Reflection: Black Belts Look Back to Forge Ahead

We’re not born with the power to reflect. But we hone it on the journey to Black Belt.

Do your kids have the power of reflection? They can see themselves in the mirror, so, yes, in a sense. But they can’t see their actions or their consequences in polished glass. They need training to do that.

Reflection gives kids the power to 1. Think Out Loud. 2. Accept the Consequences of their Actions. 3. Make Changes to Improve Themselves. Let’s look at what that means.

Thinking out loud is something that mature people (i.e., parents, teachers) do all the time. It makes us more productive, helps us get stuff done. What are my top three goals for the day? Maybe I should pick up some vegetables for dinner tonight. I wonder what Mom would like for Christmas? What did I do today that made somebody happier? Giving voice to these kinds of thoughts helps us reach goals, however big or small.

Kids can do this too, but they need your help. Prompt them to reflect: What do you want to do today? How do you think we should get ready? You have a karate test coming up—what do you still need to learn? Martial arts gives you the tools to ask these questions.

Accepting consequences is tough for kids. They want, naturally, to avoid them. (So do we.) But consequences teach us a lot. The feeling of losing a game, for instance, makes us more passionate when we win. Losing is a consequence of bad choices, not bad luck. Winning—especially when the win is the consequence of learning from our mistakes—gives us a thrill. We’re more eager to win, and less afraid to fail. The value of reflection gives kids a runway—they feel like they have room to take off.

Making a change for the better is the ultimate outcome. Mistakes make us better when we reflect on them. Try this with kids. Say: “That didn’t work.” Say it with compassion, and without judgment. Encourage kids to ponder, to think about what could go better next time. This works best when the failures contrast with successes. Consider cooking, for example: Does adding more sugar or salt make the sauce better? Is there such as thing as too much or too little? Grab a recipe and try it out! It’s all about experimentation, and reflection on what works (and what didn’t).

Black Belts aren’t pictures of perfection. Black Belts strive for perfection. It’s their defining trait. Training gives you many opportunities to reflect on what’s gone wrong and what goes wonderfully right. Keep celebrating successes on your Black Belt journey.

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