One of the many benefits of being in martial arts nearly my entire life has been learning the skill of awareness. There are many skills and attributes that martial arts teaches that have a direct impact outside of the studio. Several of these attributes I noticed right away after starting training. Many more of them became apparent when I started teaching martial arts and saw students apply what they’ve learned. As a newer parent, I am starting to notice more and more of these martial arts skills that have a benefit in raising kids. This article will cover one of those skills: awareness.
I can’t tell you how long it takes to build awareness in martial arts training. It is a skill just like any other. Mental skills like focus and confidence as well as physical skills like performing a side kick or center punch all take different amounts of time to gain competence depending on the practitioner.
Martial arts teach awareness as a necessary skill in order to defend yourself. Being aware of your surroundings, what doesn’t seem right, and where a possible threat may be is a crucial first step in defending yourself. For more information on awareness in self-defense, check out the article “The Self-Defense Mindset”.
We also learn self-awareness in martial arts through a better understanding of body mechanics. Through vital target training we obtain knowledge of how the body works and can start to tell what movements don’t look right. It also helps us understand our own body, when to stop doing something as well as when someone else should stop doing something, so as to avoid injury.
So, how does this apply to parenting? As a newer father, the first several months I was more vigilant than aware. My son would not leave my sight. Even when sleeping, I would be listening intently. If he slept longer than normal, I would start to worry, is he still ok? I’m not advocating for this approach, but I think all parents are in this hypervigilant mode the first several months. After a while you get more comfortable as you better understand the noises and patterns of your child. Then it all changes. They discover their mouth, rolling, crawling, standing, and walking. Oh boy. This is where awareness training really comes in handy.
One way to help you child remain safe once they start moving is to remain in hypervigilant mode. It is very unrealistic that you’ll keep both eyes on your child constantly for 12+ hours a day though. Not to mention, you have to get stuff done too. The first thing to do is to really get to know your child; their habits, sounds, routines, etc. This way you can identify quickly when something does not sound right. The next step is to ensure you are in a state conducive to being aware. Don’t where headphones/ear buds, don’t have the TV blasting, don’t be in a place where you can’t see or hear your child, etc. It is also a good idea not to be totally immersed in something that you can’t easily walk away from like cooking certain things or an important call with a client.
After that, it is a matter of continuing to build your awareness. While there are several ways to do this, I will provide just a few here.
Martial Arts: I wouldn’t be The Karate Dad if I didn’t plug the martial arts. Once your child is old enough (sometimes as young as 3), it is also a great father son or father daughter activity.
Meditation: You may think meditation teaches you to tune out. It is actually the opposite. It teaches you to be present and aware. In as little as 10 minutes a day you can significantly improve awareness.
Playing Games: Certain games can help build awareness too. Good old-fashioned games like “I Spy” not only build awareness skills but are also things you can do with your child to help build their awareness too!
There was a recent post by The Daily Dad titled “Teach Them to Notice” that tells a great story of a dad who took an active role in teaching his son the art of paying attention. I encourage you to read it.
We as parents are not going to catch everything our kids do. They’ll bonk their heads, eat something they shouldn’t, stick their hands somewhere they shouldn’t, and a million other things. With a little awareness training, we can improve this important skill and help minimize these occurrences in order to keep our kids safer.
If you have any more suggestions or tips on how to build awareness, please feel free to comment!