Ignoring your child’s tears

Our two boys started karate tonight.   We’ve wanted to get them into something new and something to build their confidence.  Our older son is very very bright and gets easily frustrated when things don’t go his way. Don’t even think about playing UNO with him unless you stack the deck in his favor.a

We’re working on it….we’d heard from so many people that martial arts are good to build self-confidence, leadership, and agility.  All things our oldest could use!

The boys both loved it.  The kicks.  The grunts.  Even the water fountain, “Dad, that water was so cold!”  I was impressed by how well they listened and minded the instructor.

At one point, I noticed our older son’s enthusiasm had fallen.  He was wiping away tears.  I took in the scene as my heart raced a bit.  He was in the middle of blocking some hits to the noggin’ by a fun-noodle and he wasn’t quite quick enough.  Between hits he was losing it….and the instructor hadn’t yet noticed so she continued to go around the circle of children and bump them in the head with the noodle.  The tears were getting bigger and he was holding it back with the face you make when you’re trying not to cry.   The tears were getting bigger.

My instinct was to get up.   To comfort him and pull him aside for a pep talk and a hug.  If nothing else, to alert the instructor that he was struggling and needed some help.

Instead, I bit my tongue and buried my face in my book.  I sat on the sideline in a cold metal folding chair and did nothing as he struggled.  I said a little prayer.  I felt a little bad. I knew I had the skills to turn him around quick.  I could give him a hug, get down at his level, and ask him a question about Star Wars. He’d be fine and I’d be the rescuer.

But I didn’t.  I sat there and read my book.  Of course I peeked. The mirrors in the karate studio (“dojo”?? Sorry we’re new to this) made it easy to spy.

He took some breaths (who knew he could do that??) The tears gradually receded.  His face softened.  His stance straightened.  He worked through it.

The teacher gave him a pat on the shoulder and he mustered on.  He wasn’t more agile. He didn’t block more swipes.   He got hit on the head again.   He just composed himself and pressed on.

Proud dad moment.

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