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Parent’s Corner

Dear Parents

Thank you first for taking time to read this section of my website. For those of you that have children currently training in my school I am honored that you have taken the time to research and I am glad we were your final decision. For those of you who are parents but do not have children currently training in my schools or live too far from any of our locations or affiliates, I intend to make this section beneficial to you as well.

The information here is for basic educational use only and should not be taken as the only way to do things. Most of what I will post is based on my personal experience or research, but I highly suggest if you are unclear or uncomfortable you seek advise from someone you feel you can trust or simply email me by clicking here.

There are many techniques that I have learned after dealing with thousands of children who were my students over the last 25 plus years. The advice I share has worked incredibly well but each case is special and may need to be tweaked for it to work for you. I will layout basic boundaries and a foundation for you and it is my hope you incorporate it into your own style, methodology and lifestyle.

Of course I may use philosophies that are contradictory to yours but all I ask is that you do not dismiss the concepts but merely have an open mind and try what I have to say. If it works we hit a home run, if not you only wasted a small bit of your time. I do believe if you try some of our methods you will not be unhappy that you did.

I hope you enjoy this section!

In spirit;

Kenny Bigbee

"Dealing with Burnout"

Written by Allie Alberigo

If I had a dollar for every parent that told me "my child is bored, just doesn't want to come to classes anymore and I don't want to force him!" I would be rich right now. Of course money is not the object of keeping students in our schools, it is the satisfaction of seeing someone reach a particular plateau and push past it to achieve greatness.

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I want to be up front and honest, even though this may or may not have anything to do with you right now, it is important for you to read on and be prepared for when it does. That is right I said "WHEN" not "IF." Every student is going to want to quit at one time or another. To be more accurate, they are going to want to quit many times over. I know I did when I was coming up in the martial arts, but something made me stay. My parents really didn't play a big part in my motivation as a martial artist, though they never discouraged me, and always played an active part in my pursuing the martial arts.  They simply didn't do much to motivate me. They just made it clear that there was never an option. I either went or, well, to be honest I don't know.  I just went, and that is the end of the story.

The question is: what are you going to do if your child says they want to quit? This is a great question because most people do not know how to deal with this. They either ignore it or handle it in a few ways - they let the child take a break, they try to bribe them (which works short term) or they push a bit until the child pushes back hard enough and then they give in and let them stop. I always equate martial arts to their formal education. I ask parents continuously "what if they wanted to quit school would you let them." Of course they respond by saying "this is not like school." I beg to differ. Now you may be rolling your eyes or saying this is not similar you can't compare the two and you don't agree but I ask you to hear me out.

All school is, is a way to prepare for the future. We live about 17 - 22 years going to school to prepare for the day when you are an adult and ready to go out in the real world and make it on your own. School teaches socialization, math, science, English, history and many other things that make us literate and functional within society. The martial arts not only enhances all of the things you learn in school but also teaches students many other things like Self-confidence, self-discipline, self-esteem, etc. Now I have had the argument that said well school and sports teachers you that as well. To some extent I agree, but not to the extent that martial arts does. The martial arts instills many values systems that are no longer taught in our society. Some that are almost extinct. In fact there are some martial art schools that don't even teach values, morals and ethics. At our schools our slogan is "its not just kicking and punching its the martial arts and beyond." This is proven time after time as I hear from student who have gone on to be in the NASA astronaut program, Doctors, Commercial Jet Pilots, Helicopter pilots in Iraq, Secret Service to name a few.

In my opinion quitting is never an option and if you trust in me you will find out that what I am telling you is 100% true.

Here are some basic tips to overcome burnout:

  1. If your child shows signs of losing interest let our staff know immediately. We can pay some special attention to them in class and help them overcome the obstacle. Our instructors are experts at getting to the true root cause and helping that child overcome the struggle.

  2. If you child says they want to quit, just ignore them. I have told parents this in the past, but as I said before how would you handle it if it was public school. You would just say "tough luck you go until you are 18." That is that. This is a method that has worked well for the last 18 years of running a school. I have parents use this and then hopefully by that time, they have made martial arts an integral part of their lives.

  3. What happens when they get discourage - for example didn't get their belt or want to learn a particular move and don't. Simply put, this teaches a child patience. Even though they may feel like they want to quit, pushing past this teaches a far more valuable lesson. It instills in them the desire to strive for more and never get discouraged by obstacles. I have had parents that say "The Smiths are not quitters - Johnny know this. He has to complete his year." Well my question to parents is, after one year why is it you don't call it quitting. What would marriage be like if you said, give it a year and then get divorced, isn't the bottom line divorce. Their have been many marriages that have worked through the tough times. But you know what our society is becoming more and more used to the "I tried and it didn't work mentality." 40 years ago people only had a handful of jobs in their lifetime. Now young adults are said to expect having at minimum of 20-30. That is due to the lack of dedication or tenacity it takes to work through the tough times. Look how impatient we have become, at the moment I write this our president has only been in office for 10 months and people have been complaining since the day he got in office. Why not just give it time and from that dedication hopefully results will come.

If a child gives you a hard time about getting ready to class but loves it when they are here, I suggest the following:

  1. Give them chores before they come to class. Coming to class is much more fun then chores and should be an easy break.

  2. What if they won't get dressed at home. Bring them with their clothes to the school. Have them get dressed here. As instructors they know who is boss and do not try to manipulate us as they do their parents. Trust me I know I am a dad. Put that stern look on your face and do not let it happen. Remember the old saying, "give 'em and inch they will take a yard." This is absolutely true. Develop a routine and habit, before you know it they will not even think of it as anything else. I know I did as a child. I went from school, to dojo, to home for homework, then if I completed that I was able to play with my friends. But you know what I didn't worry because my dojo became my circle of friends and playtime. It all worked out.

  3. What if they are discouraged because they didn't get a belt. I simply say "such is life." I know this sounds cold or harsh but in reality, when they are 25 do you think they will look at this as a negative saying, my sensei made me wait till I was ready. I can just hear them telling their children how patient they became due to the lessons of the martial arts. It teaches patience and appreciation when you wait and work hard for something. I am continually in awe at how we have become such as soft society. Parents continually allow their children to be upset and at times even fuel the fire by being upset themselves. My question is "what is the rush?" Who cares how long it takes, where not going anywhere. When they start to learn this mentality, then life becomes so much easier and they are less likely to quit for silly things.

The thing that I do not suggest is bribery. Do not buy your child's dedication. For example, "hey buddy, if you go I will get you that toy you wanted." That will only lead to bigger and worse things. What happens when you can't buy them things any more? My thought is to work on rewards, but make them build-able. For example, "if you go to class three times a week for the next two months, we will go to see any movie of your choice." But, do not make it a regular thing. Children love to be challenged.  Make it a contest for them. Push out a perfect attendance reward system with them.

If you have particular questions on your own situation, please do not hesitate to email me.

Dealing with the “Tude”

Too much eye rolling and "whatever’s" in your life?
Make a difference now.

Just recently I read an article sent to me by a very dear friend. She knew I would have an interest because I have an 8 year old daughter this age. I have been very lucky in regards to her behavior but can certainly see little changes going on in her attitude. Of course sometimes are worse then others but all in all I am very lucky. Being a martial arts instructor for over 25 years, I certainly have seen my share of what is now called the “tween years.”

A short time ago, I had a conversation with the dad of a now 13 year old girl – who is a student of mine. The interesting thing is talking to the dad and mom were really two entirely different conversations. The dad and I spoke in depth of how he originally wanted his daughter to join Karate and his wife was bit unsure. Six years later the roles have reversed. The father said to me he no longer wants to force her to do something she doesn’t want to do, but it is his wife that said she is not quitting until she receives her Black Belt.

Interestingly enough, the dad says he isn’t even sure if his daughter personally likes him at this stage of the game, so he doesn’t want to drive a wedge further between them. This situation is typical of what parents run into during this time in a child’s life. This dad remembers the day when his daughter eyes would widen and she would break into the widest smile the minute he walked through the door yelling “daddy.” Now he is happy just being liked.

"The middle school years are a time of huge physical, emotional, and cognitive change," notes child and adolescent psychologist Richard Gallagher, Ph.D., director of the Parenting Institute at New York University's Child Study Center. No matter how you slice it your child is trying to figure out who they are and fit the pieces of the puzzle together. The word to be remembered here is “Cross Fire”so you can avoid being caught in it.

"One way to do that is by flexing her verbal muscles and challenging your authority," says Dr. Gallagher. The child purposely is going against the normal flow of things, seeing how far they can push with out repercussions and consequences. The chances are a bit less dangerous to the child due to the fact they realize the parent will always love them; they would less likely do this with friends or peers due to the consequences.

Quite often the younger and less mature a person is there are times when they are less likely to realized they have crossed the line. As a martial arts teacher I find this to happen quite often. I see a perfectly respectful child turn into a very difficult student when they hit this age. They are reaching to fit in with their peers, but at the same time testing the waters. This is something that can destroy or at minimum damage a relationship for a long time, if there is not a firm relationship established for between a student and teacher.

The pre-frontal cortex -- the area in the brain that affects reasoning, impulse control and the ability to recognize the consequences of their actions -- isn't fully formed until the late teens or early 20s. What's more, it's overshadowed by the highly reactive amygdala, which triggers the brains' automatic fight-or-flight reflex. "When this area fires up, a child may instantaneously interpret just about anything you do or say as hostile -- and react accordingly," explains Steven C. Atkins, associate professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at the Dartmouth Medical School.

Then, too, our society fosters this kind of behavior. "I call it the Bart Simpson affect," says Dr. Atkins, who is currently revamping the behavioral curriculum of a New Hampshire middle school to address issues of insolence. "We live in a racy, rude world. Kids listen to raunchy CD lyrics, read cruel posts on the Internet, and watch reality TV where the humor and drama is derived to a large extent from putting others down. And they witness the cynical, taunting comments of classmates at school." In the guise of being "cool," a child may adapt the tone of voice or verbal bullying of peers in order to fit in, explains Atkins, who is also coauthor of Because I Said So: Dealing with Family Squabbles. "His friends get away with it, so he figures, why not try it out?"

You have heard the saying he needs and attitude adjustment. No one wants to be the parent of a rude or disrespectful child. The question is what do parents do? Simply it is a matter of what they don’t do that creates the issues. I dear friend of mine who was a teacher in the Brentwood, N.Y. school systems for 33 years once told me “it is the parents of the great students that show up on parent day, but the children that most need it don’t have direction and a support system.” "Parents are time-famished," says psychologist Michele Borba, Ed.D., author of Don't Give Me That Attitude. Most children these days are as busy and stressed as the adults, they are over-booked and under-trained. When I speak to parents often I give them tips on what they can do in specific situations. Simply to me they are common sense, but as you have probably heard, “Common sense is not so Common.” So I help the parents and the children by teaching them tools they can use in situations like this.

Most parents live by the saying chose your battles wisely. Personally I don’t agree. If you let things go, you are opening a can of worms. Plus, so much of our culture is geared toward a child's success -- in school, on the athletic field -- that building moral character gets short shrift. "No one gets a trophy being kind, helpful or generous," says Borba. In fact, she sees a strong up tick in mouthing off among preteen girls. "Parents are so focused on teaching their daughters to advocate for themselves, they fail to show them how to be assertive without being aggressive and disrespectful," she notes.

As I teach in my martial arts school awareness and preparation limits danger. It is not fail safe but in the situation between a parent and child, the more you are prepared the less likely you are to experience disrespectful behavior. The more prepared you are, the more likely you are to understand and recognize what is creating the situation. Simply it is a matter of communication and keeping your eyes open.

Some reasons why a child may behave rudely:

  1. Try to find the reason behind the situation. Has anything changed recently?

  2. How parents talk to each other could also be an indicator of how the child talks back.

  3. What is the child experiencing in their life at present – peer pressure, not enough sleep, improper diet.

  4. Fear or anxiety in school.

Here are 5 steps to creating a solution:

  1. Target one attitude at a time – do not consider that rolling of the eyes and back talk as just an overall attitude. The goal is to treat the behaviors individually. Even though there may be more then one attitude you want to banish you should simply work on one at a time.

  2. The next solution is to encourage attitudes that you want to see. If you lead by example you will yield the results you are striving for. If you see your child as offensive then teach them to be more empathetic or understand, get them to see it from another’s point of view.

  3. Always stay cool, do not allow the child to get the better of you. The goal is to show them calmly that you are the boss and your patience will shine through teaching them to act in a similar fashion.

  4. Lay down clear rules and parameters. The goal is to draw a line in the sand so the child clearly knows what proper behavior is and what you will and will not tolerate. I always tell this to my students “I don’t mind fooling around and being goofy in class while I teach, but there is no way I will tolerate goofiness and disrespect.” My students know the boundaries.

  5. Clearly explain to your child how you expect them to talk, act and respond. This way there are no questions left open.

Dr. Atkins' mantra is: "You can be mad, but you can't be mean." Always follow through with consequences never ignore and allow things to go unnoticed if you do, then you will open up the playing field for more similar behaviors. Always catch your child doing something right. It takes inner strength not to take things personally – remember initially the child may intend to act or respond negatively or hurtfully, but most importantly remember they are still young and unsure of how to handle things in a more mature way. The better you get at this the more pleasant things will become, don’t quit - before you know it the child you once knew will be back and you will have developed a more stable relationship for the future.

Allie Alberigo is the owner and head instructor of L.I. Ninjutsu Centers with two locations in Suffolk county N.Y. Allie is the author of four books; A Beginners Guide to Ninpo, The Three Kings, 21st Century Ninjutsu - A warriors Mindset, Martial Arts Business 101 - Hooyah Living the dream. He is also a public speaker, actor, mentor/consultant, and the founder of www.atouchofzen.com. If you like Allie's writing style, check out his personal website at AllieAlberigo.com. Allie can be reached at (631) 321-5432 or renshilininja@aol.com or via his website at www.Lininja.com.  If you are interested in growing your school and learning more about the business side of the martial arts check out www.takingittothenextlevel.com.
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