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Parenting --Teens/Real Sword for a 13 year old's birthday?

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My 12 year old son is about to turn 13 and wants a real martial arts Hakama and costume for his birthday. I want to encourage him to find a physical (and mental) discipline that he can stick with and we have talked about him finding a martial art. He's tried a couple of things in the past and has decided he'd like to do something interdisciplinary but he is most interested in this one and has been researching the traditional Japanese costume and sword that are used. He has been making paper swords and guns for some time he's quite an expert and spends lots of time making and understanding them and has always been interested in the trappings of soldiery. He's a great shot on games and at the shooting range at fairs. He is not a violent boy at all but I am wondering if a real sword is a good idea. We talked about it and he said 'Mum, I am responsible. You know I am don't you trust me?' I pointed out that he is still young and said 'What about your friends? Are they responsible?' And he said he would show it to only 'gentle' trusted friends. But I'm wondering what the best thing to do is. I wondered if there is any advice or guidelines on this?

Answer
Dear Sukey,

I think you were on the right track in putting the horse before the cart. The traditional sword in most martial arts isn't usually taught until after the basic art is mastered. My martial art is Thai Chi and I know sword forms are never taught to people who have not mastered the basic form. By the way, Thai Chi with a sword is one of the most beautiful forms of all the sword forms.  Here is a YouTube video of a Master demonstrating the form that you can show him:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MxhAjv3YneM    

Learning Thai Chi will give him lifelong health benefits plus an inner strength and calmness not easily obtained from most of the other martial arts. It is really kung fu slowed down a hundred times. No one in ancient times would be taught kung fu until they mastered thai chi.

Would I give my 13 year old a sword? From the above you probably can guess my answer. Yes when his martial arts master says he is ready for one. A Japanese mother would not think of giving her son a sword until the sensei said he was ready to handle it.

In terms of being responsible as he claims to be. My answer would be framed as, "I know that you are very responsible. The responsible way to own a sword is to learn how to use it first, so you can safely control it and care for it. When you learn how it is traditionally used form a master of the art and he says you are ready to own one, I will gladly get one for you."

Here is a general suggestion. There is a book called "Parent as Coach" written by a friend and associate of mine, Diana Sterling. This small, inexpensive book will change the conversation between you and your son. Even with my years of experience raising 13 foster teens, reading this book profoundly effected how I communicated to my own son. You can find a link to it in the parent resources section of my parenting website [http://TheParentsCoach.com𝮠𔨥re is also a blog on that site which is the beginnings of a book I am writing on parenting of teens.

I hope this all has helped. If you have any other questions or need clarification on anything I said, please use the "reply" function.

Jason Wittman, MPS

Parenting --Teens

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Jason Wittman, MPS

Expertise

I can answer most question regarding the raising of teens. Since my personal experience has been raising 13 foster sons and an adopted son, I am stronger talking about parenting male teens and young adults. When it comes to teen problems and how to parent them, I am equally well versed with male and female issues. I am also very strong answering substance abuse and addiction issues, teen dating drama, questions about sex and questions relating to same sex issues and concerns.

Experience

I have a master's degree in Counseling Psychology from Cornell University. I am certified as a Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) practitioner and as a Hypnotherapist. I have been a Life & Mentor Coach for over twenty years. I have been running youth programs and working with teens and young adults for over 35 years and have personally raised 14 teens.

Organizations
International Coach Federation International Association for Coaches

Publications
My Parenting Blog http://TheParentsCoach.com/blog I recently published an autobiographical novel, "The Street Shrink Chronicles" http://TSSCBook.com Articles in The American Journal

Education/Credentials
Master's in Counseling Psychology from Cornell University B.S. in Bus. Mgt from Cornell University Certified N.L.P. Practitioner from Grinder-DeLozier Institute Certified Hypnotherapist from Gil Boyne Institute

Past/Present Clients
My clients are very private people who do not wish to be public about their personal business.

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