they like a teacher who can control a class, give directions and lead fun filled expeditions. Never be afraid of losing your students as friends. You’re their teacher and should prioritize being a teacher. It’s okay if they’re scared of you because you raise your voice. If you don’t show them consequences for their actions, then instead of going the rules for the week, you’ll be stuck in a fiery hell, were kids rule with giant pitch forks and pointed tails.
And if you didn’t see through the exaggerate sarcasm at this post, read my post on how to teach properly. Maybe that’ll convince you, I do, in fact, love teaching.