Daniel got promoted to a new belt in karate today.
He’s been taking karate for more than three years now, and has liked it quite a bit. I particularly like our dojo and the way they treat the kids. They have plenty of fun, but they also take the training and each other seriously. Always, the message is kindness and respect. Plus, they put on fun programs and do all sorts of things to cultivate community. It’s a quality place.
In the fall, Dan transitioned from the little-kid classes to the youth classes, and though the transition itself was wonderfully organized and handled well, I think it has been a hard adjustment. Mainly, to be honest, I think it’s that they work harder on the actual karate and play fewer games. I know, man. Growing up is a bummer.
There have been times, here and there, when Dan hasn’t wanted to go to karate. But once we’re there, he’s always happy and has a good time. About a month ago, though, he told me he felt like he wanted to be all done taking karate.
Now, of course, this is complicated by the fact that we sign a one-year (or 18-month!) contract at our dojo, and it’s not up until late summer. Attend class or not, we’re paying for the next few months. And I did talk to a couple of the teachers and one of the owners, who are giving Dan a little extra attention and TLC. They really are a lovely bunch of people and want to help him re-engage.
But I guess the question is… do I want him to? Do I want to go to great lengths to help him stick with it? Do I insist on it because I think it’s a good activity, and not let him quit just because the expectations got a little more serious and that felt a little less fun?
Or, if this extra attention from the dojo doesn’t rekindle his interest, do I let it go as our contract winds down? Do I just say, eh, this isn’t his thing?
I lean towards the latter, as a general rule. I spend enough time shuttling kids to various activities; I don’t want to add the stress of pushing them out the door when they’d rather not go. There’s the occasional thing – like swim lessons and Sunday school – that we have decided are required and not negotiable for now. But I’ve never insisted my kids do [soccer/baseball/piano lessons/insert-activity-here].
So while I think karate teaches a lot of valuable things – body control, self-defense, respect – in addition to being decent physical activity, I don’t think it’s worth it to force him to stick with it if he just doesn’t dig it anymore.
We have told him that, if he decides to stop karate, he needs to find something active to do instead. In addition to being a wiggly kid who does better with opportunities to move his body, he’s also got the heart and soul of a lazy bum and would happily spend every afternoon playing video games. (He comes by it honestly, as both M and me would probably do the same.) Not one of my kids has had any interest in team sports, and I don’t think something like soccer would suit Dan’s personality particularly well. And, again with the not forcing them into something they don’t want to do.
We may have found something. (For the record, Dan loved it, Becca decided it was not her cup of tea.)
But what about you, friends? What do you do when your kid’s interest wanes? Do you have sports/activities/lessons that are non-negotiable in your house?