The tween and teen years often feel to parents and teachers like they are back at the “terrible twos” stage. The challenges of working with kids at this age can be frustrating. They are very smart but their emotions are all over the place. This can make it difficult for adults to be patient and allow them to work through this process. Knowing what to expect is key in helping everyone get through this transition.
Kids ages 12 to 15 years old are highly intelligent. They are even smarter than most adults! These tween/teen years are a time when they begin discovering more of who they are and where they fit in. They are gaining more control over their growing bodies, so they typically excel at physical challenges. This is also a time when friends become more important to them and choices in activities are made based on friendships.
But with all of this exciting growth comes some challenging times for parents and teachers. Kids between the ages of 12 and 15 years old begin thinking that they know it all and, although their intelligence supports this, they don’t have the experience to act like an adult. They often make “bone-headed” decisions. At this age, kids are also experiencing a roller coaster of emotions due to puberty ruling their bodies. They may feel happy and smart one minute and then sad and dumb the next. And one of the biggest challenges for adults when working with the age group is that the combination of intelligence and strong emotions lead to arguments.
One of the best ways that adults can best work with these tweens and teens is to have them be actively engaged in the process of this very important transition time. Giving them choices is vital to this. It is also important to allow disagreements and use open ended questions to help them discover why they have a certain opinion and how they differ from others. Remembering that the strong emotions they have are not personal, they are just trying to figure out how to navigate the changes they are experiencing.
THE MARTIAL APPLICATION
Our Teens Karate program, at Glens Falls Karate Academy, was developed with this age group in mind. This age group is so focused on what is socially acceptable that they have a hard time keeping themselves emotionally driven. When working with the age group, the highly trained instructors of this program make connections with these students. They also use Teaching SKILLS in each class to work towards the goal of nurturing their social and emotional instability while building skills that set them up for success. Giving them choices in class and working on tapping into their intrinsic motivation are just two of the important Teaching SKILLS that are used.
As stated earlier, 12 to 15 year olds are the smartest students in our school. Yes, they are smarter than most adults! They are also physically competent and can excel in most physical challenges that are presented to them. The problem we discovered is they are so focused on what is socially acceptable that they have a hard time keeping themselves emotionally driven to the task at hand. The solution we found is to provide them with their own program that targets their stage of development in a manner that nurtures their social and emotional instability while at the same time building skills that set them up for success.
Here’s an overview of the stages of development of children ages 11 to 15:
- They typically have great technique and agility, but they can be lazy which leads to sloppiness.
- We expect them to initially be sloppy on things that are easy physically.
- The goal for our program is to get them to understand their potential if they pay attention to the intricate details. We normally bypass the basics elements of physical development and jump right into the complicated details.
- They are extremely smart. Their critical thinking skills are top-notch, but their decision making skills are typically the exact opposite, and that is why most adults treat them like a child.
- We expect them to initially make choices that are easy as compared to applying thought and effort.
- The goal for our program is to get them to see the bigger picture and apply their intellect.
- Thanks to science, they are typically all over the emotional spectrum. This is more prominent in boys than girls.
- We expect their efforts to be based on what they think is cool.
- The goal for our program is to help them apply intrinsic motivation and realize their true potential. Our goal is to also help them improve their decision making skills with drills that challenge their reaction time.
- They care about what their peers think. If something is cool, then they will put more effort into it.
- We expect them to initially hold back if they are uncomfortable as a defense mechanism.
- The goal for our program is to help them excel at everything they do, especially in front of a crowd.
By understanding the stages of development of 11 to 15-year olds, we were able to select 8 age-appropriate skills that make up our Teens Karate Program:
We cover one of the above skills per class (in order). During each class we run a warm-up; deliver a mat chat about the skill; run two or three skill-building drills; and then we have them demonstrate the skill to earn their skill-stripe. They must earn all 8 skill-stripes in order to graduate to the next belt level. Once they earn their next belt they will continue to run through all 8 skills earning their skill-stripes with a more challenging curriculum as they advance to each rank. They graduate to the adult program and begin to work towards their 1st Degree Black Belt after they have successfully completed all 12 belt ranks of the Teens Karate program.
Here is an example of what a white belt must demonstrate for each of the 8 skills above in order to earn their next belt:
- DEXTERITY – Demonstrate beginner techniques from memory. Assessed on knowledge of contact points and beginner understanding of the kinetic chain.
- REACTION – Demonstrating beginner boxing combinations. Assessed on ability to react toward execution with a partner.
- VERSATILITY – Performing combinations 1 – 8 of the white belt kata. Assessed on understanding of kata techniques/application through the use of eye contact, footwork.
- MOMENTUM – Demonstrating basic self-defense techniques. Assessed on their use of the kinetic chain to increase function.
- PRECISION – Board break with a hand technique. Assessed on demonstrating knowledge and use of contact points.
- INSTINCT – Performing their first sparring combinations as tag combinations with a partner. Demonstrating their ability to move toward execution with a partner.
- STRENGTH – Holding each static leg, arm, abdominal, and core exercise, demonstrating their ability to press through fatigue.
- VISION – Writing a short passage on the definition and a personal meaning behind courage. Assessed in their ability to show pride through effort and begin to set goals.
As you can see we take Martial Arts training to a whole new level!
We use extreme elements of our traditional Okinawan karate curriculum to build skills that are appropriate for 12 to 15-year olds. This means our students learn and grow at a pace that is not too easy, nor too challenging for them. The best part is our Teens Karate program will equip our students with skills that they will utilize in every area of their life!
Engaging with tweens and teens can be fun and exciting because their personalities are becoming more established. They can participate in more in-depth conversations when allowed to express their opinions without being mocked for them. Parents and teachers that allow safe, open discussions will reach this age group far better than someone that lectures them. Building these kids up will ensure a brighter future for them.