Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu can seem like a complicated sport from the outside with an unusual scoring table and, for parents, the concern for injury and their child’s enjoyment of the sport. Unlike many other sports, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and the gyms they are practiced in have their own way of doing things.

When a parent is more involved in their child’s life and activities, including understanding what it is they are doing, then parents can better communicate with their child and have a stronger bond. These stronger relationships help your child in numerous ways—from behavior to school performance. This guide of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for parents is design to help explain a few things and help make a seemingly complicated or unusual sport to be more familiar.

Belt Promotions

Belt promotions are often some of the more difficult things for a parent to grasp when they have a child in BJJ, more so the younger the child. Belt promotions are not granted based on how long your child has been attending classes. Belt promotions are rewards for excelling at their current level, a chance to challenge themselves when the child shows signs of taking on more responsibility and knowledge. Sometimes, a small promotion, such as a stripe on the belt, may be used as a teaching point or to motivate the child to keep working hard at the sport.

So, don’t fret if your child has been attending for a year and hasn’t made it to blue belt.

Parental Coaching vs Parental Support

Similar to backseat driving, coaching from the bench will be tempting. It is after all your child and you want what is best for them, so why not repeat what the coaches say or let them know when you see a technique is off. Also, as it is with backseat driving, its best to let the driver (i.e. the coach) to do their thing. Release the reigns for the 45-60 minutes your child is in class and allow them to focus on what their instructor is advising them to do.

Instead, take the supporting role. Let your child know they did a great job in class even if they didn’t pull off the technique; they watched, listened, and tried and those are the most important traits a student can have. Reinforce these behaviors and encourage your child to keep trying until they succeed. Then encourage them to try something new—leave the rest up to the instructor.

Learn the Rules

BJJ is more than a sport that teaches self-defense maneuvers, it is also a tradition sport of skill, much like many other forms of martial arts. While learning the specific techniques may be difficult from the bench or parent waiting room, you can learn what the different maneuvers are, what purpose they serve, and how points may be awarded in a competition. Understanding your child’s sport can be beneficial to providing them support and understand what it is they are saying on the way home from class or a grappling tournament.

Other Sports and Activities

For some, BJJ is life. But that doesn’t have to mean it is for your young child. Allow them to join in other sports or activities that don’t have conflicting schedules. Taking part in multiple activities allows your child to investigate new interests and can help them to become a more well-rounded athlete. The skills they learn from multiple activities and commitment to each can also help them in their every day life as well.

Empty Promises

Avoid gyms, dojos, or instructors that make promises or guarantees of results or championship titles. A good coach recognizes the shortcomings in each of their students—and helps them to overcome it rather than sugar coating it.

That said, it could mean some very difficult lessons to learn for a child (and possibly for the parent) but all parties come out better because of it. Competing or demonstrating a technique, even when very new, can show a child that winning (or being right) isn’t everything and how to lose graciously and maintain good sportsmanship even when it feels hard to do so. These lessons develop motivation and other valuable skillsets that can be used on the mat—or off.

Sick Days

Having a sick child, even if it is just a minor cold, can not only disrupt their day and yours but it can have lasting consequences for other individuals in the gym. Germs are very easy to spread during BJJ due to the physical contact required for the sport between participants and the mat they practice on. Although gyms routinely clean after classes, other children and instructors are exposed to the germs each other during class quickly and easily. Even if your gym has strict no refund policies when missing a class, if your child is sick, keep them home.

The most important thing as a parent to remember when their child is participating in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is providing love, support, and encouragement to work hard, even when it is difficult. Soon, as time goes by, you’ll see your child’s talent and interests blossom.