Being A Hyper-Competitive Parent Is Going To Ruin Jiu-Jitsu For Your Kids

Photo Source: Team Ironside/ Flickr Creative Commons

Because jiu-jitsu is lauded as the great “ego killer”, we like to think that it’s above a lot of the nonsense we tend to see in other sports. We would hope, then, that the kids who were enrolled in BJJ classes wouldn’t be subjected to all the craziness we so often see on the little league baseball field: the over-invested parents living vicariously through their children, the unhealthy level of competitiveness, the endless hours of practice, and the ignoring of the fact that these are kids for goodness’ sake.

We would hope that.

The truth isn’t as pleasant, though. Kids’ classes are proving to be a huge hit at many academies with well-run programs, and while jiu-jitsu is an ideal way for them to learn discipline, stay occupied and active, and discover a new skillset, there’s often a problem that comes in when the young ‘uns start to enter the competition circuit. And that problem is their parents.

It’s the parents who so often end up turning jiu-jitsu into something their kids dread rather than something their kids look forward to. They’re so determined for their kids to be junior world champions that they force them to attend every class on the schedule even when their kids are sick or sore or just plain burnt out. They cross the line that exists between instilling the value of sticking with what you commit to and sacrificing your mental and possibly even physical health for the sake of something you used to do for fun.

These parents aren’t much unlike the heavily mocked “Dance Moms” from reality TV. Maybe they themselves didn’t achieve their athletic dreams when they had the chance, so now the opportunity is being passed (or rather, forced) onto their kids. They see their children winning tournaments at the local, then national, then possibly international level, and then they become obsessed. They begin seeking out sponsors for their kids, which then puts even more pressure on their children to compete and win all the time. They let their kids’ social lives and even education suffer for the sake of training. They view their kids as having so much superstar athlete potential that they forget that they’re still kids at all.

The worst part is that many of these parents have never even tried jiu-jitsu themselves. They have no idea how mentally and physically strenuous it is. They just see it through the eyes of their children and the highlight reels of famous athletes on social media. They feel justified in their actions when they see teen standouts like Nicky Ryan or Kennedy Maciel making names for themselves before they’ve even become legal adults. They don’t realize that the chances of their kids pushing themselves too hard and sustaining a serious injury is a far more likely result of their actions than their kids becoming the Next Big Thing in jiu-jitsu.

There’s nothing wrong with getting your kids into sports; in fact, there’s a lot that’s right with it. There’s nothing wrong with encouraging them to put themselves out there and compete, and there’s nothing wrong with them realizing that if they want to compete at a high level, there’s going to be more sacrifice involved than when you compete three times a year at tiny local tournaments. And hey, once they become teenagers, get to know their own interests a bit better, and develop more autonomy, it would be great for them to get some sponsors that would help them pursue their dreams.

But while they’re still kids, let them be kids. Let their first experience with sports and martial arts be a good one. Let jiu-jitsu be a constructive way for them to be active and let out all that little kid energy. The last thing you want is for your children to associate physical activity with negative emotions. If you’re that desperate to have a BJJ superstar in your family, buy a gi for yourself and push yourself just as hard as you’re pushing your child from your place on the sidelines.


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