I absolutely do not want you to practice karate
Blow off practice then get upset when you don't earn a stripe. Practice your little butt off for the next week or so and get the stripe. Or confuse the dojo with a dance studio and practice every move Fred Astaire ever tried but forget your combinations.
Because they're such totally different people, the reasons for their antics are totally different, too. With Big Guy, it's cockiness - baseball and soccer come so naturally to him that he used to assume that everything would. With Boots, it's easier to clown and fail than it is to take it seriously and risk real failure.
Oddly enough, though, the solution to both problems turned out to the same. If I'd stopped nagging for long enough, I would have figured it out long ago. I'm slow like that sometimes.
The two key tenets of the new theory: Kids love to show off what they've learned, and kids love it when they can teach you something.
As a result, I've vowed to never ask the guys to practice again. So far, it's working beautifully.
The epiphany came as Boots began to work on Chon-Ji, a complicated form that deviled Big Guy for months. I realized one day during Boots' class that, having watched Chon-Ji for two years now, I probably could learn it.
"Why don't you teach me Chon-Ji?" I asked Boots one Wednesday, after he'd showed absolutely no sign of paying one whit of attention during the entire class.
His eyes got big. "OK," he said. He errorlessly made it through about a quarter of the form, and I was stunned. For a kid who had spent most of the class looking for humming birds, he knew a lot.
"Slow down," I said. "I'm not quite catching it. Where does you right arm go on that first move?" I knew enough to know he'd goofed it up, but as he thought about it while "teaching" me, he got it right.
Big Guy quickly joined the game. "Let me teach you nunchuks!" he said. Oh, great. I fear permanent damage from standing a yard away from nunchuks, and he wants to to learn how to use them?
"Nah, you'll probably hurt yourself," Big Guy said. He knows me too well. "Just watch me do it instead."
And I watched, for a good 20 minutes that surpassed his total practice time for the previous month by about 19.75 minutes.
Except he wasn't practicing. No, siree! These two are never going to practice again.
But they are doing a lot of teaching and demonstrating.
Copyright 2012 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.