How Hard Should We Push Our Children?

There’s something very real that keeps us from exercising our dynamic talents and pursuing new experiences. It’s called resistance.

Have you planned to do something and believed you were excited to do it, but when it came down to doing it, you hesitated? It could be as big as writing a book or quitting your job, or small as going to a new meet-up group.

Your comfort zone, your cubicle at work or your place on the couch, often feels a million times better in the moment of question. Sometimes you are too indecisive to start. How does one write the first line of a book? Sometimes you need to rest. How does one muster up the energy to go salsa dancing after a long day of keeping children healthy and happy? Sometimes you feel too behind to get ahead. Sometimes you’d rather tuck tail and run home than chase down a goal.

I get it. I know it. Yet, when we push ourselves to do something we think we want to do, we rarely regret it. You’ve seen the t-shirt that says, “I never regret going to the gym.”

I remember resistance in my childhood. I didn’t want to practice the piano. My mother pushed me. I learned how to read music and I am better for it. I no longer play, but I sing every day. Singing brings me joy.

I see this resistance playing out in my daughter. She never wants to go to swimming lessons because she dislikes putting her face in the water. I always push her to go, she always has fun.

But pushing is not the solution for everything, and we can easily get lost in the gray area. Sometimes resistance comes in for a reason. Sometimes resistance protects our bodies from excessive exertion and our souls from the wrong path. Going back to the t-shirt, if we go to the gym with depleted bodies and we get hurt, then we will regret it.

How do we differentiate between pushing for good and pushing against good? The question becomes more complicated when we consider it as parents. Forcing yourself to do something is not the same as forcing someone else. What do you do if your child wants to quit something? How do you know when to push and when to back away?

I err towards pushing. Push the kid to grow, push towards the challenges, push through the fear. Teach them to hang on. Teach them grit.

On the other hand, I see the virtue in editing. We cannot do everything. Life is a process of pairing away what is not essential. So we should push, but not with a blind eye and a deaf ear. We must look for the reason behind the resistance to see if we can help ease it, rather than pull the child over it, kicking and screaming. Forcing often equates to breaking. Breaking the spirit serves no one. A power struggle is another term for war.

Though I’m sure I will revisit the question as my children grow, for now, I’m going to settle on this: push them, but don’t carry them; keep pushing them, but don’t force them.

This is day 22 of 30 consecutive days of blogging. I’m glad you’re along for the ride. If you liked this post, please share using the buttons below. If you have something to add, feel free to comment openly or anonymously.

To read more of my thoughts on womanhood, mindfulness and the creative life, please follow the blog or subscribe via feedburner.

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