View Full Version : can you work with teenagers?

14th October 2003, 07:53
I teach several age groups. The easiest to work with for me is the adults and children below 12.

My problem is working with with teenagers. I've discussed this at the course I follow and it seems like I'm not the only one experiencing this problem. According to the teacher we discussed this with you really should try to find an angle to interest them.

Let me give a small description of the problem:

1. I'm 25 so in their eyes I'm not young, but young enough to constantly try to compete with
2. some know me from other groups I train in (judo/karate)

Now I'm not the person to work with punishments and stuff (tried to make them do pushups and stuff when they don't listen... doesn't really work)

How do you work with teens, keep them interested and have them work for you instead of against you?

14th October 2003, 08:28
Have a certain va va voom in your teaching or just be darned irresistable!

I guess one of the best way is to think of a previous teacher (budo or non budo) and start by imitating their teaching styles. Then once you feel comfortable with it, make the teaching style your own or add in your personality.

I can't really say that I've helped out with teenagers in my training. I only been given permission by my sensei to look after the only 15yr old in our dojo and I'm 24.

Since there are no other people of his age group in the dojo, it is hard for him to not listen to me, as I am constantly pushing him along in his training.

He does listen to me and everyone else in the dojo. But his case is slightly different since he is the only one of his age group and he was previously training with the much younger children (ages 5 to 10).

Hope this verbal nonsense made sense and helped.

BTW, what kind of teaching course are you on and are you training to become a professional MA teacher? I'm interested in what you doing.:)

14th October 2003, 10:12
How do you work with teens, keep them interested and have them work for you instead of against you?

Add a couple of decades to your age. Of course, I'be been teaching since the age of fifteen and never had a bit of trouble.

All kidding aside, you did give the answer to the problem, maintaining an edge of respectability at the tender age of 25, but it can be done.

How are things in your judo dojo? Do you or teacher have these problems? My guess is "no." Why? How busy is your judo class? How much is there they have to learn? How long does it take for them to perfect their waza? They either stay or leave, but they are kept busy. Don't be the "popular" teacher, just the teacher. That's enough for a lifetime of classes. With more experienced teens, tie a blindfold on them and see how they like taking ukemi with it. Another game (one I recommend you do too, BTW) and it is fun. A bit nervous at first, but ask them what throw put them on their backside. Tori should go easy at first, though blindfolding both is even more fun. Place them at a ma-ai and tell them they are at the standard distance (but place them twice the normal distance), sit back with the other students and watch. If there are some laughs from the others, those blindfolded will soon be laughing, as well, as long as they are not laughing at them but with them. There are a million ways to keep those who want to learn interested, but as you've found out, riding them doesn't work very well.

The part of your post I quoted above puts a lot of pressure on a young teacher. You are looking to them for help. I don't worry if a student doesn't like to be there, whether he leaves voluntarily or not is his problem, not mine. I don't bother with, nor do I take anything from them in a negative way. They know that, pretty much from the first class. Some of my classes are all discussion as well, now and then. Don't tell them they are going to be talking for an hour and a half, just keep it rolling.

Now, that may sound heavy handed, but it's not. My teachers, and other teachers under whom I've trained do it pretty much the same way. IOW, don't let their problems affect your ability to be the teacher. On the other hand, classes ARE sometimes fun. Mixing games which are healthy, instructive and a load of laughs works. For atemi-waza, for example, a nice game of Blind Man's Bluff works. For teaching ukemi a height and length contest usually has their interest, but it is TRAINING, that is number one. You won't keep all your students, no teacher can do that. When their parents pay, they expect happy kids. No kid is happy all the time and they bore easily. Happy kids sometimes make fools out of themselves, and the laugh is really on them. Those who are serious will show themselves soon enough.

Have you ever seen the movie "The Paper Chase" with John Houseman? The scene in which he "shrouds" the student, making him a complete non-entity in the class, no response to his questions, not recognizing him when he has a question. Works like a charm. Don't punish within the confines of the dojo in front of everyone, if they don't want to play nice, ignore them completely. That is much worse to the troublemaker than getting away with something, or forcing you to ride them. When you do, you have just fallen for the "Let's see how far we can push this idiot before we get into trouble." A dojo is a school, and I'm not sure school works like that in your part of the world, but my bet is it does. It is the "substitute teacher" syndrome. I watched students in my drafting class in the seventh or eighth grade literally get hold of the guy (the teacher), lock him in a closet and then set a bin on fire and slide it in with him. Then,one student through a cherry bomb in that closet, but as bad as I felt, I laughed too. Don't be the teacher in the closet, keep them busy, give them praise when they do well, ignore them when they dont. Those who try hard shouldn't be let off easy, but they should be helped.

What you do when you teach is how you are perceived by the younger crowd. Either have a lesson plan, or have them so busy that they just don't have time to act up. At some point you should stop playing their game by trying to find something "interesting" for them. They are your students so take them to task. If they or their parents complain, make sure they all know who is in charge. I've seen kids run off the mat to Mommy crying because they hit the mat too hard. Did I try to sooth the child or the parent? Not on your life. I'll talk with them, but I always point out that it is a contact sport. What did you expect? It is judo, not Ring Around the Rosie.

Above all made sure they understand you are in charge. You are young and it is a handicap sometimes to be sure, but there is a way to be nice to them, to be stern but caring, too, but with a line drawn in the sand.

It is just like E-budo and the ignore feature, use it in the dojo, as well.

Hope that helps some,


PS: But don't forget to be funny or interesting when talking to a class. Make a little fun of the MA itself. You know the term in judo shiai "Waza-ari awasete Ippon?" It always comes out sounding like washday" doesn't it? Especially awasete Ippon. Let them know things like that. They will like it, at least those who are serious about having fun will.-MF

14th October 2003, 10:48
thanks for the advice Mark. I do use humour in my classes... I think it is very important to use humour at the right times.
As you mentioned the punishing does not work, at the teacher course they try to get to stop using all punishment.

While reading your post something occured to me. Maybe the problem is the fact that I'm trying to teach them in the same way I do the adults. I should probably be teaching them more like the children... as you suggested keep them busy. The longer I take explaining things while their standing still, the more oppertunity they get to mess about.

Budoka 34
14th October 2003, 12:53
I've worked with teens for the better part of 15 years. I'm 35 now. I started assistant teaching/teaching youth/teen karate and jujutsu at our school about a year or so ago.
I've had pretty good results.:D

Some things that really help is to remember that teens want to challenge(feeling out their boundaries as young adults) and want to be respected.
Expect to be challenged, don't get frustarated. Turn up the level of expectation for performance and praise them when they do or try their best.

I reward the classes by giving myself and the assitant instructors push ups or ukemi, we do it at the end of class, when the kids work really hard. The kids love it and work that much harder just to see me do ukemi.:D

If they take it easy or start messing around, first I remove any reward I've given (I describe what they are doing wrong then tell them, "you just lost ten push ups/ breakfalls etc") and then they do push ups. I start at five and work up.

Humor, as stated above, can not be over estimated. Use it wisely.
Be empathetic. Remember being a teen usually sucks. They feel they get no respect from their peers or adults.

I hope this helps.


14th October 2003, 22:01
If they want to learn, teach them. If they don't want to learn, don't teach them. Why feel the need to somehow handle difficult kids? It's not school, you're under no obligation to teach the boneheads. It's one of the great things about being a volunteer from my POV - I'm there because I want to be, and so are the students. If the students don't want to be there, I don't want them there.

15th October 2003, 09:52
As an ex-teenager (who can still remember it! ... i'm only 20 :D ) you might like my side of the story.

Like Mark said, don't try and be the popular teacher ... we WILL take advantage of it! :)

Don't show any sign of weekness, we WILL move in for the kill.

However, if you don't know something, admit it, say you'll check with your sensei next time you see them and get back to them. Don't try and bluff your way through the question, teenagers can smell !!!!!!!! a mile off (we're so used to speaking it .... and it takes one to know one etc.).

Treat us like adults and we'll behave like adults. Treat us like kids ....

Remember that we have all these strange and new hormones flowing through our bodies .... from time to time we will do things that defy reason.

Strong discipline is good, as long as praise and punishment are used in equal measure.

These are just my observations from training as a teenager, and being sempai, and having to 'instruct' other teengagers.

16th October 2003, 06:59
Having instructed teens and having two of "them" living in my house, I suggest an exorcism. My oldest left her body about three years ago and the youngest left about a year ago. I am told they will come back in their twenties, but for now their bodies are possesed and all attempts to have a rational conversation will result in severe mental anguish and trauma on my part.

The ones who don't live with me are scared to death of me after seeing how I deal with the ones from home. They are convinced I will pop a blood vessel and / or kill someone ......

16th October 2003, 16:15
Though I'm only 20, I've been working with youth for a while now coaching 3 years of highschool volleyball and 3 years of youth work at my church. The best piece of advice I could give you is the teacher/friend stuff that everyone else is giving you. It is important to be availible to the teens, especially in this day in age. Every one of them should know that if they ever have a problem, you are there for them. However, your not their to be their best friend, you're their more as a parental figure, teaching them.

Another thing I could say is don't take any disrespect. I'm not saying you can't joke around with them if you have that kind of relationship, but if you let some get away with say, talking while your talking or any kind of disrespect towards you or anyone else that you deam malicious, you have to stop it immediatly.

It's right when people say "give them an inch and they'll take a mile"

-Aaron Knepp

Mitch Saret
16th October 2003, 21:20
You have to remember what it was like being a teen, as well as what teens want these days. Teens are, for the most part, getting of the age where they don't want as much adult supervision, they are more curious about the opposite gender, the anticipation of driving, being home alone with no sitter, curiosity about alcohol, college, all sorts of things.

When teaching martial arts to them you have to get away from what a typical classroom is like at school. Try and be more a friend, but not too much. Sometimes parents have decided to be a friend to their kids and not a parent. Talking with the individuals and finding out what their homelife, schoollife, and so forth is like it will give you an insight as to how to teach them and treat them.

With my students that are kids, all the way up to 16, I traet things more like a life skills center, using the martial arts as a way to impart certain ideals as well as skills. While they are learning the martial art they are not learning the whole art, as I don't feel a good portion of the material is suitable for kids.

You can be a friend, but as kneppy said, don't stand for disrespect. Be firm, but kind.

Musubi Dojo
17th October 2003, 22:01
Hi Rogier;

I've been teaching teens for a few years now (ages 15 and up are all in one class. We don't have a kids class.) I'm also a bit older at 33 so they definately see me as an old guy.

Basicly we treat them like adults. Most of them rise to the occasion and do very well. The @#$#% heads that don't leave pretty quickly.

I also find kids with too much energy or big mouths get sorted out pretty quickly when we do lots and lots of ukemi. I think hitting the mats repeatedly is one the best character builders there is. The kids that wanna be there get good and the ones that don't leave pretty quickly. :-)

We also do drills like rolling dodges where we throw a rubber knife at the students and they dive roll out of the way (While wearing goggles to protect the eyes). We do the same drill in semi darkness. Teaches them coordination and patience and improves my aim! They also love it.

Hope that's helpful.