Sometimes as parents we need to give our kids a little push to get them going in the right direction, but occasionally we end up pushing too hard. How do we know when enough is enough? How do we know if we are pushing too hard? Here's a go-to guide to decide whether we are being encouraging or downright pushy:
1. If your kid starts to dread doing an activity, hobby, or sport, you may be pushing him or her too hard to love something that perhaps he or she doesn't love . . . but you do. Yes, sometimes kids will dread when activities or academics pose too much of a challenge for them, but we do know when our kids are simply afraid or struggling . . . or really disliking an experience. Pay attention to the "dread." Is your child simply trying to avoid the hard work or not enjoying the process? As parents, we need to encourage them to work through obstacles, but there is a difference between a struggle and simply distaste for something. It's hard to not want your child to love art, basketball, piano, or what have you as much as you do, but sometimes even if our children show an inkling of interest in what we do, it may not last long once a kid gets a shot at trying something out, and as parents, it can be sad when you see that your kid hates what you love. Most importantly, though, we must remember our kids are individuals, and we have to let them be who they are as they are!
2. Quitting: If your child wants to turn in his soccer cleats, ask him why. Is he not enjoying the sport, having trouble with kids on the team, or feeling discouraged about his ability? If your child has lost the love or never quite got the spark for the game, let your kid finish the season and never return. If your kiddo is struggling socially or is frustrated with his ability, don't let him leave the team! This is a great moment to help your kid learn how to deal with social problems and/or how to work a bit harder to get to where they want to be. Obviously if the team or any other activity is a social death trap for bullying, pull your kid out, but usually the social struggles I am talking about happen to be more one-on-one or friendship skills that kids learn over time and with guidance.
3. Grades are falling: Suddenly, your child seems to be slipping up at school. Are you pushing her in her outside activities too much or overscheduling her? Do you place a lot of emphasis on academics or pressure on her to achieve certain grades that may or may not be realistic for her based on her own ability? When grades fall, it can be a sign that you're pushing way too hard, Mom!
4. Suddenly sick: Your daughter is sick all the time and noticeably when she's set to head to dance or softball practice. If she's avoiding an activity, there could indeed be social trouble or stressors other than pushing her that's causing her to all of a sudden get multiple headaches, but be wary that perhaps you're push-push-pushing too much, Mom!
5. All about balance: Is your child's life focused solely on one thing and nothing else? Does your child never get downtime? Is he or she always ending up doing homework late or rushing through because another activity is taking up the whole calendar? Your little one's life might not be balanced, and you may have to dial it back, Mom.
6. Criticism is critical: If you're finding yourself offering a ton of criticism about junior's practice SAT scores or wrestling moves, you might be getting a bit too focused on the win and pushing so hard that you're forgetting to let your child enjoy what he or she is doing, or in the case of the SATs, you're not accepting your child's natural abilities and weaknesses. As a former teacher, I saw this all the time — parents pushing on about the SATs while students were clearly doing the best they could, yet it wasn't up to Mom and Dad's "standards."
We all want our kids to be the best they can be, and it's important to not let them slack or avoid challenges, but at the same time, it's important to not let our desires and wants overshadow our children's needs and wants, as well as their natural abilities. It requires a balance, which sometimes, as parents, isn't so easy to achieve!