Kids’ jiu-jitsu has been skyrocketing in popularity over recent years, with parents around the world getting their kids involved in the martial art to boost their confidence, prevent bullying, and develop a healthy exercise habit.
Like many sports, jiu-jitsu also provides parents with an opportunity to take a “break” and sit on the sidelines while the coaches handle their kids for the duration of the class. While many parents still stay engaged and pay attention to what their children are learning in jiu-jitsu class, others seize the opportunity to relax and let another adult make sure that their kids are listening and staying safe.
Generally speaking, your kids’ coaches don’t mind if you watch the class or spend the entire time on your phone. Simply put, they’ve got this. While accidents happen in a room full of children practicing a combat sport, a decent jiu-jitsu coach (for kids or adults) will know the positions and situations that put your kids at risk, and they’ll do their best to keep their students safe. They’ve probably been doing jiu-jitsu for at least a few years, and they’ll understand when a student needs some extra help and when they just need to do some problem-solving on their own.
What almost never helps, though, is when a parent takes it upon themselves to coach from the sidelines.
It can be tempting to call out advice to your child while they’re rolling, especially if you’ve been watching their progress for a while. Just by observing, you will probably learn the terms for basic movements and techniques, and it’s natural to want to be able to help your child progress. Doing this, though, can be distracting at best and dangerous at worst.
Children are easily distracted, and one of the benefits of jiu-jitsu is that it helps students focus on what they’re doing — if they don’t, they might get submitted or taken down. In class, a child should be focused on four things:
- What they’re doing
- What their training partner/”opponent” is doing
- Their coach’s voice
- Their surroundings (so they don’t roll off the mats or crash into anyone)
This can already be a lot on its own, especially to younger or newer students (and often, they can only manage to pay attention to two or three of those things, tops). Adding their parent’s voice into the mix can make a child miss a cue from their coach or distract them from the fact that their teammate is extending their arm.
Even parents who’ve been paying attention to their child’s jiu-jitsu classes can (and often do) give bad advice. Watching jiu-jitsu from the sidelines and spending hours on the mats are two completely different experiences, and the reason your child’s coaches are coaches is that they’ve put in the work and have the knowledge and experience necessary to teach others. It’s better to let a child figure out a solution by themselves based on what they’ve learned from their coaches instead of risking giving them incorrect tips.
Extra instruction from parents can also make a child anxious as they feel like they have to listen (and impress) both their coach and their mom or dad. The only people a child should be listening to in class are their coaches and, sometimes, an older and more experienced teammate.
Beyond all this, it’s simply good etiquette to sit quietly while your child trains. Jiu-jitsu may be a sport, but it’s still a class. Just as your child’s elementary school teacher wouldn’t be okay with a parent giving additional instructions in the middle of class, your child’s BJJ coach isn’t in the wrong for putting their foot down about coaching from the sidelines. If you have trained jiu-jitsu, this still applies. Let the coaches do their job.
There are a select few situations in which it may be appropriate and even encouraged for you to use your parenting superpowers. For example, if your child is neurodivergent or requires extra support, the coach may ask you for tips or assistance to give them the best possible experience in class without taking too much attention away from the other students. And of course, if you notice that an accident is about to happen, speak up as necessary. Safety is of the utmost importance, and while your child’s coaches try to have eyes in the back of their head, they’ll probably appreciate it if you alert them to a problem on the mats.
If you really want to have more involvement in your child’s jiu-jitsu journey, sign up for classes yourself! There are so many parents and kids who do jiu-jitsu together, both inside the gym and at home. It’s a great way to bond with your children, and once you get some firsthand experience, you’ll be able to learn together. Who knows? Maybe they might end up teaching you a thing or two.