Character Chats

Good Thinking vs Stinking Thinking

Is this good thinking or stinking thinking?

Here at True Balance Karate, we have a social emotional learning program called True Character. I’m Master H, the owner and chief instructor here at the studio, and I have two master’s degrees in education. Basically, we’ve created this program to best meet the needs of our youngest students who are four, and our oldest student who is 85.


And this month we’re talking about mental strength. Last week we kind of defined what mental strength was, showing bravery, perseverance, remaining calm, asking for help, those types of things. So we gave a definition of mental strength. It was basically doing the tough things with our good thoughts, our positive thoughts, and taking those positive actions. And today we’re talking about good thinking versus stinking thinking. And one of the things that we talk about here at class a lot is a phrase called What to Say When You Talk to Yourself. It’s a book that we’ve read, and the idea is you want to choose your words wisely.

Exercising Our Brains

Our brain is a muscle. Just like our bicep is a muscle or our quads are a muscle, our brain is a muscle. And when you’re going to the gym, when you’re working out, when you’re trying to raise your endurance, that kind of thing, you’re learning these physical muscle habits.

But we also need to make sure that we are working our brain the same way. We want to make sure that we are walking the same path and creating the same pathway in our brain that we would when it comes to using our body, because our brain is a muscle and we want to choose our words wisely. So if we hear a student saying, “I can never get that,” it turns into, “what would be a better way to say that? Is it that you can’t get that or is it that you’re working on this piece”? Or, “Hey, will you explain this to me? This is where I’m struggling.”

It’s those kinds of things that we want to listen for, especially within our kids, to make sure that they don’t go down a Winnie the Pooh, ho-hum, “I can’t get it. I’ll never understand it,” kind of way. We want to make sure that they’re engaging in positive thoughts and positive ideas, and so we listen for those things.

Problem-Solving and Self-Talk

I’ve been working on taking the word try out of my vocabulary. There is no try, only do. So I’ve taken the word try because when I said I’m trying to do this, it’s giving me a small little out. You’re just trying it. You’re not actually doing it. So it’s those types of small habits that we can get into to help our mental strength, to grow our mental strength. And as we’re helping our youngest students, it’s the same way. When they’re like, “I can’t do it. I’ll never be able to ride my bike.” We can ask them, “what are you having problems with? How do you think we can solve the problem?”

So we can guide them into a stronger mentality when it comes to problem solving. We can guide them into ways of helping themselves. So the next time they’re faced with a problem, they can work through it themselves.

They might be able to say, “This is where I’m having trouble with.” It could be as simple as saying to them, “What questions do you have for me?” And then they can ask you those questions. And as a parent, I know, when your kid is stuck in the, “I can’t do it,” cross their hands, stomp their feet, throw the pencil on the paper pouty kind of attitude, sometimes we do need to walk away and give them a minute to breathe. Give them a minute to work through it, give them a minute to figure it out, and I have.

But then I’ve also said, “Can you explain it to me because I don’t understand it. So could you tell me what you do know?” And sometimes when they start to explain it to me, the answer that they’ve been struggling with, the problem that they’ve been trying to figure out suddenly gets solved in front of their face.

So it is having those very pointed questions in our bag of tricks that help us grow our mental strength. And when we are having those moments, here’s the question that I ask all of you. “Would you say that to a friend? If you wouldn’t say it to a friend, why would you say it to yourself?” And you wouldn’t look at your friend who was having difficulty learning to ride their bike, “Well, of course you can’t do it. Nobody can do it. Why’d you get on your bike and ride away?”

So it’s one of those, how do we encourage, how do we build each other up? How do we build ourselves up at the same time? And by giving ourselves reminders of that was stinking thinking, I want to be helpful to myself by asking questions like, “Could you explain this to me?” Or, “What questions do you have?” We can help foster mental toughness. We can help foster mental strength so that we can all take positive action moving forward.

Thanks, and I’ll see you on the mat!


True Balance Karate was founded in 2012 by Master Sue and Paul Helsdon.

We offer kids karate lessons for pre-school children ages 3-6 and elementary age kids ages 7 and up. These lessons are designed to develop the critical building blocks kids need — specialized for their age group — for school excellence and later success in life.

Our adult martial arts training is a complete adult fitness and conditioning program for adults who want to lose weight, get (and stay) in shape, or learn self-defense in a supportive environment.

Instructors can answer questions or be contacted 24 hours of the day, 7 days a week at 630-663-2000. You can also contact us here