Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Don't Quit!

If I could give one tip to parents with a QK (that would be Quirky Kid) who might need a greater-than-average share of emotional deposits to counteract the negative feedback their behavior tends to attract, it would be this (I mean, besides helping him/her find a Quirky Friend and finding yourself a fellow PoQK -- you figure it out):

Find him chances to be a leader.

In the past ten days, my husband and my daughter both passed belt test that enabled them to move up the rankings in tae kwon do. I'm quite proud of both of them.

But on the same day my husband passed his test, along with about fifteen others, his teacher paused the closing ceremonies to make a special award to two students at our school. One was a thirteen year old brown belt. One was my son.
They had both earned the rank of Junior Leader, a position that allows them to wear a special uniform and recognizes the many hours they have put into training for leadership. For about nine months now, Ian has been helping to teach the 3-5 year old "Tiny Texans" class. He leads warm-ups, demonstrates skills, and generally serves as a teacher's helper. On his application for Leadership, in answer to the question, "What are your strengths?" he wrote "Good leader -- rounding up people to do stuff." Bingo.

(The first time I noticed this quality was at a church conference when I and a few other adults found ourselves in charge of about 40 first graders one evening. The adults' meeting dragged on past nine, and our energy levels began to seriously flag. Ian buzzed over from his own class to find me, sized up the situation, and before I knew it, had about fifteen kids following him earnestly through a game of charades and freeze tag. The rest of us might as well have been invisible. To those kids, he walked, ran, and leaped on water.)

When he wore his new uniform to class last week, I overhead his teacher informing first the Tiny Texans and then his class of age peers that "Mr. Diller" was now a Junior Leader and they needed to show him the proper respect. What touched me was that she saw him as trustworthy enough to bear that responsibility, not abuse his position of newfound power. His chest seemed to straighten a bit. He walked an inch or two taller. And he did not lose patience with the three year old who simply does not process the concept of instructions. In fact, that three year old's mother told me today that he considers Mr. Diller to be his Very Cool friend. (Ian's take: "Mom, I think he's been kinda spoiled at home." Excuse me. I just need to snicker behind my hand for a minute.)

This is just the latest reason I'm so glad we overcame our initial doubts almost two years ago and enrolled our son in tae kwon do at this school. Their motto "Don't Quit!" has become quite personal to him. While the teacher's no-nonsense manner put him off at first, we tried again. As it turns out, she has offered him the perfect balance of toughness and compassion. She demands respect AND gives it, with a generous helping of love. The students respond to that -- so that some of them who seem at first least likely to thrive, my son included, end up reaping rewards made sweeter for the struggle.

(Oh, and P.S., if you're local and interested for your child or yourself, you can try out a class there for free! We like free! E-mail me for the 411 or check out their site).


Eclectic Mama said...

Oh man, this brought tears to my eyes. It reminds me so much of what we went through with G and how much martial arts helped him too.

Congratulations, Ian! You deserve every ounce of that respect!

Stephanie said...

If only we had time to take on another activity! I always thought my kids would enjoy doing that.

Way to go, Ian! And way to go, Mom - he wouldn't be there without you!