I’ve written a lot about the life principle that we teach in Taekwondo, which helps mold a child’s personality and behavior. There is one crucial skill that children learn on their way to earning their Black Belt, which is essential in tackling daily challenges, coping with change, and dealing with stresses and frustrations in their lives. That skill is emotional control.
According to Psychology Wiki, emotional control is the ability to respond to demands within our environment in a manner that is socially tolerable and flexible enough to permit normal reactions and delay spontaneous responses if required. We begin by teaching children to be a Guardian of Peace, that is, to never start a fight and, if possible, to avoid a confrontation and thereby avoid an emotionally harmful situation. By preventing conflict, we are explicitly trying to alter the child’s physical environment and modify their internal environment to regulate their emotional response.
We want to teach children to be kind and respectful because respect is the glue that holds their relationships together and is directly related to emotional control. A kind and respectful child accept someone for who they are, even if they’re different from them. Kindness and respect in your child’s relationships help to build their feelings of trust, safety, and harmony, thereby curbing their spontaneous emotions. Being kind and respectful is a form of attention redirecting or mood regulation, which involves directing one’s attention away from what caused the emotional situation.
Ultimately, we are trying to get a child to change how they appraise a situation so they can alter its meaning and move away from uncomfortable or unwanted emotions in a healthy way. Doing so involves cognitive change and reappraising one’s feelings using reasoning and problem solving, which is why we also work with children to improve their discipline and self-control. Focusing on their discipline and self-control helps improve their emotional responses. I’ve even noticed children successfully using humor as an effective emotion response regulation strategy.
As children practice and perfect their Taekwondo forms, they become less impatient, gain control of their self-talk, and become more confident. Eventually, they learn to manage the ups and downs of their emotions and become accomplished in pushing through the barriers needed to achieve their Black Belt, which to most kids seem an impossible goal when they first began.
The ultimate goal of Taekwondo, according to Supreme Grandmaster Joon P. Choi, is to develop independent individuals equipped with the right principles and values who can cope with change, and deal effectively with the stress and frustration they will encounter in their lives.