The fine line of pushy parenting

22 Feb

Little Miss Shy

As parents we like to think we know what’s best for our children. We want them to have a good start. With our benefit of hindsight, we don’t want them to make the same mistakes we did. But ‘knowing what’s best’ is a spectrum, one end of which is occupied by the unpleasantly Pushy Parent.  At what point does pushing your child stop being for their benefit and start being detrimental? It’s a tricky area for parents to manouevre in and one that’s perhaps impossible to get right.

Every Saturday morning my 5-year-old daughter has a drama class. Fifty per cent of the time she’ll happily dress herself in the kit and bounce off down the road. The other fifty per cent she will cry, refuse to get changed and spend an inordinate amount of time sitting on the toilet to avoid going.  On those weeks – and following a long battle – she will finally get ready and leave on the condition that if she says she still doesn’t want to go when we get there then she can come home again. Invariably, she is coaxed by the teacher to stay and will bound out at the end of the class having had a wonderful time. Kids don’t know what’s good for them.

Or do they? I feel for her entirely. She’s not being completely irrational (for once). It wasn’t until recently that I realised quite how much like me she is. I’ve always described myself as a closet extrovert – some people never see the extrovert whilst others would never believe the introvert existed. When I tell people that my daughter is shy no one can quite believe it. Nor can I. The little girl I see dancing, singing, bossing and going bonkers at home turns out to be quite different from the little girl in the classroom. She’s like me and this is not what I want for her.

I remember very clearly how hard it was to put my hand up in class. Even at university I would sit silently in seminars afraid to put myself forward in case I got it wrong. What remains now is a real sense of frustration at what could have been had I just had the guts. Maybe I could’ve been an astronomer had I not been afraid to take a degree course that involved going on field trips abroad. (Now I press my nose against the velux window in the loft room and look up.) Tempting as it is, I don’t want to live ‘my life that wasn’t’ vicariously through my daughter – that would be just plain selfish. What I do want though is for her never to have to look back and wonder what she could’ve done had she not been shy.

It’s hard to persuade a child to be brave – that it’s okay to get things wrong. They don’t have to be perfect. After all, mistakes help us learn. Children naturally seek comfort so why should they push uncomfortable boundaries? How far parents should push those boundaries for them is not an easy question to answer. There is a point where you must stop and ask yourself why you are pushing and who you are pushing for. If it’s for yourself then hopefully the bad parenting klaxon will sound and knock you squarely on the head.

Whilst my daughter continues to dash out of the drama class bursting to tell me what she’s been doing – the earlier tears a distant memory ­– I will continue to push her to go. It’s painful to see her cry but each time she will take a little step towards being brave enough to go out and grab life by the horns. And I’m tremendously proud of her.

4 Responses to “The fine line of pushy parenting”

  1. simonsometimessays February 22, 2014 at 8:02 pm #

    The parent who is worried about being pushy is rarely actually pushy. Perhaps the appearance of a dilemma arises because the acivity in this instance is a voluntary one, so it might feel that one shouldn’ t apply pressure to children in the same way as if they were reluctant to go to school. But that’s not the case: persuading a child to go to school is not something we do simply because it is mandatory, but because we know it is right for them. a class, swimming club, piano lessons – any of these is something that a conscientious parent will consider as giving their child the widest range of experiences they can manage; but that same parent will know when to ease back.

  2. Siobhan @ Everyone Else is Normal February 27, 2014 at 12:34 pm #

    Lovely thoughtful post that is so relevant for us parents in south England where its the norm for kids to do loads of extra curricular activities, and something I’m very aware of. I wrote a post on the subject The Best is the Enemy of the Good once addressing similar issues, with a follow up on how that affects things like our how we worry about how perfect our homes/images are (I intended to write one on education and never did, but that will come and soon!). I think the fact that you’re aware of this is the best start, like your other commenter said – its unlikely that you are pushy if you’re aware of it. But the key question to ask yourself is why is she not wanting to go? If its because she’s tired and needs a break on a Sat am, then maybe give it a rest and wait till she’s older (she is only 5 after all)? But if its because she’s shy, then maybe continue. My kids desperately need Sat am off, i see it as their ‘Friday night’ in the way we see a Friday night i.e. kick back and switch off. So they’ve not done anything on Sat mornings for years. My 9 year old is finally doing dancing at 11am, but no earlier! She’s a bit like your daughter – gregarious, and stands up for herself at home, but quite shy at school. But she’s not done drama up till now. I’m going to be considering that for her soon, but remember, school better prepares our kids for standing up in front of others now than when we were at school, so bear that in mind. Keep the thoughtful posts up! S

    • Crumbs & Pegs February 27, 2014 at 2:12 pm #

      Hi Siobhan. Thanks for commenting. I like your Saturday morning style! Thankfully the drama class doesn’t start until 11.15 so we do still get some chillout time. I also try not to do too much with her after school – she definitely needs to stop and recoup some energy by 3.30. 🙂

  3. Actually Mummy... March 2, 2014 at 12:42 pm #

    Oh Helen I see myself in your description of you, and my son in your daughter’s personality. It is so so hard isn’t it? I firmly believe though that children find their natural footing in stages, and in their own time. I think you’re doing the right thing. Bug was exactly the same, and I pushed because I knew he’d enjoy it. But when it came to the performance and he just wouldn’t join in I didn’t force it. Now he’s the life and soul. I think when you know you know x

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