You can ask questions which show an interest in understanding the personal needs of the child and expectations of the parents related to martial arts training. Spend time getting to know the parent as well as the child. Your questions and conversation with the parent and child will, at minimum, help you assess the individual training needs of the child. They also allow you to talk with parents on a more personal level regarding these needs, and their expectations.

You will gain an awareness of the mental, social and emotional development of the child, and begin to formulate in your own mind a “training plan” based upon the child’s abilities. For example, issues related to how well the child can attend to instruction in a group setting, process this information, and respond accordingly, will certainly have an impact on the child’s training.

In your assessment of the child’s needs, and the related expectations of the parents, you will gain insight as to how this child interacts with peers, particularly if problem behaviors exist which can have an impact on the functioning of the class as a whole. Will the child be demanding of the instructor’s time, possibly behaving in a manner which requires you to continually shift your attention to him/her?

Training in the martial arts places demands on the child to perform according to specified standards. It is important to assess the child’s ability to cope with the frustration which may accompany these demands. At the same time, you must assess how the parent expects that you will deal with any of these potentially problematic issues, should they exist.

Your assessment of the child, and parents’ expectations, can take the tone of a friendly conversation. Some questions for the parent may be:

– “How did your son/daughter get interested in the martial arts?”

– “Has your son/daughter trained before?”

– (If the answer is yes:) “What did you think about that training? What did you like? Was there anything you didn’t like?”

– (If the answer is yes:) “Tell me about that.”

– “Different people want to learn different things in the martial arts. What kinds of things might you want for your son/daughter to learn here?”

– “Are there some things which you would like to see emphasized in your son’s/daughter’s training?”

– (If the answer is yes:) “What are they?”

– “What kinds of things does he/she like to do for fun?”

– “How is school going for him/her?”

The responses to these questions can engage the parents in a conversation which helps you understand the training needs of the child, and the expectations of the parent. If the parents tell you that they are interested in enrolling their child in the martial arts because, “The kid needs to learn some self-control,” you had best gain insight into what they mean by this statement. Do certain problem behaviors exist which you should know about? If so, what are they? A simple “How so?” is a nice follow-up when parents make this type of comment.

Another scenario is that parents want their child to become more self-confident. Self-confidence can mean different things to different people. Are they bullied at school? Are they overly shy, or hesitant to speak up in class?

If you say to the parent, “Tell me more about that,” not only do you show an interest, but you can more specifically define what it is they expect for their child to get from training at your school. The key is not to assume that you know what the child needs from general statements. If you really are interested in helping the child and parent, find out specifically what it is they need help with first.

As you gain insight into the needs and expectations of the parents and child, you can begin to relate how some of what you offer at your school can benefit them. This is an important element in establishing your relationship with parents. If you simply deliver a standard speech that you give to parents when they visit your school for the first time, they may feel that you are not interested in their individual needs and expectations, but only in “making a sale.”

Regardless of what your school has to offer, unless you make a connection with what the parents want for their child, these nice features may be irrelevant in their mind, and so will the relationship which you are attempting to establish.

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