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Innovative Martial Arts
15-1599 Dugald Rd
Winnipeg, MB

11 Things to Build Confidence in Children

October is National Bullying Prevention Month. And the choice of words matters. Prevention is different than awareness. Building awareness is not needed, we know how bullying works and how to deal with it.

Bullying, is not an action. It’s not punching, or name calling, or social media.

It’s a mentality.

Bullying is intentional and repetitive, it’s about creating a power imbalance to make one person feel lesser with the “Bully” attempting to make themselves feel more powerful at the expense of the victim.

The reason October is called a “prevention” month and not a “awareness” month is that bullying can be solved. We have the cure!

The cure is building confidence in children. Confident children are bully-proof. Confident kids don’t become bullies.

Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your point of view children are much less independent now than they where in previous generations. Their lives are more structured, more supervised and they are rarely without the presence of an adult.

As a result anxiety levels can go up, confidence levels can go down and bullying levels increase.

What kids need is independence, autonomy and a sense of being able to contribute.

So here are some things that we feel every kid should learn:

Swimming - Basic swimming skills should be something everyone learns.

Cooking - The ability to feed yourself should be something everyone has. It can also help with dealing with picky eaters, giving them choice and being able to be a part of the process will lead to more willingness to try new things in many cases.

Talk to Strangers - Simply going up to a till and making a purchase on their own, interacting with a cashier. Ordering their own food in a restaurant, little things can go along way. With Halloween coming up let them ring the bell, knock on the door and yell “Trick-or-Treat” and say thank you at every house. In one evening they can talk to a whole bunch of strangers.

Take care of a pet - The act of taking care of a something, regardless of what it is (dog, cat, fish, hamster, etc) gives a sense of being needed and important to something else survival.

Learn how to Lose - Kids need to lose, not just win. In life it’s how we handle our loses and how we deal with adversity that determines our success of failure. Whether it’s in sports, games or anything else… they need to lose as well as win.

Basic First Aid - How to clean a scratch and put a band aid on if needed. But being able to treat their own minor bumps and scratches then carry on with what they where doing.

Teach Someone - Even teaching someone to play a board game, teaching someone something shows them that they can know things others don’t and are able to transfer that knowledge.

Learn Jiu-Jitsu / Wrestle - Wrestling, grappling, Jiu-Jitsu, whatever it is called is an important part of development, something we are now starting to see science to back the importance of. It's vigorous, free-form, whole-body, energetic, happy play. Kids learn decision-making skills, relieve stress, improve their ability to read social cues, and enhance their cardio-vascular health.

Create a game - Board game, physical game, any sort of game. Understanding that games (and life) has a set of rules and success comes from playing within those rules. Rules are what make games work, and what makes them fun.

Speak to a Group - Like a lot of things on the list this is something that can be really simple. Speaking to a group of friends to thank them for coming at a birthday party, but bonus points if it’s not just people they know.

Make a Video - Youtube is here to stay, and they will hit an age where they probably want to be a youtuber. So let them make a video, (you can add privacy setting if you want), send it to family and friends and let them get some likes and views.

And a small favour - What's something you do with, or have your child do to help them build confidence?


Importance of Individual Accomplishment

The Martial Arts come in all different types and philosophies. Everything from Boxing to Wrestling to Tai Chi to Jiu-Jitsu to Kung Fu.

Some are used to put on shows, some are used for competition, some are used for health, and most are used for some combination of reasons.

One thing they all have in common is a sense of individual accomplishment.

The world today for kids is very different from the one 30 years ago. I grew up in a time without the internet, when "be home before the street lights come on" was a common rule... not something that would get CFS called on you by nosey neighbours.

Now kids are much more scheduled and supervised. We walked to school alone in grade 1... now there are debates on whether kids should be doing that in grade 5.

So it's no surprise that anxiety rates are on the rise. Confidence comes from learning to do things by yourself, accomplishing things by yourself, and solving problems by your self. Sometimes its possible to help a child too much, because if they had been allowed to fail a few times before getting it independently it would mean a lot more to them. Doing it for them just sends the message that they can't do it alone.

In Jiu-Jitsu they have to do it alone.

Yes, we teach them technique and strategy. We tell them what to do in different situations. But at the end of the day, when they are in a match it is them and the other person. They will win some, and they will lose just as much, usually more when they are starting out.

Real confidence can't be achieved through any activity unless there is a real chance of failing. And the confidence gained after success follows a series of failures means a lot more.

Jiu-Jitsu isn't easy. They will tap out a lot, everyone does. But through that adversity they will gain a sense of confidence and achievement that will stick for life.

Kids can't even learn to walk without falling down many times. Sometimes we need to let them fall, and more importantly let them get up again by themselves.


Will Jiu-Jitsu make my child aggressive?

I’ve heard this question a few times, and yet it still surprises me at times. Unfortunately most of what people know about Jiu-Jitsu comes from movies and professional fights, which are about entertainment and not really an accurate representation of the art.

Jiu-Jitsu is a grappling based art, not a striking based art, in which the goal is to use superior technique, leverage and strategy to control (not hit) an aggressive opponent.

One of the fundamental assumptions in Jiu-Jitsu is that for a technique to be considered “good” it must be functional against a bigger, stronger, more aggressive opponent.

With that idea in mind, that your opponent will be bigger and stronger than you, it is impossible to rely on the idea of overpowering them with strikes.

Jiu-Jitsu is the “paper” of rock-paper-scissors. It is not about trying to have a bigger rock, it’s about getting a hold of that rock and making its size as irrelevant as possible through technique and use of leverage.

Jiu-Jitsu is not about violence, it is about learning how to control violence. To slow it down, manage it and redirect it. In Jiu-Jitsu acting overly aggressive tends to get you in more trouble then anything, where a slower, more methodical practitioner can easily take advantage of that aggression.

Jiu-Jitsu will not make a child aggressive, but it can teach them to control aggression in others as well as them-self.


Tag, Dodgeball and other school yard games

On the drive home today it was mentioned on the radio that there is a push to ban certain school years games like tag and dodgeball. The idea is that these games can often turn into bullying or picking on the slower or less athletic kids.

To a certain extent that is true. With the wrong group of kids and the wrong group mentality this can definitely happen and result in some bullying behaviour.

However, the same could be said for pretty much any competitive activity. At what point do we stop removing games, or should we even try to remove them at all?

I teach kids martial arts… now there is a opening for bad behaviour. We teach kids to physically control each other, to squash them, immobilize them and put them in very unpleasant situations. (And obviously to get out of those positions as well)

It would be very easy for an experienced kid to make life miserable for a smaller, newer student… But, it generally doesn’t happen. Why is that?

At our camps, events and even in class as the occasional warm up we use games like tag and dodgeball… but this doesn’t happen. Why is that?

I don’t think the problem is with the games. The games themselves are fine, the problem is a lack of sportsmanship, and a lack of teaching kids to be leaders and take care of each other.

In fact I think the best way to create leaders and teach sportsmanship is in games where there is the potential for things to go the other way. We can’t teach a kid to make a good decision in a game unless they have the opportunity to make either a good one or a bad one.

We also need to teach them the difference between a game and a competition. Games might be competitive, but they also need to remain fun, and in the end the outcome isn’t really the most important thing.

Removing games like tag and dodgeball is not something I think will solve the problem, the problem is the mindset of the kids involved. Sometimes I think adults try too hard to shelter kids from adversity, when instead we should be teaching them to embrace it and support others.

In a healthy group of kids with a good mindset when the slower kid gets tagged someone will allow themselves to be tagged and go after someone else, it’s a game, and everyone has fun. They self balance their skill levels to some degree. In an unhealthy group it becomes a game of tease the slowest and keep them “it”.

In the martial arts we would never put up with a kid that acted in that manner with training partners. In fact the problem would be far more pronounced. But part of what makes them confident leaders as they progress is that they have that ability, and choose to help each other rather then hurt each other.

So I’d vote to keep the games, but change the mindset. Bring the ideas of sportsmanship and leadership into the games and classrooms, otherwise it’s just a band aid solution.


"Kids Need Something Like This Nowadays"

"Kids Need Something Like This Nowadays"

I've heard this line many times, and while I agree I suspect the reasons are a little different.

Most of the time when I hear it the person means that the world has gotten more dangerous, and kids need to know how to protect themselves and have the confidence to do so.

I'd agree to the second part, but the first is just not true. Statistics show police reported crime is the lowest it's been since the 1960's and has been on a downward trend for the last 25 years.

The perception of crime has definitely increased though thanks to 24/7 news coverage and social media. 10 years ago if someones garage got broken into 8 blocks away you'd never hear about it, now every time someones unlocked car gets their change removed it's posted on Facebook neighbourhood watch groups.

But the truth is we are safer then we have ever been.

Unfortunately the result of the perception of danger has led to kids losing a lot of freedoms they once had. Walking to school without a parent in elementary school was once normal... now parent's discussion groups have people asking if 10 or 11 is too young to do so without worrying about someone calling CFS.

Meanwhile anxiety rates and obesity rates in kids are on the rise.  Which should come as no surprise as kids sense of independence is being pushed to older and older ages.

So when you take a activity, such as MMA / Wrestling / Jiu-Jitsu / Kickboxing / etc. that teaches kids to be strong, to remain calm under pressure and that they can do things they didn't think they could... yes, I think they need something like this.