So today my child got beat in all of her events. I'm frustrated because she goes to every class, takes several private lessons a month, and trains every day at home...

And yet she still does not place. I almost feel like having her quit. I know winning isn't everything, but it's so frustrating that she puts in all this work and still can't ever place --forms, combat, sparring. Most people say as long as she's having fun, let her continue. But as a parent, it sure isn't fun.

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    – JohnP
    Commented Sep 25, 2023 at 17:01
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    why are you so focused on having your kid winning? is there a specific reason you're projecting your desire to win on your child?
    – njzk2
    Commented Sep 25, 2023 at 21:04
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    This is almost better off being posted on Parenting.SE, specifically because of: "I almost feel like having her quit." What you're saying here is that you would deny your child access to an activity because it bothers you (not her) that she's not winning enough. I want to urge you to really evaluate what your priority here is, how you're responding to it, and how this impacts your child. Your frustration is a genuine feeling and it does need to be acknowledged, but the way you're expressing it is affecting others, and I would suggest evaluating if this is what you want to have happen.
    – Flater
    Commented Sep 26, 2023 at 4:33
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    If every parent needs their kid to either win or quit, only a few kids (winners) can compete.
    – Konerak
    Commented Sep 26, 2023 at 18:35
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    You forgot to ask an answerable question... Commented Sep 27, 2023 at 0:41

6 Answers 6


This isn't a question about martial arts, it's a question about parenting. This answer is going to feel judgemental, for the simple reason that it is judgemental about anyone uttering the sentence "I know winning isn't everything, but...".

Most people say as long as she's having fun, then to let her continue.

And they're right. That's what positive parenting looks like. Do you stop her playing an instrument if she can't make the national youth orchestra? Stop her going to school if she doesn't get straight A's? As a parent myself, the concept of doing anything other than encouraging my child in their interests (so long as those interests are wholesome and within our budget) is a "does not compute".

It's also what positive participation in any sport looks like. Sure, everyone wants to win. And sure, everyone wants their kid to win. But the point of positive participation in sport is learning that really the only person you're competing against is yourself. If you're doing better this month than you were last month, you're winning - never mind whether you're the best person in your club.

And even if you're not getting any better, if you're enjoying doing it then you're still winning. You're fitter than you would be if you sat on the sofa watching TV, you have better concentration, better mental health, better sleep, and a whole host of other benefits. If you're doing this as a child, it's well-proven that your health over the entire rest of your life will be better. And even if, as a child, you don't keep going with that particular sport, the lessons you internalise about "sport is fun" are proven to increase your chances of participation in sport for the entire rest of your life, which gets you even more of all those good things.

But as a parent, it sure isn't fun.

Why isn't it fun? You're watching your daughter doing something she enjoys, and you know that she's really giving it her best shot. Simply making red belt is an achievement well past most 9-year-olds - it's a safe bet that few if any other kids in her class have put that much effort into something. If she's keen enough to even be doing competitions at that age then that's even more impressive. She's doing great. If supporting her achievements is in any way conditional, then you need to take a good look at yourself as a parent.

So look at why you're not finding it fun. Is it because you can't brag about her winning? Is it that you do actually only value winning? Do you have some hang-ups from what your parents told you? Are you jealous that she's getting to do something you didn't? Whatever it is, figure it out, and you'll be a better parent to her.

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    For me, the biggest red flag in the question was the phrasing of "I almost feel like having her quit." As if the parent's enjoyment was the purpose of the daughter's participation, or even that it was necessary. And the phrasing "having her quit" made it sound like it would mostly not be her decision whether she quits or not. (Scaling back on private lessons as another answer suggested could make sense.) Sensible things could include "asking her if she wants to try other sports to see if there are any she might enjoy more". Commented Sep 25, 2023 at 21:38

A lot of it depends on your goals (and possibly also those of your daughter). Is she in the sport for fun? For physical health? Self defense? Stuntperson training? Scholarships? National acclaim? Honestly, unless the last two are what you're going for, the competitions don't mean all that much as long as it's not dispiriting for her. And if competitions are something that bums her out, it's possible that she'll be happier not competing, or even joining a school that doesn't emphasize competitions. Unfortunately, it's a fact in almost all sports that winning is a combination of natural talent, training, and mental drive (and a small degree of luck), which means that trying your best does not guarantee success, because there is always someone out there who is more physically talented who has trained just as hard.

So, what does your daughter enjoy most about her martial art? Sparring? Forms? Learning new things? The sheer physical joy of know that she's among the select group who can break a board over their head with a single kick? You may consider focusing her efforts and private training on those things. If competitions are what drives her, she may want to try focusing on a particular area for a bit to see if that helps her there. Also, she should talk to her teacher about where she might be able to improve her performance. If she's really serious about it (and I don't recommend this as much if you are the person concerned about her winning), she might review what video she has of her performance and that of others, and seeing what she can improve on specifically. And if she is in it more for the fun, you might consider cutting back on the private lessons. It doesn't sound like she has any issue with practicing on your own, and cutting out an extra expense may help prevent you from resenting the investment.

Lastly, as a bit of a palate cleanser, you guys might consider attending a competition away from home and your organization so that she's facing different people. If you do have an exemplar martial artist in your school, it gets her away from a Sisyphean goal, and facing people who've trained differently might lead her to pick up some new tricks that will work in her regular school.


The one thing in any endeavor that takes a lifetime to perfect that will win out against talent, ambition, genes in the long run is being able to enjoy yourself, and particularly being able to enjoy yourself losing against bad odds.

You say your daughter is enjoying yourself, and you are not. If your judgment is accurate, then her prospects as a martial artist are better than your prospects as a martial artist parent are.

And that's the largest danger to her eventual progress at the speed that feels right to her. How important are the private lessons to her enjoyment? Because it appears that those are large contributors to your frustration. If you need to economize your efforts to avoid your frustration rubbing off on her, fading them out until a time where she herself feels a need for them for her own goals may make this more sustainable for both of you. Just don't make this a matter of great drama and one-sided "discussions" and whatnot.

The one thing her skill level has to be at in terms of whatever she trains or competes in is to be able to avoid injury to herself and others.


I am in the ATA, and here is what I tell the kids when I judge them.

The scores tell a story. The person to the right of the center judge (As they sit in the chairs) is the upper body. Blocks, strikes, etc. The other corner judge is kicks, stances. The center judge is presentation, form memory, etc. The scores are not a reflection of them as a person, they are comparison scores for the performance of that day against the other competitors in the ring that day.

Scoring is a comparison against other competitors in the ring. The first three competitors set the high/low/middle standard, and all other competitors are judged in comparison to them. If your daughter is getting scores such as 6, 8, 5 then the presentation is great, but the techniques themselves are not as good as the other competitors, and so forth.

I would highly recommend video taping the entire ring from beginning to end. Take that to your instructor, and go through it with them and see where there are areas that can be improved.


Here's what I've noticed about myself and with others growing up with Taekwondo. Winning is often rare in the beginning. And red belt is still pretty much beginner level, although you probably think of it as advanced. But over time, all the training, the skill, the physical abilities, the way someone moves, their emotional and mental maturity, everything will come together. And when that starts happening, you're going to notice more and more wins in competition.

That's just part of the process. You'd like maybe a taste of winning every now and then until then. But sometimes that just doesn't happen, despite working so hard. It can wear you down and make you think this isn't for you. I get it.

But like I said, everything comes together at some point for everyone so long as they keep at it. For some it occurs sooner than for others.

There's a reason for everything. When someone isn't winning at all, there's a reason for that. It may not be that the person isn't training hard enough, or isn't serious enough. Someone just might not have something figured out yet. Or, maybe there's just one small detail that's making all of the difference.

Often times, someone may be technically better skilled, but the win will go to the competitor who merely "looked" better doing it. Judges are definitely biased and can be fooled. No doubt about it.

Sometimes people need to stop and ask an instructor what do they see that the student needs to work on. And if that instructor can't tell you, go to another one and ask. Get lots of eyes looking at you, and you'll hear some good, constructive criticism. A red belt is going to get lots of criticism.

Here's another thing to realize. Child divisions in Taekwondo tournaments sometimes combine red belts with black belts and brown belts. Together, they make up an "advanced" division. The black belts will generally win more often. It seems unfair. But that's how divisions work. Even if black belts are not included, it's still brown and red belts together. And so the red belts should generally win more often than the brown belts. Which explains why you might not have won when you were a brown belt. And maybe you're really new in your red belt, so it's like being a brown belt still. You might not win until you're almost at black belt level.

So I'll say it again. Just keep at it in earnest. Ask for critical feedback. Record video and play it back to see your problems. Work on physical attributes, too (speed, strength, sharpness, focus, timing, etc.). Eventually, things will come together. The wins will start happening.

Hope that helps.

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    The last time I did Taekwondo, I was about the age of the OP's child and that's more than 30 years ago now so I may well be wrong, but red is just one level (or 2, if you count half belts) below black in Taekwondo. I (vaguely) remember the red belts being treated as advanced, and that seems reasonable since they're one down from black. Why do you say it is beginner level? Are you just counting anything below black as beginner (I can see how that would be reasonable)?
    – terdon
    Commented Sep 25, 2023 at 13:51
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    @terdon Red belt is still just 2 to 3 years into training. I've been in martial arts for, what, almost 40 years? So, any colored belt to me is beginner. Once you've been doing it for a decade or so, you realize that black belt 1st dan is the real beginning. Colored belts have some skill, don't get me wrong. But they're playing with it at a superficial level. They haven't done it long enough to get a deep understanding of it. Red belt techniques are often no more complex or advanced than white belt ones. What makes something advanced is what a student figures out over time. Commented Sep 25, 2023 at 15:54
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    Fair enough, that makes sense, thank you.
    – terdon
    Commented Sep 25, 2023 at 15:56
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    @terdon - I would echo what Steve said, but one thing that I was told as a brand new black belt was "Congratulations! You've mastered the basics, now it's time for real learning". Would you expect someone that has been playing football for 2 years to be ready for a college team? Black belt gets somewhat of an unreasonable expectation because of media and social perception. And, every person and every journey is different.
    – JohnP
    Commented Sep 25, 2023 at 17:15
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    I think the belt has too much attention here. No matter the color, at 9 years nobody can really be advanced in MA as neither the body not the mind had the time to get grown up. This is also something the OP is completely missing. Every child should be into sports for the long run, but this is especially true for MA where mastery can only come after decades
    – Manziel
    Commented Sep 26, 2023 at 13:23

YMMV, but I have found competitions generally to be fund-raisers. Judges can even favor their own students. It isn't necessarily a measure of the competitors abilities.

What did YOU, objectively, think of your child's performance? Do you think the others actually performed better? If so, let your child know how to improve, with specifics. If not, realize the place in the competition doesn't measure actual performance, and decide, with your child, whether your child will continue to compete.

It's kind of like belt-ranking. The belt indicates to other people what your approximate skill level is, so they can know what to expect. Did you know you can just buy black belts? Wearing one, or a red belt, doesn't make you a black belt (or red belt). Doing what a black belt can do makes you a black belt. And if a black belt puts on a white belt, it doesn't change the martial artist's abilities.

Do not put emphasis on winning.

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