Take A Breath

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”.

This entry was posted in abilities, activities, arguments, childhood, children, kids, nurture, parenting and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Take A Breath

  1. SKL says:

    Hmm, I definitely sense some cases of parents pushing their kids to do something so the parent will save face in public or among extended family. However, most of the time, I don’t see parents pushing to the point of really upsetting the child. It’s more hopeful encouragement with a little narcissism built in.

    Personally, I have had times when I’ve “pushed” my child to do something. We’re talking about one little step that I know she can do (maybe has done before), but for some reason she’s convincing herself she can’t. I remember as a kid how I could psych myself into believing I could or couldn’t do something. Sometimes that little push helps show the child that she is competent, and avoids fears building onto irrational fears to an unhealthy point. I don’t do it all the time – probably more like once per season. And it’s not a tearfest, just a quiet discussion, often including words like “I would not ask you to do this if it would hurt you.”

    Recently I told the girls that if they tell themselves “I’m Supergirl,” they can jump higher and farther. They tried it and it worked. So they are starting to learn about the psychological aspect of ability, and maybe they won’t need any more “pushes” from Mom.

  2. SKL says:

    Also, not that I’m a fan of child modeling, but little kids are very unpredictable. It could be that the kid was experienced and normally gung-ho, and all of a sudden he didn’t like the socks they told him to wear or whatever. On the positive side, it seems like all the adults took it in stride (as far as we could see). It was actually refreshingly real, as you can imagine a little kid who is in a wedding going off script like that.

    As for everyday kiddy challenges, parents need to remember that you never let your kid know that you really, really want him to do something. The first thing to try is reverse psychology. “I don’t know, do you really think you can do that? Convince me.” It’s only to address an irrational fear that I’d “push.”

  3. Joy says:

    There’s so much to address here. I’ll try and stay on topic and start from the top. That little boy is darling. Without knowing more, he just looks to me as a little too young and maybe modeling isn’t cut out for him. That picture “looks like” the parents want him to model because I have 2 boys and neither of them ever said they wanted to be a model. At 4 or 5, I’m not sure where that would come from. My boys wanted to be the Hulk and a fireman! I’m so glad he had such a compassionate (and GORGEOUS) man to help him. It would appear that once he picked him up, he felt better.

    Working in the school system and being so involved over the years, I’ve seen this kind of thing happen over and over. I’ve seen parents “make” their kids be in talent shows or plays or just things they didn’t want to do and the kids get sad. Pushing them to do what you want them to do is one of the most unfair things to do to a child. My parents never made me participate in anything I didn’t want to and I did the same things with my kids. I did encourage new things and I tried to have them be well rounded because I feel if you don’t expose your kids to variety, how do they know what choices to make? If you don’t encourage sports for example, how in the world with they know to like sports? Or playing an instrument or scouting? Or any of the number of things kids do. I never made them do what they didn’t want to do but I also never let them quit anything. Once signed up and doing something, quitting was never an option.

    I know kids get in moods too when they just don’t want to do anything. Depending on what it is is the first thing you have to consider. Like your nephew, he really wanted to play ball and everyone knew it. Maybe this little boy didn’t want to model. Maybe the next door neighbor doesn’t want to sing in the choir. It’s my gut feeling not to make kids do what they don’t want to do or are really crying over. I wouldn’t want someone to bully me like that.

    I’ve been wracking my brain trying to think of what I’d make my kids do and the real only thing that I can think of would be if they were in a wedding. I’d bribe or do anything to get them to do something like that. It would have been practiced and I think by the time the wedding came, you’d really know if your child “could” do it or not. I think something like a wedding is a responsibly to someone else and it’s not just something you’re playing at. I don’t think making your kid jump off a diving board is the same thing as taking part in a one time thing deal that you’ve planned. If someone has taken the time to include you in something like this and you’ve agreed, it’s a responsibility. Of course this goes without saying that you’ve talked it over until with your child till you were blue in the face to make sure it’s something they are willing to do. Agreeing to do something like that, in my opinion, is giving your word and if your word isn’t worth anything, what kind of person will you be?

  4. Nikki says:

    As a parent you should know where the line is when it comes to pushing your kids. I think sometimes kids do need a little budge. But there is a difference between encouraging them to do something, and making them do it.

    I tried a few times to get Bailey to play football last fall, and basketball over the winter. He just doesn’t have any interest-issue dropped! I know those parents that make their kids be in every sport. They want their kid to be the star football, basketball and baseball player. Some aren’t cut out for it, some just don’t want to play. And you can tell! I HATE that, we deal with it every year!

    This little boy for whatever reason, did NOT want to do this. This boy walked down that catwalk because his parents made him to do it. Now look, he was balling his head off the whole time. Does his parents think anyone will ever call on him to do that again. And I’d go as far to say this boy will probably get into trouble, even though he was made to do it. Parents like these piss me off. They are stage parents, all they care about is what their child can do for them. How far their kid will get them in whatever business they are in whether it be sports, modeling, pageants…it’s not fair to the kids.

    Like Joy said though, there are situations that kids need to buck up! If they are in a wedding, or made an obligation to do something and it was talked about. Practiced. It goes both ways, and it’s up to the parent to know their child and what they are capable of at that age.

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