View Full Version : Children who don't want to learn

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Kung Fu Liane
04-08-2003, 02:02 PM
i've never watched a children's aikido class, so please forgive me if this doesn't apply to aikido. at our wu shu school, tuesday evenings is mixed adults and children, so a few older students go along and help out some of the junior members. however, at the moment there seem to be a lot of younger members (between 8 and 11) who just don't seem to want to learn anything. they mess about more than they train, are disrespectful to the seniors, and rarely even listen to the teacher. we are trying to help these young people to learn martial arts, but they refuse to even do the basic techniques, so they aren't learning anything.

has anyone else experienced similar problems? does anyone have any suggestions as to how we could better structure classes? i feel that it would be unfair to exclude young people from training, as we do have a few very dedicated younger members, but on the other hand, it seems like a huge struggle to fight the rude and apathetic students.

04-08-2003, 02:06 PM
Yeah, make a separate children's class.

04-08-2003, 02:50 PM
has anyone else experienced similar problems?

Yeah, just the other day. I filled in for the kids class instructor. By the end of the class I had just about had it with kids. I now know why some animals eat their young and think that we humans may want to adopt this practice :D

One of the older kids (12-13) stays with his father for the adult class that follows. During class he was goofing around and not paying attention (as usual). I ended up taking him aside and having a sempai-to-kohai talk with him. He's not the only young person in the adult class and we tend to give them some latitude but his behavior is consitently disruptive and downright annoying. After our talk he was better for the rest of the class. I'll have to see if he's any better this week.


04-08-2003, 02:50 PM
Hi Liane,

Has your school talked to the parents of these unruly children? Why are they there if they don't want to train?

-- Jun

04-08-2003, 02:50 PM
If possible have separate children and adult groups. Furthermore divide your childrenīs classes in at least 2 age groups, from very young (5-8)to young (9-12), preteeens can workout with adults. Finally if itīs martial arts you are trying to infuse donīt be afraid to enforce disciplinary measures to single out rowdy students. Calling someone's attention in front of the whole group works well, expelling someone out of class works well to. Note: I've never had to discipline a student in our childrenīs classes, the measures I mentioned have been used sucessfully in our adultīs classes!

Janet Rosen
04-08-2003, 03:05 PM
I've assisted with kids aikido classes for over 4 yrs. Children do NOT learn the way adults do and I think it is unfair to put preteenagers in an adults class--unfair to the adults who are trying to focus on training and unfair to the children whose needs are not being met.

Kids that age seem to absorb lessons best when basic skills are taught as part of exercises and games, and while there are always going to be a couple of unsettled kids, its easier to settle a group by keeping them busy *at their level* rather than by trying to sit on them (metaphorically)--just my 2 cents

04-08-2003, 03:11 PM
We have our share of preeteens, they are too old to be in childrenīs classes so (for lack of scheduling options) theyīre admitted in the adultīs classes. I donīt recall a single problem or complaint. Youīre right children donīt learn the same way as adults do, theyīre usually faster, smarter, more attentive, flexible and fearless! (of course there are exceptions, but in our school this seems to be the rule)

04-08-2003, 03:34 PM
Sometimes kids are brought to class not because they like to train, but because their parents need a babysitter for an hour or so

04-08-2003, 07:55 PM
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04-09-2003, 06:34 AM
My son (13) practiced aikido from age 4-8 and absolutely hated it! He was in a kids class and all they did was play games and do some shikko and rolling and tenkan. When I started my dojo, I didn't have enough students to practice with, so I've convinced him to come to class once a week. He is in with the adults, and he's by far my best uke, and really likes it when I toss him around (now he thinks mom is awesome), the more dynamic the better. He's having some trouble with techniques due to being somewhat inattentive, but I definately think that the adult class is the place for him to be. Were he a bit younger, I don't think I'd want him in adults class. As long as you don't do hard joint locks, kids can be tossed around with the best of them.

Now Liane, in answer to your original question; Jun had a very good point, which is talking to the parents to either find out why they are in class, or to have them lay down the law as it were with the kids. Also, Ignacio had a good point about this being a martial art, and that you can infuse discipline into it (actually, I've found that a good kote gaeshi works wonders on my son). And finally, Bronson made an excellent observation about having taken an offender aside and have a talk with him.

Kids do learn differently, and they feed off each other; if one gets silly, then the whole class can degenerate into a silly-fest. I've found that a stricter teacher generally has better control with the kids, and they typically like that teacher better than one who lets them run rough-shod all over the place.

All the best,


04-09-2003, 06:56 AM
if they dont want to learn, dont teach them.

you cant force someone to learn something, and i think it applies not only to kids but to anyone who acts like they dont want to learn or train properly...... dont teach them or train with them then.

04-09-2003, 11:55 AM
...there seem to be a lot of younger members (between 8 and 11) who just don't seem to want to learn anything. they mess about more than they train, are disrespectful to the seniors, and rarely even listen to the teacher...

does anyone have any suggestions as to how we could better structure classes?

i feel that it would be unfair to exclude young people from training, as we do have a few very dedicated younger members, but on the other hand, it seems like a huge struggle to fight the rude and apathetic students.
From my own experience, you need communicate to students purpose--learning-- consistently and secure parental cooperation--if students play, they're out. This shouldn't affect the serious ones and the example may straighten out the others. Often, the problem is the teacher,though, and not the students.

When I started karate, there were no kids classes. They let me in early, 11, as their beginning age was 12. Before going in, my father explained to me gravely that karate was dangerous and there would be no time for play. If I acted like a kid, I was out. I never played. I was more serious than most of the adults and loved it. There were no games, and had there been, I would have been offended.

When I started teaching (high school English in Japan), I forgot this and tried to entertain. Classes were a disaster. I quickly began focusing on discipline, a common mistake of freshmen teachers. A teaching supervisor in my MA-teaching program quickly set me straight: Focus on learning and direct the kids to that.

There is no panacea, you will still have unruly kids, but the teachers' intent will improve class atmosphere and learning immeasurably. Beyond this, there are other factors, of course. In Japan, my class consisted of up to 59 students--a PhD study found that most teachers found 42 to be the cut off point for manageability, so logistics may have an impact on your situation, too.

04-09-2003, 02:13 PM
I've found that a stricter teacher generally has better control with the kids, and they typically like that teacher better than one who lets them run rough-shod all over the place.

Interesting development on that front. Last night the kid I talked to last week was better, still a little unfocused but definitely better. The interesting thing to me was that he was coming to work with me all night long. He asked me questions on etiquette and technique and seemed to listen. I mentioned this to a teacher friend of mine (non-aikidoka) and she said it may be because by taking him aside and talking to him that I showed an interest in him and his progress. Hmmm, I'll have to wait and see how this turns out.


Roger C. Marks
04-09-2003, 05:19 PM
Teachers and coaches can really mess children up - too often the instructors appear to lack the most basic understanding of what motivates their students and enables learning to happen. I am fortunate that in my home aikidojo my sensei has in addition to great technical skills the ability to enthuse and empathise with children. Although I have a much greater experience of working with children (over 30 years instructing Judo), I have picked up a lot from being an assistant to him. The class of 6 to 14 year olds is very disciplined and attentive BUT we have a ratio of maximum four students to a teacher/assistant and also many parents stay during the class.

04-09-2003, 10:51 PM
I don't teach martial arts, but I think some of the things I've picked up as a history teacher can help.

Start off heavy with discipline, you can always ease up if necessary. The reverse is not true.

It is possible to maintain discipline, entertain, and help kids learn at the same time. This is not a science, but an art that has to be developed. Easier said than done . . .

You don't teach a kid, you help him learn for himself.

Focus on need. Structure the class (and individual instruction) on what the kids need, not what you want to teach or they want to learn. Some kids may need more esteem building. Some kids need ethical lessons. Some kids need discipline. You can't do the physical side of aikido properly without the other stuff in place.

Respect is a two-way street. Don't demand it, try to earn it by being a positive role model.

Publicly correcting a kid may make you feel better temporarily, but you lose the kid. He won't respect you, so he's gone mentally and emotionally, and eventually physically. Private talks with kids focusing on the behavior (not the kid) will have better results. Also, when speaking to the kid, it helps if you turn the focus off the kid (I can't teach when some kids . . . or "the other students can't learn when some kids . . ." It also helps to make a "sandwich" out of the discussion- positive comment, constructive criticism, positive comment (Your ukemi is incredible, but you won't keep learning if you . . ., once you get past this negative behavior, you'll be a class leader).

I don't know if this helps . . .

04-09-2003, 11:01 PM
Oh! Parents can be your greatest ally or worst enemy. Get to know parents BEFORE a problem presents itself so a bond of trust and respect is in place if you need to speak to them about negative behavior.

You may not like hearing this from a public school teacher, but kids are not entitled to anything and everything. If they create chronic problems that can't be remedied in a positive way and they take away from the education of the other kids, show them the door.

Kung Fu Liane
04-10-2003, 05:46 AM

thats the weird thing, the parents are never there. i'm guessing they drop their children off and pick them up in the car park. it seems irresponsible, but jersey is one of the safest places, so parents don't tend to worry about walking their children to class.

the parents we've managed to track down come to watch a class and then usually the children never come back.


also, we did try a juniors only class, that i used to help out at when my sifu was injured and master needed somone just to stand at the front of the class and run through exercises while he corrected. however, the children didn't used to turn up a lot of the time, but they do when its a mixed class. maybe they just enjoy winding up the seniors, i don't know.

we used to us discipline. you'd be surprised what the threat of 10 press-ups will do.



we've tried the 'some kids are distracting others, won't be as good as their mates' etc. no real luck with that. in fact the only thing they respond to is 'if you learn this, then we'll teach you something REALLY cool', but that only works for about 5 minutes.



42 students?! we only have about 8, and two of those are hard workers



maybe its something about jersey, but here no-one really responds to strict teachers anymore. in fact it may be more of a problem with society than our club.



you're probably right

04-10-2003, 10:54 AM
The one problem I see here is the vast area of the world. Even in the US what may work in say a rural suburb in Arizona may not work in the inner city of Los Angles. A lot of problems stem with peers and parents. Daniel is correct on ways I have seen in different areas. I used to teach Kenpo in Alaska and saw various things from children. I had my son start Aikido 7 years ago when he was 4 at a school that only took 6 year olds and up. When he turned 5 he was working out with the adults during open mat. All children are different. In child psychology it is said that most children only have a 1 minute attention span per age. If it does not seem "fun" children want nothing to do with it. There are numerous things to look at when teaching children. Some things work on some but not others. It is also the question of whom is the motivator, the child or the parents. My son wanted to start when he was that young and would like to have continued but his mother thought it was an incovience to her. When we are together over the summer we work out. My step-daughter is 10 and I just started her the other day as I felt she was not ready yet to be a student. She started on her own free will. Not "hey that looks cool, I'll drop you off and pick you up later". You have to look at all the reasons and motivations.

Anat Amitay
04-10-2003, 02:02 PM
Hi all,

I agree with some of the things mentioned and with some less.

Kids are very different. There are some who can realy work with the adult class and some are too 'childish' or maybe playful is more correct. So there isn't a strict 'right' or 'wrong', there is a lot of inbetween.

Also important is the teacher. I don't believe anyone can teach a childrens class. It needs to be a person that has a way of reaching them, 'reading' them and of course, keeping them interested. I beleive that their classes should be modeled with play- both to take some of their hyperactive mood and also different techniques can be put into a playful game, so they enjoy a game while learning something new. Respect should be given, in both directions. It's not a bad thing to teach kids respect. Today it's even good with all that's happening around us...

It is also a MA so some basics need to be kept. It also gives the class a certain 'frame', more order.

There is no one answer to the questions brought up, some people will teach kids and have a great time and some will want to gobble them up! ;)

Good luck anyway!

Good training!


Melissa Fischer
04-17-2003, 12:48 AM
It's my opinion that you are never doing a child a favor by letting him be rude or train half heartedly.

At our dojo, aikido training is spoken of as a privilege and never a right. Bookman sensei asks kids regularly both privately and in front of others why they want to do aikido, or if they want to. Discipline is always maintained.Part of the training is about self respect and respect of others.I think kids crave the formal structure of the dojo and like all the bowing and thanking people. The ones that take adult class are always on best behavior. Sensei calls them up to Uke and they love it!

Good luck with the little darlings. Just define your goals and stick to them. The kids'll come around.


04-17-2003, 02:46 AM
You've picked a large topic, and not an easy one either. I think everyone has the right idea. I would just like to add that each child needs that little bit of individual favour now and then, a pat on the back, some help with ukemi, or just plain old advice from Sensei. If you teach them NOT WHAT to do, then they will find it easier to learn WHAT TO do.

Our kids class is large, ages from 5 - 13yrs, but we seem to manage ok. Those that don't want to learn need a different approach, ignore them, and they will come around, or drop out all together.

They all have differing levels of confidence and ability, you can't teach confidence, but you can let them experince it through different processes.

Parents that drop their kids off for babysitting don't last long, the child will usually know they are being dropped in for this, so will act up. Discipline has to be a rule from the beginning. Kids have to know the boundaries for training, but it doesn't hurt to have a bit of fun with them either.

We used to have parents storm onto the mat when they "thought" their child was acting up!! Kids loved seeing parents getting told off, but they broke a rule and stepped over the boundary, we earned a little respect from the kids with incidences like that, but you have to be careful not to undermine their parents or things can get haywire!

Kids are just that, let em be kids and just try to teach them Aikido, a few games like dodge ball and slalome(sp?) ukemi between cones breaks it up on odd occasions.

In fact a game of dodge ball at the end of class goes extremely well, and only takes a couple of minutes.

Patience and teach at their level, view everything from their perspective, generally what works with kids works with adults.

A nice idea is to teach them Jo kata. Kids must show a certain level of responsibility with their training before they are allowed to learn Jo, and even greater responsibility once they are allowed a "weapon". It's a bit of a carrot, but they all respond well. Our youngest learning Jo is 5, and he can count up to 14 all on his own!!

Give more attention to those that are interested, they are not worth loosing. The ones that act up, the more they listen they more attention they recieve, if they do not respond, have them sit out for the entire class and continue this until their attitude changes. It either works, or they leave, sometimes the latter is better for everyone. Although a couple of our troublesome kids have been worth the extra effort, and have made a tremendous turn around.

well....all in all, teach kids what they came to learn, Aikido( or whatever MA it is). Throw a few games in now and then for confidence etc, but above all else, have patience and have fun.

good luck Liane



05-05-2003, 10:36 AM
Hi Liane,

children are impatient and generally just want to kick someone's arse. I advertise our club as being only for over 16s, but I do let specific individuals (who aren't pushed out of the house by mummy or daddy) train if I feel they won't interfere with the class.

05-08-2003, 12:41 AM
If kids don't want to train, they oughtn't be in class. All too often, juniors/kids class turns into babysitting ...

One more reason that I don't teach kids.