One of the things I have tried to teach our kids over the years is the importance of setting goals.

We have daily goals for our school work, which they dutifully examine and cross off throughout the day. We have our chore charts, which get completed at times more religiously than others.

But it’s been really exciting this past year to see the boys set some goals for themselves.

They have been taking karate for about a year and a half now. I had no idea how they would like karate when we signed up. I thought it might go in the pile with gymnastics, soccer and T-ball of sports they endured, but didn’t inspire their determination.

They take karate through our local park district. However, the program is offered by the Illinois Shotokan Karate Club, which provides professional black belt senseis to teach each class. The classes are strenuous. They work hard, and the senseis teach the kids to act with discipline and respect.

Every six months, they are given the opportunity to test their skills and earn a new belt rank.

Both boys have said they want to earn their black belt. But I haven’t been convinced they were willing to put in the time and effort to achieve their goal. I didn’t doubt that they could, but I wasn’t sure of their true determination.

I will admit I was dragging my feet about even signing them up for their belt testing this past weekend. They both tested last spring and earned three stripes on their white belts, which was an “excellent” score. I wasn’t sure they had improved enough since then to earn more stripes or to move up to the next belt color of orange.

The testing is tough. Thousands of children test for their belts over the course of a month. They are broken down into groups and test in certain time slots according to their age and rank.

The testing takes several hours. However, the actual time spent in front of their judges is only abut 10 minutes. And it costs $45 per child. One bad move, and they don’t get a “do-over”.

But the boys were far more confident than their nervous mom. They were sure they would be able to earn their orange belts.

We got their results last night.

Our 7-year-old scored “perfect” for his group, earning him an orange belt with one stripe. His sensei said that only one in 1,000 children earns a perfect score.

Our 9-year-old earned an “excellent” score, moving up to an orange belt with two stripes. Although the standard is higher as the kids get older, the younger children have to earn more stripes before they can move up. So, in effect, our younger son tested a little better, but earned fewer stripes on his orange belt.

OK. I’m starting to get excited about karate now. I love how it teaches them discipline, places the full burden of success or failure on the individual child and gives them attainable goals. Plus, they love it!

Now that I’m starting to see what is reasonable, I’m more eager to help them set realistic timelines for what they would like to achieve.

Their next step is to perfect the orange belt kata: Heian Neidan!

What about you? Are you or your children involved in an activity that requires you to set goals? Have you helped your children achieve a goal and watched them reap the reward? Jump on over and leave me a comment!

Oh, and by the way, Happy Thanksgiving! I can’t believe it will be here in a day and I have been too preoccupied to write about it yet.

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