Throughout my own childhood, my parents rarely forced me to follow through on anything that I resisted with enough gusto. Whether it was piano lessons, swimming lessons or cleaning my room, if I displayed enough resistance, I could pretty much count on getting out of it. That’s not to say I wasn’t encouraged. But things generally came easy for me and if it was something I enjoyed, of course I did my best. But the minute something became difficult or was outside my comfort zone, I would typically resist it with great fervor. My parents, subsequently, never pushed me very hard and I could usually find a way to get out of following through. It’s a truth I look back on and resent in some form or fashion. And I often wonder if they were wrong to let me get my way? Could I have benefited from being pushed a little harder. Could they have been stricter? Or would that have created an entirely different set of issues later on?
These questions race through my head as I see my middle child progressing. She’s the one who goes kicking and screaming to things. But then typically, in most instances she is the one I have the most trouble getting to leave once we get there. She has a definitive comfort zone. Wants to be a fashion designer and study in Paris. (She’s currently 7, but this has been a truth for the past 3 to 4 years). She is not very open to experiencing things that require putting herself out there. But usually, once she does she excels. Ice skating is a perfect example. Didn’t want to do it. Didn’t want to do it. Fought through the first four lessons. Then BAM! She loved it!
So it took me by surprise when we decided to go roller skating and she said no. She fought the idea in typical fashion. But rather than let her have us all sitting at home, I forced the issue, assured she would warm up once we got there. So we piled in the car and headed to the skate center. And even after we got in and my skates were secure, she resisted despite my best efforts. I tried every maneuver I know. Encouragement, bribery, guilt, you name it. But her will was strong and she was miserable. So, after watching her look dejected as her brother, sister and I made our way around the rink three or four times, I ditched the skates and dropped another twenty on the claw machine while her sister got her laps in.
So what’s a parent to do? When do you push? When do you give? I think it’s important to expose your kids to as many different experiences and activities as you can and push them to see it through to a point where you know they’ve at least given it a shot. One lesson doesn’t count. They have to work through some difficulty to truly appreciate whether or not this is something they’ll carry with them. But at what point is it pushing too hard? This little one is a feisty, stubborn, stomp her foot kind of gal. She’s as determined as any child I’ve ever met. From the time she could walk, it was obvious she would require much more encouragement and prodding than her older sister. But how much is too much? When do you let her be who she is and when do you force her outside her comfort zone?
That’s when it dawned on me. What about OUR comfort zones. What about the other two kids and myself. Seems like we’re always trying to get the middle one to go our way. So, my mission for this week is to find an activity that is all about her that we can do together. Rather than push her outside her own comfort zone, I’m going to first push myself outside mine. Then I’ll push the other two along with us. For the next two weeks I think I’m going to encourage and “push” the rest of us to walk a mile in the middle child’s shoes. And also encourage her to push us a bit. Maybe if she sees us willing to go the extra mile, she’ll be a little more open to trying new things herself. Teach by example maybe?
Stay tuned for updates as this ought to be an interesting two weeks.
And suggestions are welcome!
Have a great week.