Helicopter Parents in Jiu-Jitsu /// By: Vincent Inoncillo
All parents love their children and want them to succeed in all their endeavors. From academics to playing an instrument and sports, parents want their kids to be the best they can be. It’s natural for parents to want that for them and even more so if it was something that they were known for when they were young. Maybe a dad was the baseball player in high school and their kid made the team as a freshman. Some would say that they are following in their dad’s footsteps. In Jiu-Jitsu it is going to be the same as long as the parent was training first. Sometimes that’s not the case and it’s the child that ends up training first then the parent follows.
Parents typically put their kids in an activity for various reasons. A lot of the time it’s to promote an active lifestyle, maybe to teach them sportsmanship or to get them to burn off excess energy before bedtime. All three of these things can be achieved by putting your child in Jiu-Jitsu. Jiu-Jitsu is a very active sport that can teach your child many things. It can teach them sportsmanship in a way that losing is just a learning experience that you can always come back from. It can get them fit at a young age with the different drills and warm ups they start their classes with. Most importantly, it’s also a good way for them to have fun and learn discipline at the same time.
For children, Jiu-Jitsu can be fun after they’ve made friends in the gym and look forward to going to class. On the flip side of that, the fun can turn around really quick when parents get involved with the child’s training or competition. Like we mentioned in the beginning of this post, parents want their children to succeed. In Jiu-Jitsu it’s very common to see this trend. It’s like there’s a second coach’s voice coming from the bench. That second coach is usually a mom or a dad encouraging their child to move faster or break that grip. Whatever it is, if it continues it can end up being a not so fun experience for the child.
It’s good for children to seek validation and approval from their parents. But if they are constantly being criticized in the process in regards to their performance in practice or in competition, it can result in a negative effect. For example, when in class and a kid is not fully doing their hip escapes down the mat usually it’s the coach’s job to encourage their student to do them properly. But in the background along with that you may hear a parent advising their child to not be lazy or even to move faster. From a coach’s perspective and as a parent, this form of reinforcement is not recommended. Another example is when a child is competing in a tournament and their coach is sitting next to the score table giving out instruction during the match. On top of that can be an echo of what the coach just said or even other advice that the parent may think would be better for the child to do. Who would the kid listen to? Their parent or their coach? If they are constantly seeking validation, they are obviously going to look towards their parent first.
Honestly, the best thing to do in this situation is to just let the coach do their job. It’s a given that maybe your child isn’t trying their hardest in class or on the competition mat even, but try to follow suit by reinforcing what the coach is saying instead of your own philosophy. Regardless if you have experience training Jiu-Jitsu, the coaching should just be left to the instructor if you are not one of them. It is their job, they have the experience and the knowledge to guide your children in this art. Sure, your child may be struggling but unless you have done the technique or the exercise yourself you need to realize that it is harder than it looks a lot of the time. That is why moves are called techniques. It needs to be applied a certain way and the body actually needs to feel if it to know if it’s being done properly.
If you have a child that does Jiu-Jitsu it may be to your advantage if you trained yourself. At the least study it and understand it. It’s hard to to know what your child may be going through unless you’ve gone through it yourself. Train Jiu-Jitsu, get tapped out a bunch and come back next day for some more. Or even try a competition. It’s definitely a learning experience that will show you first hand what types of things your child encounters on the mat. If you’re a helicopter parent, don’t just hover, get in the mix and share the experience with your child… and most importantly, let their coaches do their job. After all, that’s what you pay them for.