In this post, I asked Easton Training Center Kids Department Head, Jaymin Bagley, to share what I wish I had known when I first became a parent.
My daughter, Emma, has been described as a force.
Before becoming a parent, I thought it would come easy to me. I had been a nanny, worked in day care, my mother ran a day care center as I was growing up and I was the middle child of 7. I have been around children all my life. I knew what I was doing, or at least thought I did. I even smugly thought “when I have kids, they will never do that” on too many occasions. The problem was, while I knew how care for and play with children, I knew very little about discipline.
Emma started walking at 9 months and this was just the beginning of her catching me off guard. She has no fear and has always demanded to do everything herself. Emma loves to be active and play. Between the ages of two and four, she demonstrated she had no trouble entertaining herself.
One day when she was supposed to be napping, I came in to find she had peeled the paint off of her door. While I was cooking or cleaning, she would try to leave the house. We bought an extra latch for the top of the door, one she couldn’t reach even if she climbed. We bought 3 different types of childproof bathroom door locks because she either figured them out or broke them off. Eventually we added duct tape on top of them, which didn’t stop her, just slowed her down enough for us to catch her before she got in. One morning, before 5 am, she woke me up by saying “Mommy the milk won’t go in.” She had gotten up and decided to make herself cereal, but when she poured the milk in, it splashed out the other side. I walked into the living room to find an entire gallon of milk emptying out onto the living room carpet. We bought a fridge lock after that, which she was able to break within a week.
During this time, I was reading every parenting book I could get my hands on and asking for help from everyone and anyone. I made a daily schedule to keep her busy. We were always somewhere, the library, the park, the zoo, the gym, the pool. Anything to keep her active. I was often told, “wow, I bet your kid is going to crash when you get home.” Nope, she never did. I couldn’t keep up with her and found that I ended up being the one who crashed.
I have two older sisters, and we all happened to have our first child within a month of each other. We would frequently share experiences and ask for advice. It was extremely hard not to compare myself to my sisters as they were having none of the difficulties I was having. Not only did I notice, but it was pointed out to me on a few occasions. I often asked myself what I was doing wrong and felt like a complete failure as a parent.
Right before Emma’s 4th birthday, we happened to see an ad for kids martial arts. It took me more than a week to finally ask “what’s jiu jitsu?” We were blown away. The Easton Training Center coaches were fantastic and Emma loved class. However, three months in I went to the coach and told him we had to quit. Emma had started tackling kids outside of class. Kindly, he asked if he could talk to her. He told her that she was not only representing him, but jiu-jitsu and that if she was a bully, he would have to take her belt. He was firm and afterwards I went to comfort her. I quite expected her to start crying, she didn’t. She told me that her coach was awesome. My only thought was, “what kind of Jedi mind trick just happened?”
I had never seen a reaction like this before. It was then I started letting her coach know what was happening each week. He would talk to her; I would ask how to continue it at home. The change was amazing. Not to say instant, but very measurable. If behavior started to change, we would ask ourselves how long it had been since Emma had gone to class. Little by little I watched and learned how to be better with discipline. It wasn’t until much later I found out Easton coaches read and study behavior and parenting books. They go to parenting classes and seminars. Their skill is not something they were born with, it was absolutely learned. Before that, I figured the coaches were just magically good with kids. If I could do it all over again, I would go back to that first year and ask for the coach’s expertise on discipline in full.
Question: What book(s) do you think every parent should read and why?
J: “My number one reading recommendation (for anyone, not just parents) is Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg. NVC (as I call it) is the most honest and effective form of communication I have ever experienced. I find that a lot of systems for communication (or discipline) have a harsh trade-off between honesty and effectiveness. NVC tackles MANY misconceptions about behaviors and feelings and gives step-by-step instructions for having difficult conversations. If you only ever read a single book in your life, I’d recommend it be this one.
I also recommend any of the Love and Logic books. There are books for parents, educators, and even children. These books get incredibly detailed about specific problems children may experience, and my favorite series is a breakdown of discipline by age, which helps explain what’s happening in a child’s brain at different stages of development, which can make a huge difference as to how to effectively teach different lessons to different age groups.”
Question: Why do kids listen to you so seemingly easily? And what is your approach for kids who are having a harder time?
J: “The reason kids listen to their coaches (or not) is surprisingly simple: rapport. Our relationship does 90% of the work. We operate in an unwavering system, where we lead by example and do the same things we expect of our students. Consistency is key, and by showing discipline and dedication, we make it easy for students to build up trust with us. That trust- that rapport- is like currency to be spent in difficult situations. When we struggle to get a kid to participate or do what they’re supposed to do in class, we simply assume we can’t “afford” that demand. The answer? More rapport. Build a connection, walk WITH them and show them where they need to go.”
Question: What are a few things parents can do at home to build on what you do on the mat?
J: “Easy answer is copy as much language as is practical. Reinforcing discipline, respect, and dedication will not only help us, but give the child a strong foundation to build their life on, and the more similar and repetitive the wording, the stronger the reinforcement.
Harder (but more effective) method is to lead by example. Start training (anything). Be disciplined. Be respectful. Be dedicated. Kids learn a lot more from what we do than what we say.”
Question: What do parents ask you most often for help with? And how do you answer them?
J: “Most common question is about dedication. At some point, everybody wants to quit. That’s true for every person, of every age, for every activity. Kids often don’t want to come to class and parents struggle to “convince” them.
My short answer is “do you ‘convince’ them to go to school?”
Ask yourself or talk to the coach about how important this training and these lessons are, and once you’ve arrived at the conclusion that it is INVALUABLE, treat it just like school. My future kids will train a minimum of three times a week until 12 years old, then twice a week until 18, where they’ll then have their own decision to make.”
Question: What other advice, techniques, or tactics you would like to share with parents?
J: “When it comes to BJJ training (or any regular sport), the only ‘feedback’ I recommend giving after class is ‘Great job! I’m happy you went, and you should be proud of yourself’. Criticism after a tough class is a deterrent to going to class at all, no matter how positive the tone. The best way to contribute to their progress is to talk with your coach. If you’re going to talk with them about their training, do so before class and in an encouraging way!”
As a parent, I have to add that a coach’s “cool factor” cannot always be duplicated. It really does take a village. Finding amazing mentors for my children has been priceless. I will forever be indebted to the amazing men and women at Easton, who not only inspire and push my kids to be their very best, but continually help me to be a better parent.
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