My name is Claudette. I attend a lot of jiu jitsu tournaments with my son, James. James is 10 years old and he’s extremely good (speaking as a mother and a spectator). He’s won 11 of his last 14 matches. The last match he got beat in was against a girl; she was really good. I enjoyed watching her fight. I didn’t enjoy watching her beat my son, but it was a good match.
Up until that point, James knew both the sweet taste of victory and the agony of defeat. But this loss looked like it hurt him just a little bit more. Was it because he lost to a girl? I started paying more attention and realized that a lot of boys and girls were lumped together in their divisions. Someone explained to me that until they hit a certain age, boys and girls are physically equal. I was naive to this fact. The other two fights James lost were to boys, so he shrugged it off. Is it possible that my son had an ego at this early of an age?
My husband (James’ dad) went up to James and told him to “man up!”
“Men don’t cry,” he sternly whisper-yelled at him. “You’re a man…a fighter!”
It was at that moment I realized how much pressure boys are under to be tough, but gentle; manly but sensitive; killer, but caring. It’s confusing. I noticed a lot of boys being beaten by girls. The girls had great technique – not to say the boys didn’t – but the girls seemed less concerned about strength and more about the move. I don’t know if it’s an innate trait by us being the “weaker” sex, or if it’s how they have been taught.
Anyway, later that night I spoke to my husband and asked why he was upset about James losing. He said, “I don’t want to raise a soft kid.” I replied, “Would you rather him grow up thinking it’s ok to beat up women?” There was silence. We were now charged with the task of raising a young boy into a respectful man without feeling like he had to compromise who he is. How are we doing that? It’s still a work in progress, but here are the steps we are taking.
1. We encourage our son to train with more of the girls in his school, especially the ones who are better than he is.
2. We also explained to him that in some sports, school subjects, situations in life, women are going to be better. It doesn’t mean you are bad or that you suck; but you should open your mind to learn from everybody.
3. We told him to treat everyone as an equal (notice I did not say treat women as equals). We believe everyone is equal despite their given strengths and weaknesses. If he faces another girl in a fight, respect her enough to challenge her skill and fight a good fight. We are sure if she is fighting she realizes that she will meet tought opponents. We also told him after to every fight to always say “good fight,” whether he wins or loses. Fight like a champ and show respect like a champ.
4. My husband and I started training. Sometimes my husband allows me to win in front of our son (yeah, right, I totally kick his butt lol) just so that he can see daddy practices what he preaches…and that mommy is awesome!
5. And finally, we encourage him to support and cheer on his female teammates and encourage them like he does his male friends.
So far, it seems to be working. He is more courteous and aware of his interaction with girls, and he is now a great training partner for most of the kids in class, including the girls.
If any of you have kids who compete in jiu jitsu, make sure you have the talk with them. It may not seem like it on the surface, but sometimes it can affect them in ways we don’t see. I love it that there are girls out there who can kick butt! But I also love knowing my son knows that it is not an embarrassment or a bad thing when he loses to a girl. Women and kids rock!