Earning Your Stripes

Validation. We all need approval – especially children. Way to go, good job, you got it. We all have our favorite sayings of validation that we say to our children. While I was hurling through Brooklyn on the A train at 7 A.M., I overheard a mother and child doing some schoolwork. As a parent and teacher, I was impressed. I did not hear (nor care) what they were learning. All I heard was the mother drone on, “Good job…”  Whether it meant anything to the child, I’m not sure.

In March of this year, BR started taking karate. I pushed it. It is said to be good for kids with ADHD as it can help them with focus and discipline. In addition, karate could help him with his OT issues by improving body awareness. Lastly, he expressed an interest. Okay, I asked him multiple times, and he finally agreed to it. My wife got on board, and we signed him up for a program.

So, since March BR has been attending karate twice a week for 45 minutes. The boys and girls vary in age but seem to be anywhere from 5-9. At first, he was challenged but seemed to take to the discipline and noted that SJ (his younger brother) would benefit from it. I was ready to gloat.

The kids start off with a plain white belt. From there, they need to earn stripes before moving on to the next color belt. There is an opportunity to earn stripes at the end of every month (assuming you have been to at least 8 sessions since you last moved up). The first time BR was up for a stripe, he got one. He beamed with pride when he talked about his stripe (a piece of black electrical tape – pretty fancy, ehh). He quickly got his second stripe and was feeling good about his accomplishment. I would catch the last 10-15 minutes of class and saw a boy who was really trying to focus and do his best. I also saw improvements.

Then he hit a speed bump.

One time, two times, three times, came and went, and he could not get the third stripe. He even went to karate camp – 5 5-hour days – and still was not up to getting the next stripe. Then, he stopped talking about karate and getting him to practice was a chore. I did not want to argue with him about it. After all, this is an extracurricular activity. I told him multiple times that practicing is the key to getting better, and he needed to decide if he wanted to improve. (FULL DISCLOSURE My wife is the one who supervises his practicing. She keeps telling me I should, but it does not happen. This may be why she was less excited to sign him up for karate in the first place.)

Well, today was the September test. My wife prepped him again – a lot. We all hoped he was ready. SJ and I got to the Dojo just in time to see the Sensei make the stripe presentations. Lo and behold, BR was the third one called. He had earned his stripe. A good job – I’d say. He persevered despite the frustrations (I was ready to pull him out) and accomplished his goal. I am so proud of him!


31 thoughts on “Earning Your Stripes

  1. This is such a great blog post. Easy to read, but still a beautiful little lesson – and useful too. I’m sure you’re proud of BR – I hope he too is proud of himself! Tell him I said hello and congratulations!!

  2. That’s so exciting! Way to go, kiddo! I have been meaning to do a post on karate, too. My oldest just got her first “dragon tip” (that’s what they call the piece of tape around the end of the belt). So awesome. I was floored by the whole testing process and so proud of her. It’s so fun to see you kid succeed, isn’t it?

  3. Hi,
    Not only are you proud, but I am too! Congratulate him for me. He has come a long way. Now all we have to do is get someone we both know to make an extra effort to practice with him. I believe he would soar even higher, just knowing that you are there rooting him on while he practices with you. In fact, that is just a higher form of saying, go for it! You can do it!

    Thanks for sharing this. It makes me happy to hear about BR’s progress.


  4. Way to Go BR!!! Your perseverance is an inspiration. Larry, you should of told me I would of made a big deal about it when I saw him.

  5. Good for him to getting that stripe! It was a Rolling Stones learning lesson for him: you can’t always get what you want, but when you try sometimes, you get what you need :0)

  6. Loved your blog! When i was a little girl, My father insisted on Karate lesson and so I was signed up. My parents thought it was an essential that I learn self-defence. I hated it. I wanted ballet, they gave me Karate. With much hard work I made it to my brown. I am very thankful they did this for me, it gave me confidence, taught me discipline and kept me grounded. I think I really started enjoying it once the Sensei introduced me to tournaments. After a couple wins I was satisfied with my training and experience and was happy to stop at my brown. I have never had to use my training, but I have been told its like riding a bike.
    Great Job Br! Keep it up and enjoy.

  7. Ugh. I know how difficult it is and can be disappointing and frustrating, but somehow those stripes and belts are such a reward after all their work. so good for him!
    I am very mixed about the process, so now i let my son take the lead. he’s done it for almost 5 years now, and we’ve had our ups and downs, more committed times and less. now we’re on a break, instigated by him. i’m not pushing. at this point he can make his own decisions about it.
    does your son still enjoy…?

    • He does still enjoy it. I think this own stripes encourage him. I don’t think he practices enough and we do encourage him. However, it is not something I push greatly – there are other things, namely school, where I feel that it is more important to push.
      I am with in that respect – follow his lead.

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