Thursday, June 9, 2011

Parents: Should They Stay or Should They Go?

When parents/guardians bring their children to their first karate class, they sit on the sidelines and watch the session.  Our dojo is open so the parents can see and hear what is happening in class. The parents talk to the instructors and ask questions about the class, style, dojo and policies.  One question often asked:

Do I have to stay during class?

When I taught at the dance studio, which was located in a mall, most of the parents dropped off their kids and went shopping.  The  teaching space was behind closed doors with a glass observation window.  It was the worst space I ever taught karate.  The owner of the studio liked to put me in the "gym" room complete with purple walls and a trampoline.   I taught very young kids (3-6) a pre-karate program.  We worked on balance and co-ordination.  I liked to keep my door open so the parents could hear what I was teaching their children.  The owner wanted the door closed at all times.   So...I invited the parents in the room when I felt they should hear what I was teaching.

I took my daughter (who was 5 at the time) for dance lessons at the same studio.  I would stay and watch the classes.   A few of the karate parents of the youngest karate group would stay all the time.  (Thank you!) One mom dropped her 3 year old son off and left each class.  He always needed to go to the bathroom during class.  The studio policy was that if the parent was not in the waiting room...the entire class had to escort the child and wait outside the bathroom.  These classes were only a half hour long and we spent 10 minutes each session in the lobby outside the bathroom....waiting. 

In the 16 years since our dojo has opened, we had a wide range of parents.

Sit and wait. (largest group of parents in our dojo)
Sit and wait but eventually join class.  :)
Sit with friend - talk and wait.
Sit and wait - work on computer.
Sit and wait for a portion of class - take a short walk outside.
Drop off
Drop off and go fishing at the lake.

So...what is my answer to the question...Do we have to stay?

It is really up to the parent/guardian and the child.  If I felt strongly that a parent should stay, for whatever reason, I would tell the parent individually.

As an instructor my preference is for the parents of young children (5-8) to stay.  I think it is important for the parents to hear what their children are learning.  They learn appropriate age level self-defense.  I think it is also important the parents know we tell the children that karate practice is to be done in the dojo with an instructor for safety reasons.  There is no practicing on parents, friends, brothers/sisters or pets.

One other consideration for our dojo is the proximity of the local Fire Company.  The Fire Company social hall is only 100 yards down the street.   A few parents have asked if it was ok if they hang out at the Fire Company when their children are in class.  They usually add this tidbit of information after I tell them staying is up to the parent.   I know they serve food at the social hall but when most people are hanging out...they hang out at the bar.

What do you think...should parents stay or should they go?


Charleyhorse said...

The younger the child, the more of a psychological and practical need it is for the parent to stay. You have a very good perspective on this issue.

Patty Pittman said...

The mall bathroom situation is less than ideal, but having taught basketball and t-ball, I tend to think it is best for the parent to leave. Of course teaching with such small children would require a helper. Not that I want to hide anything, but children tend to act more independent when mommy isn't around. There are always exceptions

Felicia said...

humbAt the dojo where I teach, we require the parents of children under 10 to stay - for many of the reasons you mentioned. Especially when they are just starting, I think it's important that the parents hear what their kids are being taught and see HOW it's being taught. But I think Patty is right, too: sometimes children act differently when their mom/dad is around...

One of the dojos I visit on occasion - the Harlem Goju Association - requires that their parents participate at least once a month. I kind of like that idea! They do it so the parent can have a better understanding of what their children are experiencing. Not surprisingly, many parents fall in love with karate and end up joining the class, too.

Charles James said...

Hi, this actually may or may not be relevant to your issue but the short time I trained youth, i.e. sixteen and under but no younger than twelve, I came to believe that parents used karate class as a child care so they could go off and do other stuff, etc.

I truly believe that the inherent dangerous nature of karate and other martial arts dictates that if youth do take instruction parents MUST BE REQUIRED to monitor and observe that instruction.

Since karate is mainly a sport here in the United States it has been filed away with other sports such as baseball and soccer YET it is and has the potential to damage.

No one says they will use their basketball to attack someone or defend against a bully.

Yet, karate even as a sport can be used against other youths in say a bullying situation and such techniques could result in death either accidently or intentionally.

I remember as a kid when I learned to box I tended to think, inappropriately, that the next bully was going to suffer cause I was going to beat the crud out of them ... natural tendency for male youths infused with all that male testerone.

Just my view, but I would insist they remain even if to remove that child care mentality. You might find your attendance dropping suddenly when the parents no longer count on your caring for their kids,

just a thought

Michele said...

Charleyhorse: Thanks!

Patty: Thanks for visiting and commenting! The mall situation was terrible. There was supposed to be a staff member available to help with the bathroom situation. The owner would often leave me alone.

Felicia: Thanks for commenting! I like the dojo policy of requiring parents to stay under a certain age. Great idea about monthly parent participation!

Charles James: Thank you for commenting. I taught at the mall for a year. The program was in addition to our dojo. I struggled with several of the items you mentioned in your comment. It is the reason I stopped teaching at the mall.

The owner of the dance studio had no clue what the "martial" meant in martial arts. She was only concerned with enrollment, money and "fun". I did not like her "closed door" policy. Parents need to know what is being taught. Teaching did feel like a babysitting service at times...especially in December. It was an uncomfortable teaching environment.

Charles James said...

Michele, a learning one too!

jc said...

"There is no practicing on parents, friends, brothers/sisters or pets."
this is humorous and valid... i am a parent who is about to decide this question, and i plan to stay, and train with at home....

Michele said...

JC: Thank you for commenting. Have fun training and staying! :)

I started making the no training at home statement when my instructor told us a story about a Mom who insisted her young son show her what he learned in karate class. He would always refuse telling her that he was only to practice with an instructor. The Mom insisted. The boy gave in and demonstrated a palm heal strike to his mother's nose. He broke her nose. The Mom came back to the dojo and apologized for doubting the effectiveness of karate.