"But Dad, I Don't Want to go to Jiu-jitsu"!

It happened again just the other day....I ran into a parent of one of my former Jiu-jitsu students and they said the same thing that I always hear...."Man, I really wish I had never let my kid quit Jiu-jitsu".    Any Jiu-jitsu instructor can tell you, there are so many people that come and go through the doors of the academy over the years, and almost without exception, those people who quit training ultimately come to regret their decision.

If you're a parent with a child that trains Jiu-jitsu, congratulations!  You have already made an excellent decision to enroll your child in something that can have such a positive effect on so many aspects of their lives, and given them something that they can carry with them throughout their life.    Chances are, your child was initially very excited about training, and begged you to take them to the academy.  But now, after several months or even years of training, the "newness" has worn off and their enthusiasm seems to have waned a bit.  Lately, when it's time to go train, you hear, "Mom/Dad, I don't want to go to Jiu-jitsu!".  Sound familiar?

You know the benefits of training, you know that Jiu-jitsu is good for them, and you may have already started to see some positive changes in your child.  You know that they have a blast when they are in class, but sometimes it can be a tough battle to just get them to the academy.  It's time to leave to go to class, but some days it can be tough to get your kid off the couch or off of the video game they are playing to go train.  You may be struggling with your kid not wanting to go to class, or even wanting to quit training altogether.   So how can you help to ensure that your child is getting the most benefit out of their training and make it an enjoyable experience also?  Here's my advice on the subject as both a Jiu-jitsu instructor and a parent.

First, be the parent.  Plain and simple, you made the decision to sign your child up for Jiu-jitsu classes, presumably because you felt it was something that would benefit them physically, mentally, and emotionally.  And, it absolutely will!  But, kids are kids and they need guidance.  Sometimes, kids don't want to go to school....sometimes, they don't want to eat their vegetables......sometimes, they don't want to go to the dentist.....or take a shower, or clean up their room.  You see where I'm going with this.  It is your responsibility as a parent to ensure that your child does these things because they are important for their physical and mental well-being.  Training Jiu-jitsu is no different.  You are making an investment in your child's future.  You wouldn't let your child just skip school because they don't feel like going, right?  I would suggest your approach to training should be the same. Are there days you don't feel like going to work?  Of course.  But you do anyway, because as an adult, you know it is important.  Sometimes, as a parent it is your job to make sure that your kids do the things that you know are important for them, even when they don't want to. And helping them to develop the discipline to do the important things even when they don't feel like it is a very valuable gift in and of itself!   Just as going to school gives your child the intellectual skills needed to be successful in life, training in Jiu-jitsu gives them the physical and mental tools to allow them to not only survive, but thrive in this world.  Giving your child the physical skills to defend themselves, the mental fortitude to deal with stress, and the physical fitness and emotional confidence that goes along with it is one of the greatest gifts you can give them, and it is something that they will continue to benefit from throughout their life.  And, even though they may not always appreciate it now, I promise they will thank you later for not letting them quit! 

Now, having said all that, sometimes it is ok to let your child take a break from training for a day, or even a week.  We all sometimes need some time to rest and recover, and when things get busy and life gets in the way, it is ok to occasionally take time off.  However, consistency is the key to making progress, and I recommend against taking extended breaks off the mat.  The reality is, the longer a student is off the mat, the harder it is to come back.  Students get out of the habit of training and then, before you know it, two weeks turns into a month, turns into 3 months, and then they end up quitting altogether without even consciously realizing it.  When life gets busy, or other things take priority, try to still make it in at least once/week if possible.  Use your common sense and good judgement.  Sometimes, your child really does need a day off of training.  Obviously, don't bring them to class if they are sick.  If they are seeming run down, didn't get good rest, have too much homework, etc they may need to take a day off.  If they don't want to come to class because they don't want to get off the computer or stop watching TV, it may be time to employ a different strategy. 

I heard a great idea from another black belt friend of mine recently regarding this situation.  That idea is this-a few minutes before its time to leave to go to class, have them stop doing whatever "fun" activity they are doing and give them a simple chore to do.  Whether it is cleaning up their room, doing the dishes....whatever.  Then, about halfway through, stop them and say, "it's time to go train".  Chances are, they would MUCH rather be going to Jiu-jitsu class than doing whatever chore they were doing, and they will gladly and willingly go to class without complaint!  On tough days, you may even want to encourage them by offering some type of a small reward after training.  Just get them through the doors of the academy, and the rest will take care of itself!

People, and especially kids, function best with structure and a regular schedule.  This is why it is best to just make training a normal part of their weekly routine.  For this reason, Summertime can be especially problematic.  Many kids are out of school, and thus out of their normal routine.  Sometimes this can lead to a lack of structure, and make it even harder to go to class, especially when combined with time off due to vacations, etc.  Because they may not have the normal routine and structure of the school day, it is EVEN MORE IMPORTANT to make it a priority that they come to class and train during the summer months! 

But what if your kid wants to do other sports or activities?  Great! Kids should be well rounded and participating in other sports and activities is a good thing.  It doesn't have to take away from their Jiu-jitsu training.  It's about balance.  Unfortunately, many parents see Jiu-jitsu as just another hobby or activity, like playing soccer, or baseball.  Many of these things can also have a positive impact on children. However, I would argue that few if any can offer the same benefit that Jiu-jitsu training does.  While they may offer benefits in fitness, teamwork, sportsmanship, and camaraderie (all things that Jiu-jitsu training does as well by the way), I would argue that very few can offer the type of real physical preparedness and the true freedom that comes from learning a realistic form of self-defense.  Particularly in this day and age, with bullying at almost epidemic levels, the ONLY way to truly prepare your child and insure that they have the confidence and physical ability to take care of themselves and to persevere in that type of environment is through consistent, realistic training.   But, kids DON'T need to train everyday.  In fact, especially for young kids, a couple of days a week is ideal. This leaves plenty of time for them to participate in whatever other activities that they enjoy and that you find beneficial.  But make their Jiu-jitsu training a priority.  Many of these other sports and activities are seasonal.  Jiu-jitsu is not.  We train year-round, because Jiu-jitsu is not a sport, it is a lifestyle, and there is no off-season when it comes to protecting yourself.  From my perspective, as stated earlier, it is equally as important as going to school!

So, we've established how important it is for your child to train consistently.  So, what can you, as a parent, do to help encourage their passion for training?  One thing that you can do is to train WITH them!  Kids emulate their parents.  If mom or dad starts training Jiu-jitsu also, that can be a big motivator for them to want to do it even more.  And, let's be honest, you will reap the same benefits from training that your kid will.  Plus, it is a great activity that you can do together.  One of the best ways to motivate your kid is to let them teach you! Let them show off the skills that they are developing, and I would be willing to bet, you will be amazed at how much you will actually learn from them!

So, here's what to avoid.  Pay attention, because this is one of the BIGGEST MISTAKES that well-meaning parents can make which can actually lead to your child wanting to stop training.....putting too much pressure on them to succeed.  We all want the best for our kids and want to see them do well.  We all want to be proud of their accomplishments. But please, whether you feel your kid a natural Jiu-jitsu phenom, or you feel that they just "don't get it"....just let them enjoy training.  The MOST IMPORTANT thing at this stage is for them to have fun!  They don't need to develop a high level of technical proficiency at a young age.  They have the rest of their life for that.  But if you, as a parent, push them too hard, they will often crumble under the pressure, and they will NEVER develop to a high level because they will quit training.  Your job is just to get them to class & support them. Talk about training when THEY want to talk about it....let them show you a move when THEY want to.  If THEY want to compete, let them.  Encouragement is great, but don't push to much, don't force it.  Avoid the temptation to get them in the car after class and debrief them all the way home about all of the technical mistakes that you perceived they made in training that day, or give them a hard time about getting tapped or not escaping a position.  Just ask them, "How was class today?  Did you have fun? Did  you learn something?"....and leave it at that.  And, PLEASE....by all means, don't be the parent that sits in the academy and "coaches" their kid from the sidelines.  Trust the instructors.  They are professionals that you pay to teach your kid Jiu-jitsu.  Just let them do their job and avoid the temptation to take teaching them into your own hands.  Seriously, this is one of the biggest ways that parents, who have the best of intentions, can ruin a child's passion for training. 

The benefits of training Jiu-jitsu are numerous.  The positive impact that consistent training can have on every aspect of a person's life is incredible.  This is one of the best gifts that you can give your child.  Hopefully, you see the value of it, and one day, your child will too, and they will appreciate all of the sacrifices you've made to make sure that they continue to train!

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