By Don Korzekwa, Ph.D.
It’s 20 minutes after the last class for the day. You’re still talking with the mother of one of your ten-year-old students. She wants him to participate in the next belt-promotion examination. You attempt to explain that he’s not ready quite yet. You think to yourself, “Doesn’t she understand? I’m the expert here. I’m the one in charge of belt promotions.” She thinks to herself, “Doesn’t he understand? I know my son. I’m the one in charge of whether he stays at this school.”
As an instructor at a martial arts school, you recognize that working with the parents of your young students is a critical element in your success. Parents have an investment in their children’s well-being at several levels, including physical and emotional aspects. Because of this investment, it is important to consider that your relationship with the child as instructor to student, also involves a working relationship with the parents.
Parents have certain expectations about your work with their child as a student at your school. They see their child as an individual with unique needs and characteristics, and expect that you will do the same. The manner in which you deal with the expectations of parents regarding their child’s training at your school will have an impact on the motivation of the parents to keep their kids at your school.
Parents can also offer the advantage of years of knowing and understanding their child in a variety of situations. They have a first-hand perspective on what interests and motivates their child. They may also alert you to any changes, problems or sensitivities of the child which can have an impact on his/her training in the martial arts. The more proactive you are in gathering this information, the better equipped you will be to make the training experience a good one for everyone from the outset.
It is also worth consideration that you and the parents can be allies in working with the child. Training directed toward the goals of increased self-discipline, self-confidence, and others can either be supported or ignored by parents when the child in not in class. The extent to which you have a solid working relationship with parents can make a difference in the degree of success which is achieved in guiding the child toward these goals. If you and the parents are communicating about the child’s progress, the consistency and continuity in your combined efforts are more likely to produce the desired results. If parents see you as a valuable ally in working with their child, they have added incentive in maintaining your relationship.
The bottom line is that it is important and advantageous for you to have a good working relationship with the parents of your young students. This can, however, be a difficult task. You may have many students, including children, in your school. The time which you have available to speak with parents is very limited. You may find that you have no difficulty in communicating with some parents, and a great deal of difficulty with others. Regardless of the challenges, it is up to you, as an instructor, to establish and maintain a good working relationship with the parents of your young students.