How to get kids to practice at home:
Just tell them, "Shut up, do it, and like it!"
Just kidding but sometimes that's what it can feel like to the short ones. How they are encouraged to train outside of their classes can determine if it's even going to happen at all. Especially if mom or dad is a martial artist and tries to train them.
Practicing at home can really speed up the crazy benefits our kids get from martial arts training. The average child comes to class twice a week in many schools with maybe a fun, extra gathering here and there. Not many of us can get as much out of 2 hours a week in anything as we can out of 4, 6, 30, etc... I am so grateful we actually see so many results and so quick many times, with the little time we do get with everyone! I do know what happens though when kids train at home and it's worth every effort to help create this habit.
Here's a few tricks that may encourage that "burst" of good training at home:
1. "Burst"... That's what we'll get! Little, awesome bursts of energy and desire to play. That's it. For a while at least. Then, as the benefits kick in, these bursts or so called attention spans, will increase and develop more purpose than just play. THEY ARE KIDS! It's play until "purpose interested" (they seriously want to be good at it) whether we all like it or not. :) If we can keep in mind that we'll get nice yet small bursts of energy and expression, we can get a TON of training in those 1, 3, 6, 22, etc… minutes of awesomeness! If they try hard in whatever they bust out, be happy even if it’s only 1 minute. The next day we can encourage what they do by saying, "Cool! Can I see that again?" or "Do that cool takedown on me again,,,,,, please!" ;) and see if your magic can stretch things to 2 minutes or more. Now you're onto something, like increased attention span. We call it focus and understand that our brains hate it! But, that's another subject.
We'll keep helping kids develop attention spans so school is easier for them, and by teaching them there's value in focusing on things that are good for them and others!
2. We probably won’t be able to turn them into Bruce Lee in 1 training.
Pick a focus!
We don't have to be experts in anything to pick something to learn or get better at. All we have to do is focus (think/ask/discuss/act) on whatever it is. For our kids to practice at home, sometimes we don't get those sudden bursts of interest and we need to fire them up. This is when picking a focus comes in handy. We can say things like, "I remember seeing you throw some punches and kicks that were crazy fast in your last few classes! Can you show me a move that you like to do fast?" They don't mind showing off for mom and/or dad which is expressing themselves. Bruce would've liked that and you picked the focus of SPEED without giving your kid an adult martial arts lesson. Would you like your little artist to be a powerful striker? That's a good focus to train at home. Hold a pillow dangling in your hand by the pillow case like a boxing heavy bag and let them bash away! It gives them very important energy releases before they learn how to do it themselves. You get to praise the intense efforts and may keep their "attention span" longer, which gives them more practice, more benefits, more time to show their parents they please them. Everyone wins!! Plus, it can scare the parent a little which is a fun challenge to overcome and could reinforce one of the reasons they have their kids in this. To be able to recognize a true threat. ;) Many people would stop holding a target like the pillow before 30 seconds. I recommend to try to last 3 minutes. I bet it'll be fun as long it's not full of corrections. Those should probably be handled by the professionals. Grappling arts can use focuses like -being heavy- by making them squash us for a few minutes making sure they stay on top, laying heavy no matter how we move. All done in a playful and laughter filled manor of course.
Last one, #3. Do it with them as their student. Ask to be shown how to do something. There really isn't a need to worry about good or bad techniques or right or wrong ways. It's the experience and challenge that makes for a great practice! Not to mention the bonding and powerful example setting involved.
Personally, I couldn't even imagine not practicing at home. Since I started 32 years ago, at least 75% of my training has been outside class times. So I hope this can help anyone who may struggle with getting some home training in for our young athletes.
I'm sure it would be nice to watch them be active and healthy throughout their lives. The best things in life are free! Developing this habit of discipline can be one of our free gifts to them.
Keep Kickin', Derrick Maretti