Last month I wrote a blog on perseverance, as part of a series of five short blogs, each one looking at one of our tenets of Taekwon-Do.
I opened the blog by saying that as parents we are sometimes to blame for a child’s lack of perseverance, because we set them high standards to achieve, but if the child feels unable to reach this high standard, it can make them anxious. The easiest route for them to then take, in order to stop this anxiety, is to give up.
Today it dawned on me that sometimes, it is actually really important to give up.
My thought was in relation to a child whom I taught Taekwon-Do. A child who I taught for nearly a year. During that year, I did everything I could to help him achieve. I gave him my energy, my patience and my expertise. After a few weeks, I started not looking forward to teaching his class. He was a constant disruption. He did the complete opposite of everything that I asked him to do. He made inappropriate noises and was boisterous with other children. I have taught for 25 years and I drew on everything I had learned during my teacher training course, knowledge of every previous difficult child I had taught and sought advice from other professional teachers. In other words, I was doing exactly as we teach our children to do: to persevere.
After a few months, I spoke to his mum. She suggested to me that she removed him from the class. I, however, refused to give up. I wanted to persevere. I knew that Taekwon-Do was the very thing that could help him. It develops self esteem, builds confidence, promotes team work and provides structure and discipline. The very last thing I wanted to do was to prevent this child from having access to the environment he seemed to so desperately need.
So I persevered.
His behaviour began to get worse. One day when I went into the class, this child wasn’t there. I was told that his mum had decided to remove him due to his bad behaviour.
Part of me felt that I had let him down, however the decision had been taken out of my hands and the classes continued without him. Suddenly, I had a class that was responsive. I had a class who worked as a team and who focused. The children in the class interacted with each other in many positive ways. The class had a new energy and took on a new life. We were able to engage with one another and have fun.
What this experience taught me is that sometimes it is important to give up. Sometimes it is absolutely the right thing to do.
In classrooms all over the country, teachers are struggling with one disruptive child in classes of well over 30 students. This is their dilemma: do you persevere with that one child at the expense of 30? Do you allow 30 children to experience a totally compromised education to help one?
We must continue to teach our children to persevere, but as parents and teachers, we should also be mindful that it is also sometimes the right decision to give up.