At a certain point in our children’s lives, one thing we mothers will know very well is after-school activities.
During this phase in our motherhood journey, our lives will become consumed with driving to and from football practice, swimming lessons, dance lessons or whatever is the pick of the month for your little one, to the extent that the car becomes our second home.
I am now a new member of this phase, as my elder son has just started going to karate classes. So three days a week, including Saturdays (no more sleeping in for this mama), we do the back and forth routine.
But, as tiring as all of this is for us parents, the benefits and importance of extra-curricular activities in our children’s lives are undeniable.
Most extracurricular activities require that the child exhibit some level of discipline to succeed.
Practising simple, but important acts such as showing up on time, wearing the correct uniform, giving 100% every time they come to class and not talking while the coach/teacher/sensei is speaking, trains our kids to have discipline in school and in the working world when they get older.
A major element of participating in extra-curricular activities is practising until you get it right.
All of our kids probably suck big time when they start whatever activity it is that they are into (I could admit it). And depending on what activity your child does, that could probably be immensely annoying for everyone in the house (queue screeching violins).
Nevertheless, the lesson here is that if they want to be good or great at what they do, they have to keep practising and be persistent. There are no shortcuts.
As our kids’ skills improve, their confidence levels begin to increase. They feel good about themselves and the things that they are capable of doing (queue the unending demonstrations in the living room).
Depending on the activity, they may even have to overcome certain fears or shyness and perform in front of people.
In the case of my ninja son, every day his sensei gives lessons in speaking confidently and clearly by simply making each student enter the dojo, one by one, and say “Good Afternoon parents”. This is also a lesson in respect.
In my son’s class, everything that they do is centred on respect. Respect for elders, respect for authority, respect for the dojo and its traditions and respect for each other.
In today’s world, respect is something that is seriously lacking. However, in most extra-curricular activities, disrespect is something that is not tolerated.
We all know that children’s concentration skills could be excellent or barely there, depending on what it is they are being asked to concentrate on.
For example, video games. My son could go all day without even eating if you let him. And the focus that he has when it comes to completing whatever mission the Ninjago characters have to do – unwavering.
Homework, on the other hand, a little less unwavering.
However, what I have noticed is that, since starting karate, his concentration skills have improved. Even when doing something that he isn’t too fond of.
In his class, he is forced to concentrate and focus. If he doesn’t, two things happen.
- He would miss what is being taught and wouldn’t know the moves
- Sensei would probably give him push-ups, and no one, even overly energetic kids, wants to deal with push-ups.
But the constant repetition of being required to focus in the dojo is slowly transforming the previously difficult to maintain skill into a habit.
In activities that are team related, our children can learn how to work with others as a part of that team.
During practice or during the games, they have to remove themselves from selfish tendencies and work together to achieve what is best for the team.
Even in my son’s case, although karate isn’t necessarily a team sport, the members of the dojo are all a family. The stronger ones help the weaker ones. There is no mocking or jeering if someone gets something wrong, instead, they offer encouragement and moral support.
As a karate mom, observing from the sidelines, I can acknowledge and appreciate the lessons that my son is learning from participating in an extra-curricular activity.
It is not just about being able to fight or defend himself, but about life lessons that will make him a stronger, confident and well-adjusted person.