Wednesday February 27, 2013
Giving it his best shot
By JANE NG
WHEN Jason pleaded for taekwondo lessons last year, I reluctantly signed him up, all the while imagining him getting all sorts of injuries from it.
It didn’t help that my boisterous seven-year-old’s reason then for wanting to learn the martial art was that “it looks fun, like fighting”.
But he seemed genuinely interested and since he wasn’t attending any classes outside of school, I agreed. My only condition to him was that he must keep at it and not give it up after a few months.
It has been more than a year since he started classes and I’m beginning to see the merits in having a passion for an activity – he is learning perseverance, sportsmanship and discipline, without realising it.
I remember asking him what he learnt, after one of his first few lessons. His reply: “We didn’t learn anything, we only played games.”
Undeterred, I asked what games he played. He said they had to mimic how animals moved, for instance, how a rabbit hopped or how a leopard ran in the jungle. He also described what sounded like a game of “poison ball” where they had to duck the balls thrown at them, which I’m guessing was to train his agility.
I didn’t question him further. Now I am just happy he is perspiring and grinning at the end of every lesson when I pick him up.
Any activity that gets one up and moving can only be good for a foodie like Jason.
Exercise – check.
A couple of months into his lessons, he started to lament about having to miss his favourite cartoon because his taekwondo lesson fell on a Sunday morning. More than once, he would ask to skip lessons. But a gentle reminder that the lessons were non-negotiable once he decided to pick up the sport would usually do the trick.
Perseverance – check.
He doesn’t practise at home so the only time I get to watch him do his moves is during the internal grading session conducted by the school every few months. After their session is over, the younger ones get to watch the older students spar.
Regardless of who wins, they help each other up and bow to each other. That, to me, is a first lesson in sportsmanship – respect for your opponent.
While taekwondo is not what I would have picked for Jason, it was a reminder to let him follow his passion and not impose my preference on him. So piano lessons will have to wait until he is ready, if ever.
But with “passion” and “non-academic achievements” being recent buzzwords in school admissions, I’ve been advised by some parents to steer him towards an activity that is more “useful” (read: one valued by popular secondary schools which students can use to apply for a place via direct schools admission).
I admit I’m not far-sighted in that sense. So he is in Primary One and six years will fly by, but picking up an activity just to gain entry into a secondary school sounds like carrying it too far. Or maybe not, as experienced parents have told me.
To me, though, he may not be the best at taekwondo but if he derives joy from it, I’m happy to let him learn it.
If doing so reaps him some benefits eventually, that’s well and good. If it doesn’t, so be it. I see no point in forcing him to pursue an activity he has no interest in.
Studies have shown that when kids find interest in an activity when young, they are less likely to get into trouble later on, presumably because they have less time to get into trouble.
Several points from articles I read online on developing children’s interests resonated with me:
> Let the interest be his interest and not your own. Don’t let it become about your success as a parent.
> Let him develop his own sense of commitment towards his interest. A passion remains a passion because you, not someone else, is committed to it.
It will feel engaging and inviting for your child if he is not worried about your expectations.
So in many ways, it might be a blessing in disguise that he is learning taekwondo (something I know nothing about) and not piano (which I learnt when I was young).
All I can do is to give him moral support, ask him how the lesson went and encourage him.
Since it is also common for children’s interests to evolve with time, I’m prepared for the day when he decides to pick up another activity – after giving taekwondo his best shot.
For now, he is motivated by the grading session where if he passes, he moves up to the next level with a different coloured belt. – The Straits Times, Singapore/Asia News Network