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March 1, 2023

Options to Help When Your Child Doesn’t Want to Train

Tatyana Grechina

Options to Help When Your Child Doesn’t Want to Train

We can’t always control what our kids want to do or think, and though all we want is the best for them, that desire doesn’t always resonate with them. Anyone who has tried to get their kids to eat vegetables with dinner can understand the frustration that occurs when your child is fighting you on something you know is good for them.

Maybe we just need to remember what it feels like to be a child ourselves. In many ways, they’re just like us – trying to figure out their place in the world and understand what control they have over their own lives.

We spoke to several people in our martial arts community on how they handle moments with their children when they simply…





Across the board, most of the time, moments of rebellion have more to do with needing a sense of control and independence than anything else. So when your kids start digging their heels, it can mean it’s time for you to regroup and get creative. 

Remember that time…?

Remind your child of a time they did something they said they didn’t want to do and ended up loving it. In the moment, discomfort can feel greater than the actual thing itself. Reminding them of another time they almost turned down an awesome opportunity out of hesitation can help them jump start a shift in perspective. 

For the rest of our lives there will always be things we don’t want to do. Especially as we get older, more freedom means more responsibilities and commitments, and more moments for us to shrink from them. However, this doesn’t mean we should.

Give them examples from your own life of something you don’t necessarily love doing but have to anyway. Going to work, doing dishes, laundry, taxes – not all of us like doing these things but we understand that we must if we’re to live a full and balanced life.

[How Martial Arts Helps At Home]

“There will always be times, even as adults, we don’t want to do something,” Coach Ezra from Easton Longmont tells his kids. “Or maybe you said you were going to do something for someone and you decided you don’t want to. But you don’t have a choice. If we’re going to do it, we’re going to do it.”

Remind your kids that when they learn how to push through those feelings of discomfort, they build resilience which will pay off in the long run. We can all benefit from learning to experience discomfort but refusing to  let it get in our way.

Remind them of their goals

More often than not, if your kids started off strong with a sport or an activity, it’s because they had their own idea of how it would go – even if the idea was yours initially. Maybe they wanted to compete or get strong to face their bully. 

It’s a fact of life – we can’t meet our goals without practice and discipline. This means that those days we feel down, tired or blue, are the most important days for us to show up. If your kids want to compete, remind them that part of competition is mental toughness, and if they can overcome their resistance in practice, they’ll perform better in competition.

No matter how much you want them to do something, remind them that ultimately It’s not for you – it’s for them. It’s a commitment they made because they want to be able to do other things, and practice just becomes the vehicle.

Warrior-mode doesn’t just come out in life – it comes first in those quiet moments when we don’t really want to show up and do anyways.

[3 Tips To Help Your Youth Athlete Overcome Competition Anxiety]

Listen to them

Validate that they don’t want to go. Like all of us, kids just want to be heard and validated. If they’re pushing back, reflect on the underlying reasons and on your approach – how much of your own pushback reflects your needs versus theirs? 

You’re tired, it’s hard, I get it.

“When kids don’t feel seen and you’re missing the point,” says Coach Ashley who works with children as a play therapist, “they’re going to ramp it up and take it to the next level.”

Maybe there’s someone in class they don’t like. Maybe this person has said something that hurt their feelings. Validate it! Make sure they know that you feel their struggle. Don’t tiptoe around it – bring it front and forward, and acknowledge how much it must suck. 

This will put you on the same team, rather than on the opposite side, and if kids feel understood they’re more likely to soften their resistance.  

[What To Do When Your Little Tiger Has A Bad Tournament]

Cut a deal

Kids don’t have a lot of control in their lives, so give them something they can control. Let them pick out a movie for the whole family or pick out where to go for dinner. Trying to give them control in a place they feel empowered, and remind them that they’re not always at the mercy of someone else.

Maybe your kids are older and really work the angle. Cut a deal – maybe you can get them to come a few times a week or just focus on one discipline (if they’re signed up for both.)

Sometimes all it takes is getting them there, and they end up having a blast. Or sometimes they don’t enjoy it and they’ll want to keep negotiating. If you create a structure where they feel like what they have to say matters, they may come to the decision to keep training on their own.

Take a step back 

If nothing seems to work, sometimes the best thing to do is to back off. Spend a little time reflecting on yourself and your own motivations – maybe it’s something you want or are pushing in the wrong ways even though you know it’s good for them. Maybe there are things you’re projecting that you don’t even realize, and your child is subconsciously picking up on it. 

If you know that Jiu Jitsu or Muay Thai is something they enjoy, or have enjoyed in the past, the lull may be temporary. Sometimes, the more we encourage something, the more they’ll want to go the other way. Let them come to it on their own. If this is a way to assert control and independence, letting them have the idea on their own can go a long way.

Continue to be an example

Maybe your kid is the reason you got you into Muay Thai or Jiu Jitsu yourself! When you come home excited from the gym talking about what you’ve learned, they may feel excited to practice with you and even correct your form. 

This joy at the heart of a sport outside of the structure of class can exist no matter how long it’s been. If they don’t lose this, then there’s still potential for them to return on their own – even if it’s in a different timeline than the one you’d like. Sticking with our own journey and letting them watch us develop and grow can sometimes do much more than making them go to class against their will can.

Kids look up to us and they learn through watching how we handle things. Similar to what Ezra said when it comes to sharing our own experiences, letting them see your excitement first-hand can reignite the spark that routine and necessity burnt out. 

In the end, you don’t want to push something if they truly don’t want to do it. While structure, boundaries and teaching personal responsibility are all necessary, we never want them to end up resenting the sport and worse – you– later.


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