Re: Physical contact vs. "no-touch" policy
Jakob Blomquist a.k.a Aikilove makes great point about kids needing to have contact with other kids. Aikido when taught to kids does provide social and character benefits. I think more then then do sports.
I am pleased Kevin Kelly you enjoyed my last post. It is my intention to share with others what is and has been successfully achieved in my experience.
I agree in this day and age we have a hyper-vigilance toward sexual abuse on kids. Therefore, as a parent, I embrace a policy in place for how kids are handled by adults. This includes on and off the mat. It includes verbal communication as well as touch. I realized this goes against what I previously said about human isolation and touch and trust.
As a parent the following is my experience and observations which are support for a policy in the dojo when teaching children.
Children are much more sensitive responsive, accepting of touch and speech from adults. They don't have the development, discernment, filters, boundaries etc. to deal with the complexities when adults interacting with adults. Touch is touch and their are wired to grossly responded to it. Most touch is received as caring. A pat on the head for example, means more to a child then an adult. It communicates a lot to the child and can acceptance and security.
Pre-pubescent children have no discernment of their bodies unless identified by the parent. Most of the time, because they have no real discernment, and because they are children who are under the care of their parents they need to be reminded of which part of their bodies are off-limit to touch. This is reinforced over the years as the child matures into puberty where they are more developed and independent. I am not saying they are capable of making good choices, or are impervious to adult influences yet.
Both of these situations outline what we have to deal with when a child enters a class where there is an adult instructor. Because of the nature of and their under-development of themselves, and perspectives of adults rules of touch and interaction between children and adults is paramount. When we don't pay attention to how children and adults interact this can be a defect to children when in adulthood. Besides a safety factor.
What is good touch and bad touch on the mat? Hopefully, it makes no difference on or off the mat. But it all depends on what a parent and a society considered inappropriate touch and what isn't. Most places and people ( at least I would hope ) universally consider touching in anyway a child's genital, chest (females) and buttocks of a child a serious violation. This is in addition to certain speech by the adult that would allow for an adult to commit the serious violation. Depending on where you live of course dictates what is acceptable touch and what isn't. Another, if not the most important factor, depends on what the parent deems acceptable and not acceptable touch and language for their child.
Another area not talked about much is the other type of physical contact and language that is abusive. Instructors and others who are insensitive to a child and treat them roughly both verbally and physically as if they are in a boot camp. The boot camp reference is used to point to an extreme to get the point across. Adults can be very condescending, mean spirited in an authoritarian manner that may go unnoticed, or acceptable in the context of the activity. Adults can easily physically over power a child intentionally or not causing injury to the child. Adults can routinely allow kids to partake in injurious and unsafe activities in the name of the activity. For example, it might be said, "It's normal for kids to hurt themselves doing that move until they learn it"- it really isn't.
For all these reasons, once again a door mat policy would be a good idea for any ethical and moral dojo to have in place. If they don't already. It allows the parents to ask questions and evaluate the activity, and those who will be working and instructing their kids. It allows communication between the ethical sensei, the students and the parents. It is sad to say, but a fact that it hurts allot of good intentioned people when child molesters and those who abuse children victimize children. Child molesters and abusers seek to be involved with children in all areas and ages of children, and their lives, as well as the lives of the parents. As we all know, Aikido isn't exempt or immune to child molesters in this day and age. A door mat policy on how a child will be treated and talked to professionally that includes acceptable touch and level of trust between the child and the instructor only can help parents insure their child will not fall victim to an unethical and moral instructor or adult in the dojo.
I would like to mention personally where I live and as a parent the following dictum. Regardless of gender, NO sensei, instructing or non-instructing adult of children should have contact or access to the child privately, after or outside the class. There should be a demonstration of the teaching staff of respect for the child on the mat and the parents wishes. Wishes that are not unreasonable that is. There are some parents who are not reasonable and demand of special treatment. The teaching staff should not be too personal with the child and observe professionalism at all times when dealing with children. No boundaries should be tested or crossed at anytime with a child. By having a door mat policy only it protects the child, the parents, and the ethical and moral dojo teachers. Communication, vigilance is key, right action is imperative in protecting a child and those who ethically and morally teach. Hopefully, dojos who set good policies and make parents aware of them when teaching children will detour and choke out any dojo who have less then honorable intentions when teaching and training with children.
Knowing that child molesters and abusers seek positions that involve themselves with kids, and the more we understand and expose their methods for such malicious and heinous behavior on children, does and should make us hyper-vigilant. Child molesters can and are anyone. From a family member to a trusted community or religious leader or child professorial or any sort. As good parents, we should be hyper-vigilant. Not in terms of a crazed witch-hunt of anyone that makes eye contact with at a child. But, instead we need to level-headed, clear minded and vigilant in protecting our child from becoming exposed to and victimized by child molesters and abuse. Prevention on the parents part is the best medicine - includes and not limited to awareness and education all the way around.