To Tough Love Or Not

by The Dalai Mama on December 4, 2012

in Noah, Parenting

Parenting really just gets harder.  When Noah was younger, the answers were pretty clear and easy.  No, don’t put the dog food in your mouth, etc.  As kids grow, the answers aren’t so easy or obvious.  I think it is really important that my kids do something and are part of something.  I think that having an activity is really important and it’s been pretty easy to have the kids active in something.  Noah really likes sports and is pretty athletic.   He loves baseball, soccer, gymnastics, etc.

I have also learned a few things about my son and his personality.  He doesn’t like not being good at something.  He is quick to quit (or want to quit) when something stops being easy and turns difficult.  There were baseball games when hitting was hard and he wanted to quit mid-game.  That just isn’t an option.  I have worked hard to try to reinforce for Noah that quitting when something is hard is not something we do.  I hope that I am modeling that message for him (yet, I wonder–as I just at 3 cookies, I didn’t need and aren’t going to help me get healthy).

Anyway, today he has gymnastics and this morning he asked if he could quit.  My first reaction is No.  I told him that he had to do all of December and then we would revisit it.  I asked him why and his reasons are pretty minor:  When we do forward rolls my head hurts and we have to do them every time.  I don’t like the high bar, because once I fell off.  It’s hard and scary.    While these are valid to some degree, are they really reason enough to quit?  He wanted to quit piano when it was hard.  He still does piano.  He wanted to quit soccer practices when they were boring.  I didn’t let him.

I know that Bill is going to have a different view than I do.  This will take some smooth parenting and some honest discussions and one of us is going to win and one going to lose.  But that can’t matter, we have to do what is best for Noah.  I am not sure that quitting gymnastics because it’s hard is a lesson I want to teach my kid.  We can’t quit when something is hard.  Lots of things in life are hard.

I also want him to know that he as some control over his own life, but at what cost is that control given?

When he was invited into this gymnastics program, we sat and talked about it.  My initial reaction is to have him finish the whole year and then see where we are in May.  I think it’s important to understand commitment.  I also think that he’ll be better able to make this decision and will have given it a whole year of effort.

I also have to ask, why am I pushing him?  Is it for the right reasons?  Am I invested in having him do gymnastics for some other reason?  I want to say that it is about Noah and only Noah.  He is good at gymnastics–really good (better than he is at any other sport).  I want him to excel, but I also want him to be happy.

Sometimes we have to encourage our kids to go things they don’t want to.  Oh the tough choices are only just beginning.

What’s your take?  Do you let your kids quit when they want, or do you encourage (force) them to keep going?

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Steph December 7, 2012 at 8:56 am

We’ve done both. As the kids have gotten older, we’ve become firmer with “if you start it, you finish it.” But when they were/are little, a lot of times they don’t understand what they have gotten into (or what we have gotten them into!). In those cases, we frame it as a celebration of moving onto something new rather than quitting. There is always something new to devote ourseleves to, whether it is an organized activity or simply reading a new book together, starting a garden, planning a menu, etc. That is what works for us (though I know we aren’t grooming any world class athletes as a result!)- I know a lot of other people are more rigid from the beginning and that works well for their family dynamics. Sometimes we have gotten into things that aren’t what WE expected as parents, too. I think it is ok to send the message to kids that extracurriculars are just that, extra. If they’re not working or if the leaders change course on you, really….so what? Modify your involvement or move on. Some things you just can’t control, there is no need to suffer because of it. That makes us grumpy parents and then we’re not the family we want to be. You guys are very deliberate, thoughtful parents. I’m sure you’ll do what works best for you and your kids. I bet gymnastics is adorable :-) .

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The Dalai Mama December 7, 2012 at 3:40 pm

@Steph: Steph, I agree. I think the biggest part of Noah’s desire to “quit” is that it’s a lot of time to put in the gym. But he admittedly loves gymnastics (he just got his first ring routine) and I want to find a way to make it work–because he doesn’t really want to give it up completely. So, we have agreed to let him have a night off every once in a while and that seems to be a good compromise for right now. We’ll see.

You are certainly right–gymnastics is pretty adorable and he is actually pretty good.

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Steph December 8, 2012 at 9:04 pm

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