When Well-Meaning Parents Impose…

A colleague sent me this scenario, wondering how all of you instructors out there would have handled it:

A little 5-year-old girl walks out onto the mat to start class. She has been in the dojo for 9 months already. Today, her mother follows her, holding a medium-sized stuffed animal. The mother says, “Mr. Cloud will watch you from here,” and she starts to put the stuffed animal on top of a pile of kicking targets that are on the mat. As the instructor, how do you respond?
A) No, I think Mr. Cloud will watch you from the visitor area with mom.
B) Oh, look we have another student for today! Hello Mr. Cloud.
C) [fill in your response here].

Personally, I’m pretty strict and serious about the training area, so I know my first impulse would be to do something like A) – although I would try my best to be gentle and courteous with the parent. B) has possibilities, though…

How about the rest of you? I’m very curious to hear. And my colleague won’t reveal how he or she handled the situation until we hear from some of you, so please post your thoughts!

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10 Comments on “When Well-Meaning Parents Impose…”

  1. mfptkd Says:

    Good question! I would be afraid of setting a precedent and having numerous stuffed visitors on the mat. Although comforting to the student in question, it would distract the other students. Without saying no directly, I would welcome the guest and allow it to be where all the visitors go who are not taking class.

  2. Paul Barale Says:

    I might respond in the following manner:
    “I’m sorry, Mr Cloud will have to have to watch from the visitors area with Mom – the targets are for kicking and Mr cloud should not be out where he might get kicked. The dojo floor is only for martial artists, everyone else needs to stay in the visitors area to be safe…” or something like that…

  3. Deanna Bonnell Says:

    Have to agree with the votes so far. Visitors definitely stay in their area. Especially after nine months in class. Should be no need of a comfort item by then.

  4. Chris B Says:

    I would almost certainly invite Mr. Cloud to stay with mom, although the teaching possibilities are fascinating. Perhaps I’d call Mr. Cloud out onto the mat later, during what I call circle time, and ask some of the students to explain our Student Oath to him.

    I do a chat with younger students about “what frightens us…” talking about breathing techniques and centering. It would be interesting to see what Mr. Cloud could contribute to this conversation.

    But as for kicking and punching time, I’ll ask him to stay with the parents. It sounds like Mom might need him more than her daughter. 🙂

  5. heidi Says:

    I think I might try to turn it into a learning experience for the young students (and the parents who may be listening) and say something like “Oh look, a new student. We all know that new students need to be [4] years old and be able to tie their own belts and put on their own gi. Unfortunatley I dont think Mr. Cloud is big enough/old enough to complete this requirement so he will sit over there and watch for now.” Or if the kids are on the young side, pretend that you already know Mr. Cloud and he is an old ancient sensei who can watch the techniques of the day from the visitors area and from time to time ask his input. Get the kids to score the techniques they do based on what they think Mr cloud may think. Was that a “10” front snap kick. What does Sensei Cloud think and let the kids come up with the response. Kids get a kick out of adults acting silly sometimes in class. One of the 5 F’s of training is Fun 🙂

  6. Ricki Kay Says:

    I would go with keeping mr. cloud off the mat. The parent made a mistake in bringing the toy with her. The class is designed to teach and practice discipline. If you set a precedent and engage with the “Mr. Cloud” then you are opening yourself up for each and every student to bring their toys. If you start to engage with Mr. Cloud as suggested, then you are diminishing the teachings of the class. The issues are etiquette in the dojo, who is in control of the class, and what are you actually trying to teach through the martial arts? The martial arts classroom, whether it is for 3-5 year olds or 65year olds is different from a preschool or any other class. That is why its called martial arts and not just some class where we exercise in funny white uniforms.

  7. redwoodojo Says:

    Haha, yes, I’m afraid I must agree with the stern but highly effective Master Ricki on this one.
    While it’s certainly compassionate to think about a small child’s comfort, stuffed toys have no place in class, nor should the parent be trying to impose them on the class.

    It’s also true that a clever teacher can make a good lesson out of pretty much anything that comes up in class; but the most important lesson here, in my opinion, is that martial arts etiquette prevails in the dojo. The instructor, not the child nor the parent, gets to decide who or what is permitted in class. What the parent did was inappropriate, and they probably just needed a little education or reminder about dojo rules.

    Maybe I’m old school, but my “peewee class” — in spite of being full of 41/2- and 5-year-olds — bears little or no resemblance to daycare or preschool; it’s unmistakably martial arts, and I hope that’s why parents bring their children to it.

  8. Kris Says:

    I’d probably viciously attack Mr Cloud to see what training he had. Once I’d torn his head off, I would return him to the girl and tell her that Mummy shouldn’t have brought Mr Cloud onto the martial arts mat.

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