Those Vital Dojo Members: The Parents

253881_2063296270822_5229577_nThe most important members of your children’s program might just be the parents. After all, it’s parents who sign kids up, pay the tuition, drive them to class, support their practice, and decide if & when they may quit!

Supportive parents give a tremendous boost to a school, both in practical terms (helping out at the dojo) and by creating a positive dojo culture. In rare cases, “nightmare” parents can have the opposite effect: Think “stage parent” interrupting class with their own instructions; argumentative parent questioning the instructor in front of the kids, or disputing a decision about tests and rank; or just, thoughtless parent talking loudly on a cell phone while letting your student’s younger siblings run amok.

A colleague recently asked about dealing with parents: How do instructors handle all the issues we just listed? I’ll toss out a few specific questions, but feel free to post on any aspect of working and communicating with those vital members of your dojo community.

1. Parents don’t necessarily have a clear idea of martial arts values and etiquette when they first register their child. How do you communicate your values and expectations to new parents? through written material? website? conferences?

2. How do you handle “stage parents” and etiquette violators? (Clearly, it requires some tact!)

3. Do you enlist parental involvement in classes or dojo events? How does that work?

4. Do you talk with parents about dealing with those times when a child doesn’t want to come to class? What do you tell them?

5. Do you have a “model parent” – or have you dealt with a “nightmare parent?” Tell us about him or her.

These are such important questions for a successful dojo; I look forward to hearing some great advice.

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4 Comments on “Those Vital Dojo Members: The Parents”

  1. Tanner Says:

    1. How do you communicate your values and expectations to new parents? through written material? website? conferences?

    A: I have the kid and teen helpers cheerfully remind people about etiquette always as if it’s the first time they’ve heard it. It gives the kids good practice with minor confrontation and isn’t as intimidating as having the sensei stop class to talk to them. It usually works great but from time to time I have to talk to them after class. I also find that veteran parents do a pretty good job of policing etiquette around the waiting area. Having them set a good example is the first line of defense. Parents get etiquette guidelines when the kids first sign up and reminders about key points before tests.

    2. How do you handle “stage parents” and etiquette violators? (Clearly, it requires some tact!)

    A: The most common impulse to jump in comes when a parent wants their child to behave better. A helper will encourage the parent to go get some coffee and take a breather. Often times the child’s show is for the benefit of the parent anyway so if they’ll agree to leave things get better.

    3. Do you enlist parental involvement in classes or dojo events? How does that work?

    A: Not in class, but some parents help at events with organization, food, cleanup, etc. I don’t want parents that I haven’t trained in charge of any children. You never know how someone will react to a dramatic exchange or someone getting hurt.

    4. Do you talk with parents about dealing with those times when a child doesn’t want to come to class? What do you tell them?

    A: We prep parents on the fact that kids who love class will often resist coming in when engaged in any activity they are comfortable in. It’s important to allow them transition time, and let the first activity conclude to avoid drama.

    5. Do you have a “model parent” – or have you dealt with a “nightmare parent?” Tell us about him or her.

    A: My favorite parents are those that give us feedback and get involved with their children’s training. The nightmare parents are often depressed and may come in drunk to pick up kids or let themselves lapse into diabetic shock in our waiting area. The dojo is a great place to be when you need help since there are lots of patient, caring, capable people at hand, but in cases where a parent continually puts a child at risk we’ve had to intervene, once going so far as to call child services.

  2. redwoodojo Says:

    This post must have struck a nerve; I’ve received more than one private message from instructors who had much to say, but were reluctant to post because they were afraid parents might see the post and perhaps be offended.

    I get it, because I know seemingly bad etiquette or bad attitudes from parents can really aggravate a martial arts instructor – and it does happen from time to time! Yet we respect and value our parents, and want to emphasize the positive. That’s really what this post is all about! -not the negatives of “bad behavior” (although it really can be fun to share horror stories :-) ), but the positives of how we can encourage supportive involvement from parents, how we can communicate martial arts values, and ways in which what we offer at our schools can be helpful to parents.

    Many of the private messages I received were about rude or clueless behavior. But consider this: When a parent doesn’t follow etiquette, it’s most likely because WE failed to communicate our expectations. When a parent seems to us to be unsupportive of their child’s training, it’s most likely because we haven’t educated that parent about the kind of support that’s needed.

    That latter problem is the one that most interests me: How do we communicate to parents the ways in which martial arts training is different from other activities – that it’s more than just supervised play, and requires a different level of discipline, dedication and support?

    Another “positive” I’d like to hear more about is how others encourage parental involvement in the dojo/dojang.

    And as long as we’re worried about parents seeing our posts ;-) – I invite parents to speak their minds here, too! What are YOUR expectations? How would you like to be involved (if at all) at your child’s martial arts school? Could your school improve the way it interacts with you?

    Come on folks! Speak your minds!

  3. azgoju Says:

    I am a firm believer in parents and teachers working together. I am constantly following up with parents. Its like having a unified front at home. I like to know if students are struggling in school, as our leadership students are A students and can provide tutoring. I also like to know what behaviors are a struggle at home so I can reinforce the on the mat as a class lesson.

    But even more important is for children to see that even adults struggle with things. Its not about humiliating parents but showing kids that its not just hard for them.

    So how do I include parents?
    For my tigers I like to do a memory drill which promotes teamwork and cleaning up their room. I arrange differnt focus shields, pads, cones, etc. neatly in font of class. I then ask parents on the mat to ask if their kids room is this clean. The kids are now in groups and the parents get to make a mess, which they love. The kids then compete to see which group can put everything the way it was fastest. Soo… you can clean your room and in under a minute huh??

    Other ranks:
    I will from time to time ask parents on the mat after teaching a self defense technique and depending on class the students will try to teach the parent the technique or I may have the parent be the attacker for someone else’s child. No parent is going to go hard on another kid. The children are amazed when the adult struggles at learning.

    As for “that” parent, we’ve all had those…


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