Top Level Martial Arts
2674 North Haven Blvd
Cuyahoga Falls, Oh 44223

How to change your child’s behavior

Last week I sent a message about “your job as a Jiu-Jitsu parent.” In it, I discussed actively using the Jiu-Jitsu Values Program. I reminded you that it’s important to be a part of the program and not just be the parent who drops your kid off and never really engages much.

This week, I want to give you some tips on how to modify your child’s behavior patterns by using the Jiu-Jitsu Values Program in a positive way.

Most of you did not put your kids into martial arts just to learn how to defend themselves. If you did, that’s great, and they are learning that. But they are learning so much more and you should be using those lessons and reinforcing those lessons at home. We look at our job as being the ones who reinforce the important social lessons you what your child to learn.

It’s important to understand how the Jiu-Jitsu Values Program or “Parent Stripes”  work. There are 5 stripes in the program (the program will expand a little soon…but I’ll talk about that later). The stripes are put on your child’s belt when you communicate to us that they are ready for them. Each stripe has a corresponding color. Discipline-blue, Respect-red, Integrity-yellow, Commitment-Orange, and Personal Courage-Green.

Each stripe also has a definition:

Discipline: Doing the right thing, even when no one is looking.

Integrity: Doing the right thing, legally and morally.

Respect: Treat others the way they want to be treated.

Commitment: Finish what you started.

Personal Courage: Facing fear, danger, and adversity.

It is not only your child’s job, but YOUR job to know what these mean. How can we help your child if we aren’t both talking the same language?

So here’s how you can use these at home. It’s a fundamental principle of psychology called conditioning. And it has to do with how you reward your child for their behavior.

Just understand that you can reward your child by either giving them something they want, or by taking away something they don’t want. A lot of people forget about that second one.

Also, you can reward them every time they do something right, or just some of the time that they do something right (intermittent reward).

While we, as parents, often want to say awesome things EVERY time your child does awesome stuff, this is often difficult to keep up with and the research actually doesn’t indicate that it’s as effective in creating a habit as doing it intermittently.

The next thing I want you to understand is the importance of setting goals and celebrating when those goals are met. But this is only effective if the goals are challenging and take time. In other words, your child must meet and surpass some level of adversity for the goal to be worthwhile to them. So they can feel pride in their achievement.

Let’s look at an example of how you can begin to modify your child’s behavior. Before I go on, I will say I am not a licensed psychologist or counselor. I am not attempting to give you any type of medical advice here. Just teaching you the basics of behavior modification that have worked wonders in my classes over the past 21 years of my teaching career. Of course, various methods will have differing levels of results with different kids and if your child is having extreme behavioral issues, you should consult a licensed medical professional.

Now that the legal statements are out of the way ?? we can continue.

Imagine we have little Billy. Little Billy isn’t paying attention well enough at school but is smart and clearly capable of learning. He just isn’t applying himself…sound familiar to anyone?

One thing you should do immediately after putting him into jiu-jitsu is to set some goals for his Parent Stripes. LET US KNOW WHAT THOSE GOALS ARE!!! WE WILL BACK YOU UP!

The goals should have 2 components.

  1. They should be measurable.
  2. They should be achievable.

While reading War & Peace is certainly a measurable goal, it may not be achievable by a 7-year-old first grader.

While, “doing better with your chores” is achievable, there’s no metric by which to measure it until you make one up.

In the book, 7 Habits for Highly Effective People, Steven Covey discusses this in teaching his child that caring for the lawn means that it should be “Green and Clean.” A great book that I highly recommend, by the way.

Let’s get back to Billy.

Now, there’s about 6 months to a year between belts in Jiu-Jitsu. That gives you plenty of time to set achievable goals on about a monthly basis. Here’s a great example.

“Billy, we’re going to work on your discipline stripe. To get it, I want your test scores to increase in school. Since reading is your lowest score, let’s work on that one. Every day after school I want you to read 1 paragraph from a book I give you. Then you’ll come tell me what that paragraph means. If you do this, your scores will improve for sure.”

Now, I’m sorry to say, this does take work on your part as the parent, too. But you’ll be amazed at the results. Billy wants that stripe. He wants to stand in front of the class and hear all the “oooooos and ahhhhs” as it’s put on the end of his belt. He wants to be able to confidently tell everyone the definition of the stripe. And he wants you to be as proud of his achievement as he is.

But first, the work needs done. Every day you pick the paragraph and he reads it. When he reports back you’ll make any corrections necessary, sometimes adding an extra reward in the form of a hug or extra tablet time or some other thing you know he wants. OR maybe you take away a chore for the day! I don’t recommend treats because that sets a bad precedent for nutrition, but you do you.

When it comes time to see his scores, if they improved, it’s time for his stripe! If they haven’t improved, it’s time for that tough conversation. “Billy, remember Personal Courage? Facing fear, danger, and ADVERSITY? Adversity is things that are hard. This is hard for you and we’ll work on it together. But we set a goal together and we need to meet it before the discipline stripe comes. I know you can do this. I’ll pick some tougher paragraphs this time.” AND DON’T GIVE HIM THE STRIPE.

This is life, not everyone gets a trophy. But that doesn’t mean he didn’t do well. Give him a conciliation prize of some sort if he stuck to what he said he would do. Maybe a commitment stripe because he did what he started. But not the discipline stripe. Not until he meets the goal.


This is just one of many possible examples of how you can use the Jiu-Jitsu Values Program to your benefit and help to modify the behavior of your kids.

I know it can be difficult. I know it takes time. But we’re here to back you up. We are EXCELLENT at many things. But we can’t read minds. We can’t help if you don’t communicate to us. What are the goals you’re working on for your kids? Let us know.

Are you having trouble coming up with something? Tell us that too! We will be happy to assist.

That’s it for now. I hope you found this useful.

See you on the mats,

Bill Jones

Are you a parent who wants their child to develop these skills? Give Jiu-Jitsu a shot. sign up for our kids martial arts classes.

More Articles