Other parents may be quite demanding of you and their child. They continually express concerns to you about their child’s lack of progress through the belt ranks. They may constantly “coach from the sidelines” while their child is in class, and admonish the child for what they consider to be inadequate performance.

In such instances, it is helpful to establish appropriate boundaries for the parents with regard to their child’s training in the martial arts, and their interactions with you. These boundaries can be limits and guidelines which are set with regard to the behavior of the parent.

If you attempt to establish such boundaries, be aware that parents and their children tend to have their own special ways of relating to, and being involved with, one another. This is part of the “family system.” If you try to intervene in the way in which parents are involved in their child’s training, you may be “bucking the system.” There are some things that you can do, however, which may be beneficial to all concerned.

If you are setting boundaries for parents who seem to demand a lot from you and their child, the manner in which you frame this effort is critical. It is not that you want the parents to become less involved with the training, it’s simply that you want to assist them in finding new ways of being involved. Recognize that these parents may feel they are being helpful, and showing an interest in their child’s training. If you begin your conversations by voicing a sincere respect and appreciation for their desire to be helpful and supportive, you are building upon your working relationship.

One way in which you can begin to set limits on the frequent lengthy conversations in which you become involved is to establish regularly scheduled times when you can meet with them. You might explain that you regard these conversations as important, and setting aside specified times allows you to devote your attention more completely to the discussion.

Once you have established these appointments, keep them. It is also important that you specify the amount of time which you will spend in this discussion, and be consistent in beginning and ending on time. If these parents attempt to engage you in non-urgent matters outside of these discussions, remind them of your upcoming appointment, and assure them that they can bring this to your complete attention at that time.

Parents who continually coach from the sidelines, or admonish their child for what they see as inadequate performance, may believe that they are being helpful. Such behavior can, however, be disruptive to the child’s training (as well as to the rest of the class), and prove discouraging to the child.

A private conversation with these parents can possibly modify this behavior. This is how to handle the situation:

– Acknowledge the fact that they want to help their child.

– Explain that progress in training typically occurs in small increments.

– Suggest a strategy which focuses and builds on the child’s strengths, complimenting the child on the things that he/she does right.

– Ask that they hold their comments until the end of class, so that the child will be less distracted by other things that are going on, and more capable of hearing what they (the parents) have to say.

It is essential that these parents get the message, however, that you are the professional martial arts instructor, and in charge of training during class time.

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