Last year I wrote a post about pushy parents and after school sports. This provoked lots of comments and discussion. We as parents do believe that kids need to be pushed to an extent in order to grow and overcome their fears, doubts and sometimes laziness!
A year later, and this is still a topic that we are trying to find a balance in - just when you, think you've got it figured out, things change again.
Trying something new - it can be scary
Last term our youngest daughter decided to enter the inter-house chess competition at school. She's great at just saying yes to trying new things. Being the younger sister does help her do this as there isn't that much that is totally new to her thanks to seeing and experiencing so much through her elder sister.
However, her older sister has never wanted to enter the chess competitions - even a day off school doesn't tempt her! So having decided to join in, the day of the competition came, and our younger daughter was 'tired', 'grumpy', didn't want to go to school, 'nervous' and clearly regretting her decision to enter the unknown!
We didn't let her get out of it, and packed her off to school wishing her luck in her games, but feeling for her as I left her in her classroom with a sullen face - not at all like her!
It was worth the push
The end of the day came and when I picked her up from school she had a huge grin on her face, having had a wonderful day and coming home with a medal. Her confidence is now much boosted, and hopefully this experience will help her continue to try new things in the future without needing the extra push from us!
Several weeks later, she was asked to join in another chess tournament, this time against other schools. She happily joined in, encouraged some of her friends to join too and had a lovely day. Their 'team' did not win any ribbons or medals, but they had a lot of fun and said they would do it again.
Children need to be challenged
I do feel that it's important for our children to be challenged. For them to experience moving out of their comfort zone, and pushing themselves to try new things and to improve on things they can already do. It is also very important that they enjoy what they are doing.
For after school sports and activities to be fun, they need to be doing them with friends, and also friends who are of a similar level and ability to them, so they can challenge each other.
Not too hard, not too easy, ahh just right!
Moving up through 'levels' in sports or other activities is another area which can be hard to get right. You don't want your kids to be pushed to much too soon, and put in too high a level which could put them off. But at the same time it's frustrating to watch them in a group when they are not being challenged by any of their peers and as a result not having so much fun. Children often lose interest in things if they aren't being challenged sufficiently. This is often seen in the classroom with behavioural issues that stem from kids being bored and under challenged.
Level changes can be daunting for kids, and teachers and coaches are often cautious about them, not wanting to scare off a child by moving them up too soon, or without their friends. That's when it's important for the parents to have a discussion with the teachers and coaches to try to determine a solution, so the child doesn't get bored because they aren't challenged or scared off because they are challenged to much! It is often a case of what works with each child and their personality - there is no simple answer.
Sometimes the level the kids need to be in doesn't exist - but again, this is part of life - nothing is ever perfect, and kids have to learn to adapt and make the most of the opportunities that are there - choosing what is right for them personally.
Don't push ALL the time.
For all this wanting our kids to be challenged, for them to learn and grow, there are equally times when they just need to play and do their own thing. To relax and let their brains have a rest and process the constant stream of new information coming in.
It is important to find this balance. We don't want our kids to be lazy, but we don't want them to be overworked and stressed either. Learning when your kid really is tired, rather than just lazy or nervous about doing something is tricky, but so important to try to figure out.
As with everything, balance is the key. Finding this balance is what we are constantly striving for in all areas of our lives. Sometimes we get it right, sometimes we don't. We just have to learn from our mistakes and get on with trying to help our kids grow and learn in the best way we can.
Do you feel like you push your kids? Too much or perhaps too little?