We have really been enjoying the interactions we have been having with TMAA kids during our mat chats before classes. These posts are meant to help you understand the topics we are discussing with your child and give you some insight into our approach so that you can support the lessons at home.
This past week, we explored discomfort. Discomfort is associated with pain and emotional unease, so it is often seen as something to be avoided. The definition that we used for our discussion with students is that discomfort is a feeling that you want to go away. Added to that, we gave some context to that feeling by also describing discomfort as a signal to pay attention.
By teaching children that discomfort is a signal, we can then offer a simple decision tree when looking at the source of discomfort:
1. The discomfort indicates there is a problem to be solved—There is a rock in my shoe, and I need to stop and take it out. This person is being mean to me, and I need to either leave the situation or get help.
2. The discomfort indicates there is an opportunity for growth—My muscles are on fire from these pushups, which means I’m making them stronger! I’m afraid of getting in trouble, but I’m going to tell the truth anyway!
This simple formula for processing discomfort can be empowering. Both options offer confidence-building opportunities. #1 gives you the chance to be a “problem solver” while #2 gives you the chance to grow and learn. Simply the fact that you can make a choice in the face of discomfort can be empowering.
Teaching this mindset can teach children to not only engage discomfort (even though it can be unpleasant or difficult), but to embrace it as an opportunity. This is an important part of developing the invaluable character trait of grit (see this four-part series on cultivating grit in children by Sabumnim Espy).
In doing so, your child will be increasingly capable of responding effectively to discomfort, whether it is small discomfort—like boredom (check out this article on the importance of boredom for kids)—or big discomforts like fear, physical pain or feeling overwhelmed.
In a future mat chat, we will discuss concepts of being a warrior. You can begin these discussions at home by looking at the topic of discomfort as described above. Being able to deal effectively with discomfort is an essential skill for a warrior. You can discuss a specific scenario where your child experiences discomfort. From there, review the decision tree above and ask how they would evaluate their discomfort.
Once they have decided which type of discomfort is confronting them (problem to be solved vs. opportunity for growth), ask them how a warrior would handle that discomfort. You can substitute the term “peaceful warrior” or “martial artist” if you prefer. Either way, you are creating shorthand that describes a comprehensive way of being—mindset and perspective on discomfort, healthy and effective responses to discomfort—rather than simply describing an attribute (being able to deal with discomfort) that is abstract and difficult to relate to.
As always, please leave us a comment. Let us know what you think of the mat chats, how these lessons are being brought home, as well as any ideas you have for future mat chats.