How Far to Push Your Kids: Part II (Guidelines)

Here are some guidelines you need to follow to ensure that you don’t push your kids too far.

  • Whose dreams? Is your child doing an activity because he/she is passionate about it and love it, or is it your dream and passion that you are trying to fulfill through your kids? If your child complains about the activity and seems to be unhappy, it is time to consider another alternative, even if you want him/her to continue with it. Most of the time, you end up enrolling your little kids for activities, you were interested in, but could not learn it yourself.

As a parent, I wanted my daughter to learn carnatic music and earn a name for herself in lawn tennis. My daughter did not have interest in either. She chose dance. Though both me and my husband are not remotely interested in dance and cannot shake a leg to save our lives, our daughter has earned a name for herself as a good dancer and I am proud of that fact. Carnatic music and lawn tennis went for a toss. My daughter is happy with her dance related activities and I am happy seeing her happiness and her achievements.

Remember, you and your child are to separate individuals—you will have different dreams, aspirations, and interests. When are you happy the most? When you can follow your dreams and fulfill them. The same applies for your children as well.

  • Be satisfied: As human beings, we are never happy with what we have. Most of the parents fall into this category, especially as far as their kids are concerned.  If the child gets 70% marks, parents want the child to try for 80%. If the child gets 80%, they want the child to aim for 90%.It is true that you will achieve success only if reach for more. This need for more can be done in moderation if the child really has the potential to perform better and is basically lazy and careless. Don’t expect too much from your child and force them to perform much beyond their reach. Yes, it good to excel, but try to get your children to excel in the areas of their interest and in the areas where their passion lie. Once they taste success, they themselves might want to perform better in the other areas as well. Help them succeed, don’t push them to succeed.
  • Check natural strengths: As parents, you need to get a little more sensible and smart. You have to closely observe the interests and the natural strengths of the children.  Then, encourage the kids and give them ample support to develop and excel in those areas. Success from natural talents brings enjoyment and confidence in a child. Pushing the  children to be something they are not is not good. Instead, it is good to be encouraging and giving little pushes when required.
  • Check personality type: It is very important that the parents recognize the personality style of their child. Every child does not fall under the same category. Nor should they. Some parents may want their kids to be more outgoing, the center of attention, a total extrovert where as the child may be just the opposite. Wanting is fine, but pushing the child hard to adapt an entirely different personality is not the right thing to do. Many a times, the children do what the parents want them to, only to please them—they don’t want to disappoint their parents and want to be appreciated for their efforts. Trying to be what they are not, results in severe depression and anxiety. The children then become very confused as they find it very difficult to understand who they really are.
  •  Do the balancing act: Getting children involved in some extra-curricular activities can be beneficial to them. Initially allow them experience different activities (dance, music, keyboard, guitar, drawing, tennis, swimming, skating, etc.). Then let the kids themselves decide what they truly enjoy being a part of and love doing the best. From the list, choose two or maximum three activities based on the frequency of the activity in a week and the stamina of your child.
  • Give a gentle push:It is true that some children need to be pushed in a certain direction. In such cases, it is undoubtedly your job to mold your children and guide them. Sometimes forcing them into certain sports might turn out to be the best thing for them, which might change their life for the better. Team sports are good for your children, as it makes them disciplined, and helps them loose all the energy they have.

    My daughter started attending dance classes from the age of 5, but she never participated in any dance activities that were conducted in our housing society. According to her performance required a hall with a proper stage and lightings. She did not consider performing in the open as a performance. I had to push her to make her first performance in the society function. She had to learn that there is nothing like big and small stage for performing.

    When she was 9, I gave her an ultimatum, either she performs at the society function or she should discontinue her dance class. She naturally chose the former with the condition that it would be the first and last time she performs at the society. She performed, it as well received, people appreciated her, and called her a good dancer. They next year, when the function as announced she came to me to ask my opinion and suggestions regarding what dance she should performance. There has been no stopping after that. Apart from performing, she also started teaching dance to some kids in the society—infact I sometimes feel the urge to pull her back a bit.

  • Don’t call names: The kids usually end up doing what the parents which them to. Else, they are called lazy, dumb, useless, or stupid. Thus, the children are usually psychologically abused by their own parents—this is probably not intentional.
  • Children are not trophies: These days, all the young parents want to show off their kids as a trophy.

My son stood first in the class
My daughter came second in the dance competition
My son stood second in swimming.
Our son is the school head boy.

 Some parents also feel that they are not being good parents if their kids do not participate is all kinds of activities. Children are thus under pressure to achieve, to be competitive, and to win. Relax! Children are children, not your trophies. If your neighbor’s son comes first in his class, it does not mean that even your son should. If another neighbor’s daughter wins a swimming competition, it does not mean that you should try to make your daughter a swimmer as well.

  • Don’t over exert: Don’t push your children into all those activities you are interested in or could never do yourself. Give them the suitable options based on their liking and then allow them to make the decision regarding what they want to do.

 Tanmay enjoys cricket. He goes for tennis class, music class, and also goes for cricket coaching class.  He does not mind the pressure associated with practice and games (both cricket and tennis). On the other hand, cricket is Arjun’s  passion and obsession. He cannot think about anything else. His father is a swimmer and his mother wants him to learn tennis. Hence, he goes for swimming and  tennis coaching class as well.  But unlike Tanmay,  Arjun is not able to enjoy all these classes. Since cricket is his passion, he wants to focus only on cricket. He is overwhelmed being involved in other activities which do not interest him at all. He wanted to concentrate only on cricket. The other activities did not allow him to do it!!

  • Don’t sweet coat: Some parents actually understand what they are doing is wrong. They give examples of the other parents who push their kids and show concern for those kids, but when it comes to their own, they have a perfect answers:
      • My daughter loves all those activities. She becomes sad when we talk about taking her off a class, so we allow her to attend all those she wants to.
      • My son is very energetic. All these activities keep him occupied.

If your child wants to do six activities, it is your duty to help the child prioritize and make a choice. The truth is, you are allowing them to do these activities because you really want them to do those activities. Am I right?

Never force your children to study a certain career because you like it or could never complete it yourself. Let them recognize their own career path. You have to be around to guide them, to help them, and honestly answer their questions and queries. If you don´t know what to answer, you can investigate from reliable sources and ask your kids to investigate by themselves as well. Then you can take a well thought about decision.

You should understand that a child’s ability to succeed in life does not depend on the well-intentioned efforts of the parents. It depends on the capability, interest, passion, the thought, and the personality type of the child. You might want your son to become a doctor, but if his interest lies in machines, let him become a mechanical engineer. Okay, you need to teach your children, the importance of taking part in competitions and being competitive to survive in this world. But the drive to perform at unrealistically high levels may make the kids anxious, depressed, unhealthy, stressed, embittered, resentful, and exhausted. This may foster indifference, self-centeredness and false senses of entitlement.

We all know that parenting is not easy. Children don’t come with a user manual, but it is always rewarding to see your children achieve what they really want. If you really want your kids to be successful in life, you should first teach the kids moral values and ethics. You should also teach your  children to be resilient and independent.

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