Dear Parent, Don't Do That

To the Parents of the Small Child in My Karate Class:
Which small child? The one who, on her first day, burst into tears at the very thought of stepping on the floor. The one who is now one of the leaders in my class of 3 year olds. The one who could not, for the life of him, stand in one place for more than 5 seconds. Look at him, he is about to get his blue belt. The one who has been in our dojo since he was four and is now one of the sharpest brown belts I have ever seen. The one who is peeking wide eyed through the window when she thinks no one is paying attention. I see you, little one. Come join us. It will be ok. In fact, it will be better than ok, you will love it. 

I get it. To most of you, our dojo is just some after school class you are signing your kid up for. Something to do while you are waiting for the snow to melt, for soccer season to start up again, for your vacation time to accumulate. I know how it goes. I signed my child up for gymnastics in January. She loved gymnastics. But it cost a lot of money, and once the sun finally came out again she decided she would rather spend Wednesdays running around the playground with her friends. So we stopped bringing her to the gym.

I am a parent. But I am also your child's teacher. So let me tell you some things that might not occur to you as you are stuffing your child's gi into his backpack (don't forget the belt!!) and rushing out the door. 

Remember when you signed him up. Remember how you explained to me what condition he was diagnosed with, what medicine he was on. Remember how hard his first few classes were. What you don't know is that five minutes into that first class I vowed to help him succeed at karate. I worked very very hard at this. Sometimes I even went home after all my classes were done and thought about your child, about what worked that day and what didn't. And every class he got a little bit better. I was so proud of your boy. And then, when it was time to sign up for his next month of classes, he was gone, just like that. Maybe it was the money, maybe it was the schedule. Maybe your nanny had quit, you needed child care, and actually you had no intention of continuing after that first month. I don't know why he is not in my class anymore. All I know is that we were a good team, your boy and I, and now, we aren't a team anymore. 

Don't do that. Don't sign your kid up for a month of classes, have him learn to love it, have me learn to love him and then just quit. It is unfair. To both of us. 

Also, don't send me an email explaining why your kid no longer wants to take karate anymore. As in, you won't be seeing Billy in class anymore because he says it is too hard. He is bored. He feels left out. How the hell am I supposed to address these problems if you don't bring him to class??? I have been doing this teaching thing for a really LONG time. Trust me, your kid is not the first one who finds pushups difficult. Give me the chance to fix the problem. 

Speaking of which, if your kid is having a hard day and gets upset, do NOT, under any circumstances, take him home. If she is afraid of sparring today, do not take her home. If he is throwing a screaming, thrashing tantrum in the corner of the dojo, DO NOT TAKE HIM HOME. How is he supposed to overcome whatever is bugging him if he is sitting in his living room?? Leave him there on the floor. I will handle it. I will take care of him. Most of the time he will be throwing punches before you have even ordered your coffee from the corner bodega. Screaming four year olds are what I do. They are my job. And I am really good at my job.

Finally, if you are really having financial difficulties please talk to us. We want your kid to train. We want you on the floor. We will try our best to work with you. Seriously. We have been you. We too have wondered how exactly we are going to pay all our bills with nothing in the bank. But if money is not an issue for you, please pay us, and pay us on time. We are not Verizon. Your karate tuition supports our family. Your lack of tuition hurts our family. It is as simple as that. Please do not try to haggle with us over the one class your child missed. Please do not use the fact that you have known us for years and watched my child grow up as an excuse to request special favors. It is exactly because you have known us for so long that you should know better.  Have you been here in August? No, you were on vacation. Along with everyone else. It is only $20 for you but we have over a 150 students. You do the math.

In other words, there is a difference between I can't pay and I don't want to pay. You know which one you are. Pretending otherwise is insulting to those people who really are struggling. 

But most of all, please try to be there sometimes. I know life is hard. I know you are busy. But your child is amazing! They are getting really good at this. They really love it. I am so very proud of them. You would be proud of them too. So try to poke your head in every so often and watch them. Don't just send the nanny. It will be worth it, I promise.

I know, I KNOW. There are no words.
His name is Edwin.


  1. It sucks when a student doesn't give you the chance to address or fix things. Even worse when it is a parent that makes the decision for the child. I dislike this notion that parents must fix all a child's problems, must hand hold through everything. I once had a parent tie their teenage child's belt. I was trying to teach them to do it and Parent stepped in, doing it for them. I had them untie and retie, telling Parent that Child must learn to do it on their own because Parent will not be on the mats with them. Sigh.


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