Our isolated training sessions exposed a shift in my son's expectations of our relationship. As we watched our professor and teammates on the tv screen through zoom, we were engaged in a new form of learning, which provided challenges when it came to learning new techniquespresented unique challenges. It wasn’t always easy to pick precise body movements through zoom. I found my 16-year-old son explaining that we should be doing it differently to what I had proposed, this marked the first time I can remember my son challenging my directions and thought processes in this manner. He was beginning to assert his thoughts and make an active contribution, correcting what he felt was wrong, while expecting me to respect his thoughts and use that information to adjust our technique. He wasn’t prepared to just go along with whatever I said anymore. My son was changing and so too were the dynamics of our relationship. He was becoming an active teammate rather than a child who follows. This was an opportunity for me to reflect on how I was interacting with him and how much power I was willing to surrender in our relationship.
As a parent, it’s often scary to give up control for a variety of reasons, especially when we’re so used to leading our children. Making all the decisions gives us a sense of safety, knowing they won't get hurt if we’re in control, but through this opportunity, I learned to step back and begin trusting his judgement while encouraging him to voice his thoughts and take the lead at times. Surrendering control, showed acceptance and trust; this is where we began re-defining our relationship and training sessions became more enjoyable and playful.
Our shared involvement in jiu-jitsu provided an opportunity I might otherwise not have had.
When COVID restrictions relaxed in Townsville, I decided to join him on the mats, witnessing first-hand the culture of positive reinforcement influencing my son’s self-confidence and further developing pro-social beliefs and behaviours. Through involving children in community sports (Jiu-jitsu for us) and paying careful attention, we can sometimes find conversation starters with our children, allowing us to gauge where they’re at in their personal development, allowing us to provide practical opportunities for growth. In our case, it was me taking a step away from leading and allowing my son to determine our course of action. Sometimes the quiet lessons in life are more useful than a life story or lecture (which I’m horribly guilty of).
The other great thing about involving children in community organisations, is that we surround them with other adults who often possess skills and attributes that we might be lacking, which can provide opportunities for our children to grow beyond what we alone can teach them.
As for us, Jiu-jitsu is a place where my son feels safe and enjoys a sense of belonging. The people in our club at Gracie Barra Townsville act as a pro-social anchor point for my son. During the first stage of lockdowns in Townsville, jiu-jitsu was one of the few activities we could share, which allowed us to maintain a connection with our community and improve our relationship. The mental health benefits of family-based activities (monopoly excluded) as a family have been enormous. By maintaining our focus on family activities and positive community connections, we’ve been able to improve our family bond. I encourage everyone to find an activity you can share as a family and involve yourselves in a community group which shares your interests. It’s the human connections we make in our lives that have the power to improve or corrupt the quality of our life experience.
The Gracie Barra community and sharing the art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has enriched our family’s life experience.