Staying motivated in Jiu Jitsu can be a challenge for anyone, especially for kids who fail to see the long-term benefit that you do. Here are a few tips that we have found many parents to have success with.
Praise and Support.
One of the most important tools for your child to succeed, particularly in a martial arts environment, is an overwhelming amount of praise and support. Psychologically, we all have a need to feel loved and respected by others, most importantly our parents. When kids feel like they are not living up to expectations or that they are receiving too much criticism, interest in the sport will decline. Oftentimes parents have the best intentions but forget to leave the coaching to the coach. A better and more effective use of energy would be, pointing out all the things your child does well, which oftentimes takes a little re-training for the parent. We encourage parents to look for things like how brave their child was, how strong they are going to become, what a good listener they were, etc. This will motivate them, especially when they are feeling down because perhaps, they lost in a game that day or they don’t feel like they are improving. Studies have shown that positive reinforcement is vital to the long-term success of an athlete and especially children who are not emotionally ready to handle criticism. We teach our head instructors and assistants to ignore bad behavior (unless it is harmful to another student) and instead, to look for things that the kids in the class are doing well. This accomplishes two things. One, giving attention to bad behavior is a form of reward so we avoid it when possible. Two, by praising them for learning to tie their belt correctly, they will not only learn the skill and take pride in doing so, but they are learning that the way to receive attention is by doing the right thing. When parents start encouraging this type of communication with their son or daughter, it begins to heighten their relationship with each other as their kids start to realize that parents truly are their biggest supporters who they can come to when there is an absence of motivation as well as being the people who want the best for them.
Let it be “their thing”.
We’ve all seen the parent who was an athlete in said sport (football, basketball, soccer) and goes to unrelenting lengths to make sure their kid is the best at it. Understandably, the parent usually has good intentions and is trying to provide their kid(s) with greater opportunity than they (the parent) may have been afforded growing up, but unfortunately, if it isn’t their true passion, they’ll give up on it as soon as they have the opportunity to. Everyone has seen the kid on the field who visibly doesn’t want to be there, but their parent is making them, because they (the parent) wish they had someone to push them when they were younger. The problem for kids is, not only are they still finding out what they like, but they love playing above all and hate chores. So, when things start to feel like a chore, and they don’t feel like they are doing it for themselves, they want to quit. That is why we go to great lengths to ensure that our kids have the most fun every class, so they are excited to show up and play with their friends while getting physical exercise and learning the skills, behaviors and foundations that will set them up for success in the future. No one in their right mind would want to do something as demanding as competitive Jiu Jitsu or sports just to please someone else. So let it be their thing. Try asking them what they learned that day, what they liked most, what was the hardest thing that day or try having them show/teach you their favorite technique. When they begin to possess a sense of autonomy around training Jiu Jitsu, you won’t need to motivate them to go to class, they’ll go because it is fun and they have friends there. We love hearing stories about how excited our kids are for Jiu Jitsu and that they have their uniform ready, reminding the parents that they will be late if they don’t leave soon. When that happens you know you have created a self-motivated little guy or girl that will be in it for the long haul.
Remind them of the many benefits.
Sometimes it is easy to lose sight of our “why?”. This is when reminding them of the many benefits can help reinforce the important behaviors and skills they are learning such as standing up for themselves, self-defense and the ability to protect their friends, along with plenty of other habits that will serve them well in school and in life. For most of us these benefits can seem quite apparent but when you’re young you don’t understand the concept of investing over time, so it is easy to just do what is fun rather than go to class when your friends are going to play videogames or watch a movie. You might say “Remember how you couldn’t do a push up when you started and now you can do twenty?” or “When we first started you had a fear of speaking but now you are eager to come up and talk in front of the class at school, public speaking is incredibly intimidating for adults!”. Keeping the benefits at the front of their mind is important for developing personal pride and motivating them to continue turning their weaknesses into strengths.
Relate to them
From a kid’s perspective it is easy to feel like no one understands what they are going through. By being able to relate to them with a shared experience, such as a time when you wanted to quit but were glad you didn’t or how you wish someone had encouraged you not to quit when you were younger. This can make a difference in terms of allowing your child to feel understood in regard what can be a very difficult thing, even for adults, at some times more so than others. You can try telling them about a time when you had to change schools for example, and how you know what it is like to be the new kid but eventually you met your very best friend there or something of that nature. When someone understands us it can help eliminate or alleviate the fear of change that comes with trying something new.
You don’t have to train but you must show up.
One of the things we try to instill in parents is that we want kids to feel like they never have to train but they must show up. This helps them by letting them know that they have an honorable way out of physically training if they ever don’t feel like it. This can be incredibly valuable, beyond removing the feeling of having to train when they don’t want to, it gets them in the academy. When we feel forced to do things, we generally develop a distaste for it, so rather than making sure they train no matter what and having to watch them drag their feet through a class, we attempt to teach two main things instead. One, life is going to require you to show up to things you don’t want to that will usually benefit your future, take school for example. Two, oftentimes when you get there you feel much better than when you were at home or work deciding whether you should go or not. We know that it is better to form the habit early on of going regardless of how you feel and giving your best (which might just be watching for that day). I will say, with only a few exceptions of a kid sitting out because of a bad stomach or injury, almost never do we see our students show up in their uniform and not want to train once they see their friends and want to start playing with them. We get it, some days we are tired and going to the gym or making dinner for everyone feels like a drag, but if the long-term goal is important to us (being healthy, feeding our families) we will exercise discipline to get it done, even when we don’t want to.
We know that at the end of the day, parents care more than anyone about their kids success, which is why they chose Jiu Jitsu or martial arts in the first place, but like many things that are good for us in the long run, we don’t want to do them so it can take a bit of “parental Jiu Jitsu” to help them stay motivated and on the path to being better students, stronger kids and eventually contributing members of society. If any of these tips help you, go ahead and leave us a review on Google so we can continue to bring you more content just like this!