Thursday, March 1, 2012

Pushy parents? After school sports

Do you push your kids to do any kind of sports after school?  Are after school activities necessary, important or just too much for kids after a full day at school?

Our two daughters - aged 6 and 8 both swim after school at least twice a week, sometimes more. The younger one swims for 1 hour and the elder for 1.5 hours. Both enjoy their swimming and are happy to go to their training, but it hasn't always been like that!

They both went to swimming lessons from 3 months old. We felt that it was important for them to learn to swim particularly given that we live in Australia, and there is a pool in our backyard.  Swimming has always been a big part of their lives.  
These lessons tailed off once they started school - where they have 2 short, class lessons a week as part of their curriculum.  However, once they were both settled into school life, we encouraged them to return to swimming lessons after school.

There were three reasons for this - they both love swimming and are good at it, so it's something we knew they would enjoy and gain confidence as they improved.  The second reason was that we simply wanted them to be active.  Kids no longer spend all their spare time running, climbing trees and biking with friends as we did as children and our parents did before us.  Times have changed and parents no longer feel comfortable or safe letting their children roam free around the streets and countryside.   The third reason was to encourage them to make new friends outside of those in their classrooms.

Over the last couple of years, there were plenty of times when they didn't want to go to their lessons.  We heard all the usual excuses kids come up with, but we persisted and pushed them to continue. Yes there were tears at times, and we also felt bad at times, but we felt it was the right thing to do so we continued.

Last year our eldest daughter had her first swimming carnival at school.  She was excited but nervous.  In the end she thoroughly enjoyed the day and came away with the gold medal as the best swimmer for her age group.  This was a big turning point for her.  She was getting formal recognition and praise for her ability in a sport she truly loves.  She could see the benefits and results from not just playing around swimming in our pool at home, but in training and going to lessons after school.

Since that day she has been very keen to go to her swimming lessons, and wanting to go more often!  Seeing the joy she gets out of swimming and the drive she has to do it, makes me feel good about having pushed her to continue in previous years.  It was never a big deal, more just a laziness of wanting to go home and play or watch tv instead.

Our younger daughter has also started coming to swimming carnivals, but is a little frustrated as the swimming policy here means that under 8 year olds cannot be given medals!  She is a good swimmer -and I'm sure once she reaches age 8 , there will be medals for her too.  But for now, we will push her and help her get through that frustration until she reaches the age when she can get formal recognition and praise for her ability in a sport she also loves. 

So our three reasons for pushing after school sports when they were less than keen have been vindicated:
1.  They do still love swimming - their faces light up when they jump in the pool!  Our eldest daughter has shown a marked increase in her overall confidence in general since her first medal win.  We have always praised her actions, and achievements, but there's something different - a more tangible thing to be proud of when you get medals and certificates!
2. Swimming has kept the girls active.  I believe in the value of their swimming training plus activities with us as a family, they are as active as we were when we were kids, running and playing around the streets and fields every day. They are both fit, healthy, active and strong kids.
3.  Socially they have met lots of new friends through swimming. They have friends that they can share their common interest with - and those friends are a range of ages from several different schools and backgrounds.  We, as parents are also getting the added benefit of making more friends too, as we meet more swimming parents at various events!


I don't want this story to sound like we're pushing our children in the sense of telling them they have to win medals and be the best swimmers ever.   This is not the case.  We have just chosen to use a sport that they both enjoy and have an aptitude for, to help them learn that being active and fit is important and can be fun.  
We don't want our kids to be ones who, if left to their own choices, would sit in front of the TV and computer games every day.  It is important for parents to take a leadership role and promote positive lifestyle choices.  We want to bring up kids who choose active healthy lifestyles and also enjoy doing that.

As a family we have also joined the local running club (running is what Euan and I enjoy), and we go out for runs and swims together, which gives us valuable family time and also common interests and a bond that we can build upon as the girls grow.  They have come to races we have entered and supported us, just as we always support them in their swimming.  It feels good that we are all encouraging each other and sharing in each other's interests.  Having a common interest is a great way of helping promote teamwork and also letting the family grow through common pursuits - together, and have something in common as the kids grow up. 

Sometimes it is necessary as a parent to 'push' your children to do things that may be out of their comfort zone, or take on hard work, or even try something scary that they've never done before.  We have to help them to become adults who can have self confidence and self control.

After school sports and activities are an excellent way to help kids learn this. There are so many to choose from, karate,  football, dancing, netball....so many opportunities for kids to get active, make friends and learn to get out there and build their self-confidence, self-respect, not to mention their health and fitness levels.

What after school sports do your kids do? or did you do as a child?

Have you pushed your kids to join in and get active, or is this a subtle form of child abuse along with homework!?

Jill

77 comments:

  1. both my boys will be put into swimming cause it is really important to me, lacrosse cause that is what is super important to my hubby and his father is president of our cities league. Then they will also be doing soccer in the winter. With the season differences and flexibility of the swimming it will be like them doing an after school sport all year round :) I hope, we'll see how they like it. In the end it is up to them, I personally never did any after school things and highly regret it and struggle to be active to this day.

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    1. Thanks Eschelle! I think to encourage kids to do sport at a young age - it's great to go with sports the parents enjoy and can get enthusiastic about. Young kids love when their parents get involved and spend time with them!

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  2. I think it is good to have your child take up a few sports if they have an interest. Some people are just not into sports but they could take something else like a craft of some type painting or writing. My mother did not know how to swim but she made sure all of her children learned and I am very glad she did. Easy2Save

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    1. I think as parents, we often look at ourselves and what we wish we'd learnt to do as kids, and try to 'rectify' that with our own kids. My parents didn't learn to swim either - but made sure my brother and I learnt! Again I'm grateful for that!

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  3. When I was growing up there were seven of us and we couldn't afford to participate in any after school activities. I actually preferred that as it gave me a lot of time to read and do the things I wanted to do, instead of having my time after school organized. As a result I raised my boys similarly in that they weren't enrolled in any kind of programs like this. If they were keen on attending sporting events like these I would have made a way for it to happen. We did however go to the public swimming pool every single day it was open in the summer. We live in Arizona and only had a swamp cooler at the time so it was very enjoyable to cool off in the pool each evening.

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    1. Thanks Starlene - I think it's great you took your kids to the pool every day! It doesn't have to be about paying for organised sports - but I think it's just important to ensure your kids stay active as they grow. There are so many free and cheap ways to do this without having to enrol them in programmes!

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  4. I think at a young age it is great to get the kids out there to try things but having 2 teenagers it gets a lot harder as they get older. I have come to the conclusion for my younger two kids(5 & &) they don't have a choice they do what I tell them but for my teenagers if they don't want to they don't have too. Because they will find a niche that they will enjoy eventually. My son was a European champion swimmer without really even putting to much effect into it but then when he turned 16 he decided he didn't want to swim anymore. While it broke my heart giving up on this amazing talent he had but if he wasn't happy then why force him. Over the years really developed a talent for computers and is now studying computer engineering and international business at a foreign university. He is happy that is what matters to me.

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    1. I've heard that it gets a lot harder when they get older to encourage your kids to do things they don't want to. I'm just hoping that when our kids are young, we teach them the importance of keeping active so they want to continue that when they're older in some way. It must have been hard to watch your son give up on something he was so good at - but he's obviously doing what he loves now and that's what's important! I'm sure he gained a lot from doing the swimming earlier in his life though!

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  5. I think there is a definite value in having your children involved in extracurricular activities. They are taught life lessons and they are often exposed to an entirely different set of potential friends.

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  6. I don't push my kids to "join" anything, but we have a discussion that if they join, I WILL push them to put all their effort into it or they need to stop. We don't play to win. We play to play. Man, this parenting stuff is hard :)

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    1. I agree Deedra - if the kids choose to do something, they have to make a real effort with it - and not just try it once and give up. We make sure when our kids try something, they give it a decent chance to see if they like it before deciding whether or not to continue!

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  7. I didn't play sports - I went to archaeology camp and astronomy classes instead. My nieces play all kinds of sports (hockey, basketball, tee ball), and I think it's good for them. If I had kids, I'd have them pick either a sport, a martial art or dance classes to gain self-confidence and get exercise.

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  8. My kids don't do after school sports yet, but I do enroll them in things during the summer break. It is said statistically that kids in sports engage in less sexual activity as a teenager. That's a bonus I think!

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  9. My kids were not into sports as such but they did dance. I dont think I ever pushed them but I did give them lots of help and support.

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  10. I think it's important for kids to be in to physical activity of some sort. I wasn't as a kid and I'm paying the price for that now!

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  11. kids need to be active- in organized sports or otherwise! its so important!

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  12. I don't have any kids. And I never did any sports as a kid because I'm disabled. I always watched my brothers play ball though.

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  13. My son is only 17 months old, but we plan to encourage him to participate in sports. I played softball and basketball growing up and my husband played football in high school. We aren't diehard athletes, but we do want to establish the importance of being active and having fun in our child.

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  14. We never pushed them into sports, but sometimes hated to see them stop playing (like when my youngest son got hit with a baseball while batting and that was his last season). I am always open to what they want to do. Now music lessons...that's another story. Luckily no one has wanted to stop those. :)

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  15. With sports or music or what have you, I think there's a way to push w/o being too overbearing. Communicating your own struggles with being consistent, or working hard, is a great place to start I think! And then making sure you hear their fears and concerns. I'm looking forward to this with my kiddos.

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  16. I've been thinking about putting my daughter in gymnastics. I think it's very important for kids to be in sports activities for confidence, social reasons, and to be active. When I was in school I joined a lot of different sports activities but I never stuck with anything long enough to get good at. While I was lucky enough to get the oppurtunity to try different sports I wish my parents had made me stick with something.

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  17. When I was a child I did not do sports but I lived outside as my parents made us. They did not allow us to sit inside and watch tv. With my daughter it was different I allowed her to do sports if she wanted to and so she did but she also watched tv and stayed in more than I liked. With my son he Loves Soccer and would play all day if possible. He also never wants to come inside he would live outside all day everyday if he could and I Love it as I know he is getting the exercise he needs that other kids may not as they stay in and watch tv.

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  18. i think it can get a pushy sometimes - the kid has to want to participate....

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    1. Absolutely Andrea!- the kids do have to want to, but sometimes it can be daunting for them to try something new - and I don't think it hurts to push them to help them get over their fears!
      Plus I think kids need the direction of adults when they're young. We have to help them learn how to make good choices about their lifestyle!

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  19. Personally, I do not push my kids to participate in organized sports. However, if they make a commitment and then decide after a practice or two that they made a bad choice... TOO BAD. You made a commitment and the team is depending on you.

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    1. That's a great point Tabitha about team sports. Once they have committed - I agree that they then have an obligation to the team to continue!

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  20. My son doesn't do sports yet, but he is in Cub Scouts. Some days, he wants to quit. Usually because he's in the middle of a level on a video game and doesn't want to stop to go to a meeting. I make him keep at it because he really does love it. We used to do karate and went through the same thing. I had to take him out due to financial issues, but once I get back on my feet, I want to put him back in.

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  21. I have always encouraged my children to try what ever sport that they want however we don't push them to be in anything. My oldest has played many sports and found that he excelled in baseball, which he loves. He continues to play now that he is in High School. My daughter has tried softball, cheerleading and basketball. She now has a love for basketball that we will encourage.

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  22. I played softball for 7 years in school, and I was also outside playing and riding my bike a lot. I also spent a lot of time reading and watching TV. I think I watched all the popular sitcoms of the 80s. :-) It's all about balance.
    My 10-year-old took swim lessons for about 3 years (they're progressive) and karate for 3 or 4 years (he almost made it to black belt), but because of money and his own physical issues, we were not able to continue. Now we just go to the park so he can play with his friends and we have a two-hour PE class each week (we homeschool), where they not only play, but learn all kinds of new games. He also plays outside with his little brother (3).
    I think as long as the sport is something the kids want to do, it's not wrong to push a little. As long as it's only sometimes. If it turns into something the child hates, and the adult just doesn't want them to become a "quitter", that's a whole different thing.

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  23. First of all, I like that you noted that it's not the same as when we were kids. So many people want to call kids lazy and say that video games are the problem. But, like you mentioned, the problem is that it is no longer safe for a kid to be outside all day playing like we were. There are too many crazies out there looking to harm them. So, to fight boredom, kids play video games. It's not the parents fault. It's the fault of society. You are very lucky to have a pool nearby. I live in a very rural area, and the only activities offered outside of school are soccer and scouting. Both my girls were in both, because I thought it was important for them to have extra curricular activities in their lives. I grew up in the middle of nowhere as well, and was never involved in anything because it was too far away. As a result, I have struggled with weight issues all my life. I think you're doing a great service to your kids by keeping them in swimming, as long as they want to continue.

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    1. Thanks Steph - it's great that you got your girls involved in the sports available where you live. I think you have to make the most of what there is. Perhaps with the swimming thing with our kids - I get so enthusiastic about it after growing up in the cold North of England - and only swimming occasionally at the local indoor pool - now we live in the tropics and swimming is outside in beautiful settings all year round.
      We can't help but compare to our own childhood and want more for our kids than we had and to encourage them to make the most of opportunities we never had!

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  24. I often feel conflicted about this- when to push my daughter into an activity because I think she'll enjoy it in the long run, and when to lay off and just let her have some free time. I noticed that she used to get really cranky after finishing her after school swimming lessons (even though she enjoyed the lessons tremendously) and it made me realize that I was overbooking her- she was just emotionally drained by the end of the day. Maybe as she gets older she'll have a little more "emotional stamina."
    --Viva recently posted Homemade Pizza Dough

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  25. We aren't to that point yet because our children are very young but I will encourage them to try out different sports on at a time. I've seen families who seem to obsess over sports and push their children to do it all the time- the kid may enjoy it or hate it but either way I think that the kid needs to have family time and that needs to be the priority first, then school, then sports and extra curricular activities. I also don't want either our children or us as parents to constantly be trying to do everything that life is just one appointment to the next.

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    1. Too true Julie - Sometimes we have a week where everything seems to happen at once with school and sports - so we try to make sure the next week and weekend we all get to relax and enjoy just being us at home!

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  26. My 8-y-o does ice hockey and baseball. I really wanted him to try basketball, too, but I'm not insane--a 2 month overlap of hockey and baseball is enough! Our daughter likes baton twirling (!!!) and we also signed her up for her first soccer experience this spring. As long as they are little, I think team sports are awesome, with all the benefits you listed. We'll see how much more time consuming it gets as they grow older.

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  27. Hmmmm.... that post makes me want to go swimming!

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  28. I never liked sports myself growing up so I didn't want to force my children to do sports unless they wanted to. They did love swimming and the photo you shared makes me wish the weather would grow warmer so *I* could go swimming! :-)

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  29. I always loved swimming when I was a kid and swam on the swim team at our school. Neither of my kids really like to swim but our weather where we live you can only swim about 2 months out of the year except for indoor pools. The kids are happier gardening or riding bikes or other things around the house which keeps them active and happy.

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    1. It is a matter of finding what is right for your kids and what they enjoy - which isn't always what you enjoy or did as a kid!! :)

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  30. We haven't started any activities yet. We may enroll our oldest (3) in something like tumbling or swimming lessons this summer.

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  31. I think it is fantastic to push them to be involved in sports, and it sounds like your motives are in the right place. I think they often hesitate out of fear, but end up being glad they participated, even if not until down the road. Thanks for sharing.

    Printable Decor
    Saved By Love Creations

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  32. One of the disadvantages of the technology is that children now a days are less involve in physical activities. Good thing that you push them to go to swimming lesson.

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  33. My kids have special needs. One needs the down time after school and the other one puts herself to bed at &:30 ~ She's 10!

    We learned early on it is easier to give our kids down time than push them!

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  34. My daughter is 5, and I have not pushed her into any sports activities. I feel like when the time is right, she'll tell me what she is interested in, and then we'll give it a shot.

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  35. I think having children participate in sports is great! My son does t-ball and soccer...swimming in the summer. We always let him choose what he wants to do (he's 5). At his age I just want him to try things to see what he likes. His favorite right now is t-ball :)

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  36. I think it's important for Children to take part in activities. My son is a ball of fire and runs from sun up till sun down. We always keep him involved in some kind of activity to try to alleviate that pent up energy he has.

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  37. I think, like you said, it can be good for a child's self-confidence for them to take part in sports, karate, etc. Personally, if I ever have kids, I would love for them to all at least try karate lessons...

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  38. As long as your kids want to do it, then I say go for it!

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  39. My kids play softball. We homeschool. My kids love being active. I'll take any activity before tv and video games.

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  40. I worry about my kids being not enough or too active (& injure themselves) we live on a farm so it *shouldn't* be a problem I hope. Once my eldest is in Kindergarten we will let him do one sport, if I can convince hubby. Otherwise they will be sent outside tons in decent weather!

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  41. Better that than let them sit and play video games all day! It's good for kids to get out and be active and meet new friends, and it teaches them to challenge themselves. A valuable tool for adulthood. Thanks for sharing!
    suzy

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  42. My oldest is in Kindergarten and we're just starting to get inundated with sports sign-up forms. But I honestly can't imagine him doing any of them. He already complains about being away from home and his toys too much with just school. He needs that unstructured play time at home I think. Plus, he visits his dad 3 hours away every other weekend, which would make any weekend practices/games impossible. Now if he starts asking to participate in things, then we will reassess and try to make it work for him. But for now, this is working for us.

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  43. Thanks for this post! I'm actually trying to decide if I need to force my daughter to continue piano lessons or not. She loves to play around with it, but doesn't like the lessons or to practice. It's a tough decision.


    Wendy
    Around My Family Table

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  44. When my kids were little the boys played little league baseball. They weren't interested in swimming. I have always like to swim, just dont get to do it much any more. It is very important for children to get involved in organized sports so they can learn sportsmanship. Have a great day.

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  45. My goal is to follow my son's lead when it comes to extracurricular activities. As a teacher, I see many students who are extremely over scheduled and just exhausted. I'm going to encourage my son to try one thing at a time. I also want to set the expectation that when he signs up for something, he at least finishes the commitment out before switching to something else.

    Mariah, Formula Mom

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  46. There is nothing wrong with encouraging your kids to excel and push them to keep going when they don't feel like it. It teaches them the importance of finishing their commitments and seeing how hard work and determination pays off. You love your kids and will teach them that there is way more to life than TV and video games.

    Great job!

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  47. As a child, I participated in horseback riding- it's something I wanted to do and absolutely loved doing. My parents never had to push me. However, they did have to do some pushing when it came to piano lessons. I've always enjoyed piano music, but I hit a rough spot that lasted about a year in which I wanted to quit. They pushed me through it, though, and I'm glad they did.

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  48. My kid(s) are too young right now to be involved in anything. We have talked about enrolling them in something when they are older to help with their self confidence and as an outlet for their energy.

    As a kid, I was in basketball, track, and soccer at various times. These usually lasted a year or two, nothing long term. Band, though, lasted 9 years, 7 of those marching. My parents never made us do it. I got into it because my older sister was and it just seemed like the thing to do. That is where I met my two best friends as we got to have a class together every day for 6 years straight, as well as a few hours a week, during school and summer, at practice.

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  49. Hmmm....I have gently pushed my kids at things but have been unsuccessful. I agree with your reasoning behind wanting them to be involved....I wanted the same for my kids in a few areas. Maybe we weren't focused enough...really offered them lots of things they could be involved in. And still...they did their own thing!

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  50. My son plays baseball. It has always been his "thing". We have never pushed him, he has always had the drive and determination!

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  51. I think it's brilliant that your daughters are doing so well at swimming and are enjoying it. I think a bit of pushing is fine, but not if it makes the child terribly unhappy.

    Our children don't do anything sorty at the moment. They are in secondary school and are too busy with their computer games. Oops, that's not what you wanted to hear, I think!

    In primary school they played football in the school yard after school almost every day, so in that sense there was no need for organised sports. Also, both me and my husband were forced by our parents into doing sports, and I honestly never liked it, and I really don't see that it had any benefit to me whatsoever. Seriously. But it depends on the child, of course.

    Judith of http://leeswammes.wordpress.com

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  52. I think it's great you pushed them. I do think there needs to be a balance, like if your kids truly didn't enjoy swimming, rather than pushing it, finding something else active that they did enjoy!
    I personally did some softball, track and cross country running while in school. I also periodically took dance lessons with my sisters in our home. Right now we have my 5 and 4 year old in dance. They both seem to enjoy it for now, but if there comes a day they don't, we will encourage other activities. We do skip dance during the summers, but this year plan on getting them swimming lessons.

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  53. Usually f kids express an interest in a sport they are more apt to enjoy being involved and wont mind the practices. It is such a good way to teach good kids character and comradeship, but again if it is their choice their are better results. I'm enjoying your blog and wont stop, I have come from Blogelinas 100 comment hop, and now continue to hop!! Now that we met come follow me...... on my..... GFC....Oh! My Heartsie
    @Oh! My Heartsie
    Karren

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  54. My oldest (6) is in Cub Scouts, swimming, and will be in soccer in a little while. My second (5) is in swimming, church school, and will be in soccer also. My daughter (3) is in swimming, dance, and church school. I think extra activities are important, but at least in America, many parents take it to the extreme and I believe that can hinder children. As always, it all has to be balanced.

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  55. No kids here, but I participated in karate in the evenings twice a week when I was in high school and loved it. I was in girl scouts in elementary school, as well as dance and gymnastics.

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  56. I don't have children, but I enjoyed taking figure skating lessons when I was a kid. Other than that, I wasn't at all athletic, so if I did have kids they probably wouldn't be athletic either!

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  57. I think it's cool that they teach swimming at school there! My daughter is 4, so we haven't gotten here yet.

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  58. My daughter is only 16 months old but we take her swimming to get used to the water. As she gets older, we will see what she enjoys and enroll her in them. I do believe that kids need to understand that it takes hard work to become good at something and I don't think it's a bad thing to want them to not give up easily or settle for mediocre. I don't want them to think they have to win medals to be good or be loved by us but I do want them to give their best in all that they do. Thanks for sharing the post and I hope your family is able to enjoy lots of activities together, I hope for the same for my family as we grow together!

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  59. My daughter is 4 and she loves to swim. She is pretty good too. This summer we will do lessons so she can learn how to swim on top of the water better and learn her strokes. She is excited.

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  60. My kids used to do more, but I'm afraid they don't do as much as they used to. Our policy was that once they started something they had to finish out that season. We spent years in soccer and in gymnastics, but at a certain point they have to play/perform at a higher level, which involves more practice, travel and money. So now they only do what they enjoy recreationally. We homeschool so I do require that they have some physical activity like tennis and golf, but no team sports.

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  61. My kids are homeschooled but they don't have any formal lessons. When I was young I had swimming and baseball in the summertime. I loved it. But I don't think I would make them do sports if they didn't love it. They could do other activities if we could afford it and they loved it.

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  62. It's good to introduce your kids to different activities to see which ones are going to be their "thing". I did a lot of theater growing up

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  63. My daughter is still too young to think about this just yet, but I will encourage her just to do what makes her happy. She seems to be drawn to music. I imagine she will find some sort of activities that involve music. :)

    Clarissa D

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  64. My oldest enjoys swimming and I keep him in it because he hates sports otherwise. He'd much rather be inside reading or playing something electronic. My youngest needs sports as he's very active and also starting to gain weight quickly. He wants to play everything. I do put a limit to things though, I don't believe in over-scheduled children.

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  65. At present we don't do after school sports. But we do utilize the after school educational program. They are able to learn a lot of fun things like another language or old time games, gymnastics, and a lot more. There are some days when my kids just don't want to go, but when I've already had plans for that time, I force them to go merely for 2 reasons, 1. I know they love it and when they come home they DID have a fun time and 2. they are not old enough to be left home alone, and no one will be home to care for them, so they have to go to the program for their safety.

    But yes, I can see why pushing one to do an activity even when they aren't keen on it, is actually good for them and necessary so they can truly enjoy the activity later.

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  66. I do push my kids to do extracurricular activities. But I can say they also have neighborhood friends.

    I was torn for a while because my kids were going out and playing actively with friends so I stepped back and didn;t make them take anything organized after school.

    This changed as they got older, they are 13 and 11. They almost need it now. At this age they stop running around as much and start to sit more and talk with friends. And their friends have activities too so they are not around as often. And this is the age I want them to get used to more activities. In high school I am making it mandatory they experience sports, clubs, groups, etc. So they son;t be shy and colleges look at that. I like to keep all options open.

    ~Allie

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  67. as a child my parents were never supportive with my after school activites which is why i support my children in all they do with sports now that i am a parent! great read

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