This article, in Britain’s Daily Mail (the American version) just irritated me beyond belief. I know I get irritated a LOT, but this is one of those general big Pet Peeves that I have: People who push their kids to do things *right this minute* when, if they wait a day, a week, or a year, that child will eagerly run to that activity, and may embrace it as a love for the rest of their lives. Instead, the child is pushed because the parent has an agenda, and the kid ends up HATING it for the rest of his life.
The little boy in the article, for example. Why was it so important that he walk down that catwalk? It wasn’t a life lesson, it was a fashion show. And assuming, for the sake of this argument, that the kid was ambivalent about the situation before being shoved out onto that catwalk for a long, tear-filled walk, what was the big deal? What’s the harm in waiting maybe six months, for the boy to mature a bit, and letting him have another go? At that age, kids get sudden bouts of shyness. Heck, adults get shy in front of crowds! But this kid is expected to go out and preen in front of several hundred flashing cameras and goggling adults?
Last week, I attended Josh’s swimming lesson. At our pool, we have a water slide. You’ve got to walk up a bunch of stairs, so I would estimate that the start of the slide is maybe two stories high. Well, I was hanging out, watching kids swim, when I heard all this screaming and fussing from the slide area. One of the instructors (teenaged lifeguard) was trying to cajole a young boy into going down the slide. There was bribery (I’ll give you a piece of candy when we get to the bottom!), camaraderie (c’mon, I’ll go down with you!), and even threats (your mommy is going to go home and leave you here if you don’t go down right now!!).
Why? Even if the kid had gone down before, he didn’t want to go down this time! WHY is it so important that kids be forced into doing this kind of stuff? Eventually, that little boy did go down the slide, I don’t know what finally got him to do it, and when he came out of the water, he was laughing. He’d gone down before, and for whatever reason, didn’t want to go this time. And the fact that he was laughing justified, for all the adults present, that forcing him to do it was the right thing to do. But what did it teach the kid? To ignore his instincts? To give in to bullies? That adults are right all the time?
I see this all the time. Kid doesn’t want to go to the top of the playground equipment, but daddy wants him to, so daddy pushes, prods, pulls, until the kid is up there, sobbing, and daddy says, “see? It’s not so bad!” Kids playing sports – out in the outfield building sand castles, and in the dugout starting fights, because they want to be anywhere else. Honestly, to this day, I HATE weight-lifting, and many other kinds of dedicated exercise, because I was forced into it as a kid.
So I have to wonder – who benefits from of these little power struggles? Who “won”? The adult? Is it a “win” when you bully someone else into doing something that isn’t important, that they don’t to do in the first place, and wasn’t really that important before you started out? Or is this just an example of an adult on a power trip? And when DO you ‘put your foot down’ and make a kid do something?
I can think of one example to illustrate this last: My nephew, as a child, was all about baseball. He ate, slept, and talked about baseball. He was (and still is, I believe) a die-hard Cubs fan. He was thrilled when he heard that baseball sign-ups were approaching. He talked about how he was going to be on the team, and would we come watch him play? But the day of sign-ups dawned, and suddenly, he didn’t want to go. His dad dragged him over there, signed him up, and all was right with the world. Nephew went on to be a wicked ball player, and my brother coached his team. Everybody ended up happy. But as I recall, this had been a pattern, the excitement leading up to the event, and then a sudden attack of cold feet followed by that little nudge to get past the bump, resulting (mostly) in success. It wasn’t a case of Nephew being dragged, in tears, to something that he really wasn’t interested in.
I guess my rant circles around this one idea: why can’t we, as parents, just let our kids mellow for a minute and figure out what THEY want for themselves? Maybe if we did, we’d have fewer adults in the world “trying to find themselves”.