by Kathy Olevsky
I recently read a post in a Facebook group about how an instructor wanted to ban phones in the lobby. The idea, I believe, was to get parents to engage more with their children — with fewer distractions from their phones. Many experts in the martial arts business have said that we need to take giant steps in 2021 to get our businesses back to normal after a year of difficulties due to the COVID pandemic. However, there are ways to encourage parent participation and ways to alienate parents.
We instructors need to take into account that many parents and adult students have moved on to working remotely. In our school, there are parents who bring their children to class but are still on the clock for their jobs. They continue their work hours in our lobby or in their cars while their child trains. Some come in with their phones on because they’re on call. For this reason, we’ve decided to do whatever we can to help them improve their lives. Our thinking is that if we continue to put roadblocks in front of their opportunities for training, they’ll eventually stop training altogether.
There are many martial arts schools that can’t afford to make these hard-and-fast rules. It might be more productive to challenge the parents to participate in their children’s classes by providing extra benefits that go with participation. I’ve heard some great suggestions. One school recommended having a weekly photo contest. What a great idea! Get the parents with cellphones to take action shots of their kids training, then have them send you the photos with permission to post them to your social media pages. This is a winning solution for both parties.
The issue of phones in the dojo is part of a bigger shift in how our schools should adopt policies that enhance the training of our students rather than limit it. We have learned from others in our industry that it’s often better to encourage change than to demand it. In my school, we have never had a cellphone policy, and I can’t remember a single time when a phone has been a distraction to the instructors or the students. Most parents are old enough to know they should have their phones silenced. If they ever have to take a call, they voluntarily leave the lobby because they don’t want to disturb everyone else with their conversation.
If the argument is that phones, tablets or laptops keep parents from paying attention to their children, set up a time for your students to perform for their parents. Parents love to attend these events — and they often bring their friends and family members. Most other activities have recitals or competitions of some sort for people to watch. Martial arts schools should, as well.
If your school doesn’t perform at tournaments or promotion ceremonies, scheduling a special show a few times a year is a great opportunity to showcase the talent of your students. Any parent who wants to engage with his or her child will come to such shows, and they’ll give you 100 percent of their attention at those times.
Parents have told me that they don’t want their children looking to them for approval during class — they want their kids to be able to learn independently. There are also parents who want to micromanage your instructors or their kids during class. Your job is to find a way to keep all of them happy and keep their children excited and moving forward in the martial arts.
To contact Kathy Olevsky, send an email to [email protected].
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