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Building Confidence, Respect & Focus: How To Be A Black Belt Parent

Parents in Traverse City, Michigan are just like moms and dads everywhere. They want their children to grow up and be responsible, caring & confident individuals. They want them to be able to handle peer pressure, stand up to bullying, be self-starters when it comes to homework and be respectful when asked to do something. Often, however, these wishes never come to fruition but are lost in arguing and frustrated moments as a parent. Using the principles of martial arts can make all the difference in this kumite match. “Black belt parenting” is raising your own children the same way a Taekwondo master, Karate sensei or Kung fu shifu would teach them. It has been working successfully for thousands of years – so it will probably work for you.

At the Seung-ni Martial Arts Academy in Traverse City (located in northern Michigan), where I instruct, I see the young students make remarkable transformations from the martial arts training. But, truth be told they are only on the floor working on their kicks, punches, forms and sparring a mere 2 – 3 hours a week. In speaking with the parents of my students – it is those moms and dads who begin to implement martial art techniques into their parenting as well that see the most positive changes. And the best thing it is relatively easy to become a “black belt parent.” The tools are simple, you just have to be consistent in your implementation to find success:

1.“Taekwondo Single Request” – You only ask your child once to do something. Never repeat yourself a 2nd and 3rd time. By repeating … you just undermined your owned words and took power from them. If they do not listen the first time then you go to them, make eye contact and then say “I already asked you to turn off the tv and get ready for bed, I will not ask again” and then assist them in initiating the request. So, Rule #1 - black belt parents do not repeat themselves.

2.“Karate War Strategy” – Pick your battles, much like the famous general Sun Tzu. Do not bring up issues and topics with your child unless you are ready to stop everything you are doing to see it to the end. Kids are like ninjas they will be able to read your body language and know if you have the resolve or if you are too busy and distracted to enforce you request. So, Rule #2 as a Karate Mom or Dad is to be selective in your skirmishes.

3.“Kung Fu Timing” – You never parent well right after something negative has happened. Instead, wait a few days and lay down your firm expectations on a great day, when things are going well and the child is happy and receptive. Thus, Rule #3 - the same words have far more impact when delivered like a kung fu strike on a day when your child is truly ready to hear the message.

4.“Judo Throw Verbiage” – Be very careful in the words and mantras you use with your children. Black belt masters choose their words with great care – so should a parent. For instance, with taking away privileges or dolling out timeouts and grounding – you are “discipling” not “punishing.” And, do not get into arguments with your children over the reasoning for one of your requests. Every response to the quick auto fired question of “why” is met with “because I am your parent and I said so.” As such, Rule #4 is to choose your words wisely like a Karate Sensei.

5.“Martial Art Black Belts Praise Work Not Achievement” – If you want your child to be a hard worker, to have grit and to persevere in the face of great challenges, then do not praise them for getting an A in math or for winning the soccer game. Instead, praise them for all the hard work and sacrifice they did to get there. This keeps the focus on where it belongs. So, Rule #5 is the fact that Taekwondo students are really black belts because of the hard work not because of the fancy belt that hangs around their waist.

If you would like to have your son or daughter experience the benefits of martial arts training, I invite you to come check out our programs at the Seung-ni Martial Arts Academy in Traverse City. At Seung-ni we build great black belts students – as well as Black Belt Parents!

The author, Kyle Scott, is a 4th degree Taekwondo black belt master instructor, certified under the World Taekwondo Federation. He teaches in local schools and gives frequent assemblies on bully prevention and women’s self defense seminars. He can be reached by phone at (231) 932-4300 or on the web at

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