If you’re the parent of a child enrolled in martial arts lessons, you definitely want your child to succeed on their training journey. However, some parents don’t realize just how important their encouragement is to a child’s success. They may also not know how they can show support in ways that will be genuinely helpful. Encouragement can come in the form of simply watching your child’s training, or even participating in parent-and-child martial arts classes.
If you have a young martial artist in your house, here are some tips to ensure you are providing a good support system:
Know the Etiquette
Etiquette is hugely important in martial arts, and parents should know what is expected of them and of students. One of the most important you can do is familiarize yourself with dojo etiquette. In Japanese arts, (and, in America, even some in non-Japanese ones) instructors are generally addressed as “Sensei.” This title may be placed after the instructor’s name (if traditional Japanese grammar is used), or, more commonly, before the name.
The dojo is seen as a sacred practice area, and students are required to show their respect. Shoes need to be removed prior to entering the area. It is also customary to bow upon entering or exiting the dojo area and greeting others, particularly one’s seniors.
Generally, spectators are welcome to watch their children in class, as long as they do so quietly. Some instructors may welcome verbal encouragement from the sidelines. However, it is better to err on the side of quiet respect if you are unfamiliar with the dojo’s culture. When in doubt, ask the sensei before or after class. Both the sensei and your child are sure to appreciate your consideration for the class.
Know the Benefits
Familiarizing yourself with the many benefits of martial arts for kids can help you feel great about having your child pursue it, and in turn will make your encouragements to them more sincere. A few benefits include:
- Self-defense. Although there is more to martial arts than the physical aspects, it’s still an excellent asset to be able to defend oneself. This can give both parents and children some peace of mind.
- Self-confidence. Sports are a great way to teach your child the value and satisfaction of hard work. Working toward and ultimately achieving a goal can foster a sense of self-esteem and independence.
- Respect. The practice of martial arts etiquette can teach children to be respectful in other aspects of life, and open-minded toward new customs and cultures they may encounter in the future.
Know Best Practices
Sitting in on classes is one great way to show your child that you are invested in him or her. Many children are eager to show mom or dad what they’ve been learning. Asking the child questions outside of class about techniques, etiquette or anything else you observed can be a great way to help him or her review what has been taught. It can also help a child feel good to teach an adult something new.
Try It Yourself
If you’re looking to take your support to another level, the best thing you can do is to take a parent-and-child martial arts class! You don’t need to commit to becoming a black belt, but it is a hands-on way to further your understanding of the sport and what your child is learning. You may choose to take only a few lessons for a basic introduction, or you may find that you desire to pursue it yourself! It would be a great way to create shared experiences together and help your child practice at home.
Show Your Child That You Care
Sensing disinterest from a parent can result in poor self-esteem and low motivation, or even giving up on training altogether. Every parent wants their child to achieve success, so applying these tips and understanding your child’s individual needs can help you provide a support system that will help your child accomplish their goals.
One Big Thing NOT to Do
Even well-meaning parents can make mistakes. One of the biggest no-no’s is calling out to correct your child’s performance during class. Not only is this disrespectful and distracting to the sensei and other students, but it can also be embarrassing to your child and cause him or her to become self-conscious and distracted. You’re paying to have your child trained by an expert, so let the sensei do just that. Technical criticisms should be left to the instructor. As the parent, you should focus on positives. If you have any concerns, you should discuss them privately with the sensei outside of class time.