Well-intentioned parents often try to foster happiness by giving their kids pleasurable experiences. Yet what children really need is to learn how to create and sustain joy on their own, says Edward M. Hallowell, M.D., a noted child and adult psychiatrist and coauthor of the bestselling Driven to Distraction. In his new book, The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness, Dr. Hallowell, an instructor at Harvard Medical School in Boston, outlines five things kids need most to build a lifetime of self-esteem and confidence. Grand Master Greg Silva expounds on how this relates to martial arts lessons.
1. Connections. Feeling rooted gives children a foundation of security. Children need acceptance and support from peers. Martial arts classes provide solid leadership and support from the teacher and support from fellow classmates and other parents.
2. Play. Make sure your child's free time isn't too programmed and regimented. Open-ended play, in which children can invent scenarios and solve problems by themselves, helps them discover their talents and use their own resources. Martial arts incorporates development of creativity through kata (forms), drills and self-defense scenarios
3. Practice. When kids find out what they're good at, they'll want to do it again and again. But sometimes you may have to do some gentle nudging to ensure that your child sticks to an activity and experiences a sense of accomplishment. In martial arts, instructors use PCP. This is corrections via praising, effort, corrections and praising results. Parent and instructors learn to "team up and never give up" on students goals.
4. Mastery. From practice comes mastery. When children achieve a skill -- - they're further motivated to tackle new challenges. And that leads to a can-do attitude. Progress in martial arts involves continued goal setting and rewards of stripes and belts.
5. Recognition. Approval and support from one's parents, teachers, and peers for a job well done, reconnects children to the wider world. When kids think what they do affects their family, classmates, and team, they're more likely to exhibit moral behavior and, ultimately, to feel good about themselves.
Fortunately, one step leads naturally to the next and the cycle is self-perpetuated, explains Dr. Hallowell. You can lay the groundwork at an early age. Give your child these five key qualities, he says, and you will greatly increase her chances of leading a joyful, meaningful life.
Parents wanting to see how a beginner martial arts class can help their child be happier should look for a free beginners martial arts work shop.