Sunday, August 4, 2013

I'm Going to Count to Three...

“Can you teach my son discipline?” This is a question martial art teachers answer all of the time. With regular attendance, kids in martial art programs tend to exhibit more self control, better manners, and discipline.

It does not happen overnight, and sometimes it only happens in the training studio. Once they leave the confines of the Dojang (Dojo), they revert back to whatever traits with which they arrived. I can sum up the reason for this behavior oscillation in one word; Parents.

I’m not knocking parents in general (I am one), but there are some parental “techniques” we see that undermine a parent’s position. My least favorite of these is the “I’m going to count to three, and then you better...”

The scenario usually plays out with the parent asking/telling a child to do something, such as; “put down that game, or get in the car, or stop fiddling with the candy machine.” This in turn is followed by either a complete ignoring of the parent, or a dismissive, “No.” The parent then pulls out the bigs guns with, “I’m going to count to three...” Seriously? This is me, shaking in my underoos.

I understand that children struggle with transitions, and sometimes “five minutes and we’re leaving” goes a long way towards avoiding an ugly exit. I get it. That is reasonable. Children should also be used to, understand, and accept that ‘Now’ means now! “Johnny, there’s a strange man in the parking lot, come over here now” - should not be so foreign to Johnny that he balks.

My problem the the three-count is two fold. First, it does not in any way prepare a child for the rest of the world. Busy intersections do not come with three Stop Signs. Second, the magic number three is not used in any martial arts class I’ve seen. “Carla, quit dancing and stand at attention as I show this next technique. Carla! Carla, I’m going to count to three...” said no martial arts instructor, ever.

This has, “If you do not stop moving, I will pick you up, move you off to the side, and class will be over for you today. Tomorrow’s class will be much harder for you.” I always live up to my promises. I don’t ever make promises I won’t keep.

Wrong: “If you don’t sit still I will knock you into next week”
Right: “If you don’t sit still, I’ll delay your next belt test.”

As a parent or teacher, your words have to have meaning. “Stop that” loses all meaning if it is followed by a three-count. Eventually “Stop” is trumped by “Three” and frankly three is weak. Watch your child’s karate teacher; he or she is getting results, and they’re not counting to three.

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