I am a a karate instructor who has her first karate student with bipolar disorder ( under the age of 12), I am very strict with my students, but I know nothing about bipolar or the best way to handle an angry or aggressive child with this disorder. Can anyone help?

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Dena Louise - posted on 01/10/2013

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The first class he was in, (I wasn't there), he stormed off, stomped his feet, said he couldn't do it, then told my instructors to leave him alone! Normally, that student would be immediately reprimanded. My main problem in dealing with bipolar is that I don't know what his triggers are (I will be talking with the parents tonight), but regardless of the disorder, I can not and will not allow disruption to the rest of the class and I certainly will not allow that kind of disrespect to myself or my instructors. I really want to help, without triggering the anger.

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Ariana - posted on 01/10/2013

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Well, you said in general the child would be reprimanded, did the instructor reprimand him? Was he given pushups or told to go to the side? How would a student usually have been reprimanded?

It's unlikely you will be able to not trigger the anger in some way if you expect him to follow the rules of your class. If he's being disruptive it's up to you to control the situation.

If he does something like that you could tell him to go sit on the side and then talk to him afterwards and expect him to say sorry and come back on the floor, or if he's younger, tell him he can come back on once he's done pushups/said sorry and then he can come back on the floor. The beauty of karate is that if you do something wrong there's some sort of reprimand and then it's over, it's not held onto forever. Or whatever it is you feel is necessary if he acts out.

Your job as an instructor is to try to control him in your class and let him learn martial arts, not to try and treat him differently or expect less of him because he has a disorder. It's up to you to take control of the situation and figure out what needs to happen to get him to listen, whether his anger is triggered or not.

Like I said, what would have happened with a regular student?

Lakota - posted on 01/09/2013

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It also depends on if the other students are able to learn properly too without continuous interruptions or outbursts. Don't treat him differently if it can be helped. But, the other students are paying customers also.

Ariana - posted on 01/09/2013

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I would treat him like any other student in your class.

Both my parents are karate instructors (seperted so different schools and everything, I get to hear about this stuff double!). The best thing you can do is treat them like you do the other students. It's great that you understand his or her problem, but your job is to keep them in control and to get them knowledgeable about karate. So what would you do if one of your regular students had an outburst or refused to do what you asked?

I assume you do something along the lines of warn them, give them pushups, send them to the side until they're ready to do whatever you ask, or send them to the side until you come over, all of these in order of severity.

You obviously have to figure out how the student acts and expect him to act like everyone else. For all you know he may be fine during the class, some kids do really well in a structured environment where the rules are clear.

It would be helpful to speak with the parents and explain to them that if he has outbursts or gets pushups or sent to the side (or whatever else you think is necessary) that doesn't mean he's in big trouble or that he should be taken out of the classes, it just means he needs to learn (like everyone else) that when he's in your class there are rules and he has to follow them, and you're helping him learn how to follow those rules.

If the child uses the karate to be aggressive that is a whole other matter. It is highly unlikely it would be used during your class (I assume) but if you find out from the parents that the child has been aggressive with other children while taking karate class it is time to have a serious talk with the child. My mom had to once delay a childs grading because she heard from another student that he was bullying another child that was in her class, she talked to him, phoned the parents, made sure the student had apologized to the other child and told him that he was not to bully or be aggressive with others. She once had to throw a student out of her program because he was being aggressive with other people in his school. I think with anything they deserve a warning and a talking to because if they respect you it could get them to think about how they're acting and realize that oh my instructor disapproves of this behavior and I could possibly not be allowed to take karate any more if I am aggressive with others.

Like I said though, I would try to treat him like any of your other students and expect the same from him as you would others. Obviously each situation is different and how you react depends on what you feel is the best way to go. If he is getting disciplined during the class make sure the parents realize that doesn't mean he should be taken out or that he isn't doing well but that he's pushing the limits and realizing that you're in control of the situation.

If the parents have said he is aggressive with others make sure they know that if instances like that happen they need to tell you so you can handle that situation. You probably already do but try to make it very clear how karate is only to be used when necessary and not just if you are mad at someone. My parents always asked questions especially in beginner classes about do we punch and kick our parents or siblings? Our teachers? When is it ok to punch and kick? etc.

I would take the situation at face value and try to treat him like everyone else, with the understanding that if he does act out it's not personal. That way you'll be calmer when dealing with him.

Lakota - posted on 01/09/2013

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It's good that you want to help. I think it's great that this child's parents want him in martial arts. My two boys are in it too. Maybe you or one of your instructors can have private lessons with him until he gets used to the classes or becomes comfortable with the rules and strictness.

Dena Louise - posted on 01/09/2013

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That's a problem, because this is a group class. Unfortunately, I was not there last night but two other of my instructors were, and nobody had even told them the child had this disorder until AFTER he had a couple of outbursts. The parents told the instructors that the therapist recommended martial arts. I have dealt with children with adhd and autism, but the anger side of the disorder highly concerns me. I want to help.

Lakota - posted on 01/09/2013

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You should talk to the parents of the student and ask questions. But, if this student is in your class, has anger issues, and is overly aggressive, he shouldn't be in your class with other students.

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