Lack of Enthusiasm

Not from me, but my eldest daughter. I’m getting increasingly frustrated with the fact that I can’t motivate her to practice at home and she flat out refuses to learn any more moves of her poomsae. More irritating to me is I am in a position where I am sort of held responsible for this, to the point where Grandmaster basically told me to pull her out of class to teach her the next moves. It was a laughable experience because she would rather dig a spork into her eye socket than have her mother show her anything.

I really, really don’t want her to quit (she’s 10 btw), and it doesn’t really make sense anyhow, since she would be with me when I went to class anyway. I definately see where TKD has helped her socially, and the look on her face when she performs well is priceless. Especially her last test where she broke the board on the first try. I have tried flat out avoiding critiquing her or offering suggestions for improvement, or offering them gently and her performance when working with me quickly goes south. She gets sloppy, then when I gently tell her to slow down and breathe before trying again, she will hear nothing of it. She said she’s bored. She also has this attitude that she knows everything already (it’s already starting, *sigh*), even though it’s painfully clear in execution that she doesn’t. I’m not looking for perfection from her. I’m looking more for effort, which at times is completely lacking. I praise her when she is obviously trying to master a kick or a technique, and try not to let her get overly frustrated. She does much better with an instructor, but it’s pretty clear her heart isn’t in it. In fact I wonder if my accelerating has killed her motivation somehow.

I’m of half a mind to let her quit, but then I would get the inevitable questions from the staff. Already my husband has gone from some interest to total ambivalence about TKD and is considering taking a break because it hasn’t been enjoyable for him in quite some time and he keeps getting hurt. I try to keep an attitude at the dojang that I am not my husband’s keeper. What he decides is not my responsibility, but it’s much harder to do that when it’s one of my children.

Any advice for a frustrated mom?



  1. All of my 10-year-olds are pretty much the same. They all know everything already and they certainly don’t need me to teach them. I have the benefit of (gratefully) not being their mom, though, so I motivate with pushups and unpleasantness and remind them that when they work hard on their own, I don’t have to “help” so much.

    Also, I started my training with an 11-year-old girl with ADD whose behavior would drive everyone insane. Jumpin’ all over the place, talking every second, “accidentally” punching people full force. But her dad (who’s also in the system) kept her in training. She’s 14 now and while she’s extra super chatty, she’s also learned to live by the rules. She knows when it’s time to work and she knows what she can and cannot get away with. There’s a process of maturing, I think, required by those who start young. And an insistence on the part of their parents to keep them in training until they’re self-possessed enough to say “I don’t want to do this because my heart’s not in it” rather than “I don’t want to do this because I don’t WANNA! HARUMPH!”

    My 21-yr-old, 4th degree black-belted coworker credits his parents for keeping him in training when he was younger (he started when he was 6) because it’s influenced his life in a million positive ways. If they had let him quit every time he got whiney or tired, he says, who knows what kind of trouble he’d be getting into now.

  2. Well put Wendy. 10 year olds are definitely funny creatures. She finally learned all of her poomsae and loves to show it off. I know she actually enjoys doing TKD, it’s the learning she doesn’t like I think (SO like her dad). I was thinking of letting her have a few private lessons so she can get a sense of mastery, but she wants nothing of it.

    I agree with the distinction between her heart not being in it and her just not wanting to because she’d rather veg out or something. It’s why I’m doing everything in my power to keep her in it. I really think that in the long run it would be beneficial for her to stay in. At the rate she’s going she wouldn’t get her Jr. Black Belt until she was 13 or so, and a lot of things can change by then. Grandmaster teaches that most of the time, you get the results you want with persistence. It’s just a difficult concept for someone with almost zero life experience to comprehend.

  3. My 10 yo son, ADHD, but who has done much better since starting martial arts, still does not have the dedication that I have. He likes it but doesn’t love it. He knows his first kata, but he doesn’t put purpose into it. He knows proper technique but does it more haphazardly than he should.

    I let him take the summer session off, as do quite a few of the other kids in his class. He plans to go back in the fall.

  4. We had two young men, twins, who trained at our school for many years. But when they were about 10 or 11, one of them began to excel and the other one lost interest. Then it became a rivalry, even worse than it had been before — constant arguing and belittling and interrupting class. Our instructor took them aside individually and suggested they each take six months off. The one who was excelling decided to stay, and the other one left. But after six months, he came back and is more dedicated than ever.

    Maybe some time off would give your daughter some perspective on how martial arts fits into the rest of her life; maybe after a little while, she would miss it and want to come back. Otherwise, if she doesn’t want to learn anything new, is she even getting anything out of coming to class?

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