How Do You Know When to Push Your Child and When to Back Off?

Kids do need encouragement to succeed but how much is too much.

This week's topic is inspired by a couple of comments and stories from our Mom's Council.

One mother recalled during a meeting that her daughter was once absolutely devoted to theater- she loved everything about it.  Then one day she lost interest (or so it appeared).

Later, after she had quit the activity, she told her mom she wished she had pushed her a little harder to stay in.

The topic of pressuring kids was also the subject of a discussion at a after a screening of the film 'Race to Nowhere,' which suggests that kids are getting anxious and stressed from the amount of pressure they get in school.

So how much is too much?  To help answer that question we turn to our local moms council, with Courtney Scrabeck, Nina Malone, and Deborah Graff of the local MOMS club, as well as local moms Leslie Aitken and Nadine Isenberg, and Laura Monteros.  Please leave your comments, questions, and suggestions in the section below.

Nadine Isenberg March 09, 2011 at 10:26 PM
There are a couple of ways I as a parent have to deal with my children. My daughter is a Freshman in HS and a high achiever. I don't push or even get involved in her studies unless she asks. I am very involved in her music at school and provide assistance to the teacher and students when needed. My son is a fourth grader and has a hard time with reading and keeping up with others in class (or so he thinks). I have to push daily to do homework, but when he gets argumentative I back away. It is no use trying to get his work done when he wants to fight or feels like I am pushing to hard. I may back away, but I always come back to the homework with a different approach like, making a silly story with all of his vocab words. Or find one of his nature books and ask him questions about the animal in the book. When he starts talking about the book I know he comprehends what he is reading and make sure to let him know I am impressed. Positive reinforcement is the least stressful way to get him to do his work. When he wants something that cost money, he has to earn it by being good in school and doing all his homework without incident. his teacher said today that last week was a GREAT week for him. He wanted to earn something and he did.
Courtney March 09, 2011 at 10:39 PM
My oldest is 5 and was still having potty training issues. Like accidents at school and home. It was driving me crazy! He was totally potty trained and then regressed, so I decided that if I got mad at him when he had accidents, he would stop. (They aren't like bladder problems, just like he forgets to go to the bathroom and pees his pants) So he'd have an accident and I would yell and make him take a cold shower to clean up. (advice given to me by my sis-in-law that worked for her kids. One cold shower and they were "cured"). We were doing two cold showers a day sometimes. I actually got sick of it. It happened all the time, so I stopped. I stopped getting mad and I just helped him clean up and wearily took his dirty clothes to the laundry room. And he stopped having accidents. This is a terribly revealing and completely random situation, but I found that by not pushing him, he sort of figured out he was a big boy and he takes care of his own potty needs now. Which actually goes against his rule follower-ness. So it surprised me to figure it out.
Laura Monteros March 09, 2011 at 11:29 PM
My daughter's first-grade teacher gave me some great advice ab0ut homework. She said not to look over her shoulder, not to do it for her. At that moment, I made up my mind that my kids' homework was their homework and their grades were their grades, not mine. Of course, I provided a place for them to work and all the supplies they needed and was available for help. Up until 4th or 5th grade, I would check their backpacks every night, and would remind them to do their work. But beyond that, they had to own it. Keep in mind each child is an individual. I had one high achiever who now has an Ivy League degree. I had two underachievers who still did well enough (one better than the other) and both have bachelor's degrees. And I had one who I feared might never make it out of high school but will graduate college in April and is headed to grad school. I pretty much have the same philosophy with activities. I let them try whatever they wanted, because childhood is a time of learning. It's when they should be able to explore whatever interests them. They did have to keep any commitments they made, of course. If I paid for three months of music lessons or a season of soccer, they had to see it through, but they could quit after that. Mostly what kids need is unconditional love, conditional approval (they have to have behavoir standards), and unwavering support.
Leslie Aitken March 10, 2011 at 12:06 AM
This is one of the many tough parenting challenges. It has specifically been in the news since Amy Chua's "Why Chinese Mother's Are Superior" has been under discussion. There are a couple of areas that I think are important not to push on; potty training and grades. There are too many psychological issues associated with control and sexuality later in life to use force or shame when it comes to bladder and bowel control. When it comes to grades, they aren't really the issue, EFFORT is the issue. If your child is working at their top effort level, than that is the important issue. Being successful at something is by far the most important thing in life. As long as kids are learning and engaging at school, that is fine. Learning at an average level with average grades is acceptable......especially if they are finding their own area of success or excellence somewhere else such as art, music, cooking, sports, etc. Feeling successful is its own reward. Next I will cover where I think kids need to be "pushed" a bit...........
Leslie Aitken March 10, 2011 at 12:08 AM
There are two areas that I feel a parent has to push on: one is practicing a skill. If your child shows an aptitude for music and wants to play an instrument a parent has to insist on practice time......especially the first year or so. That is because the parent knows more than the kids about deferred gratification. Very few kids want to practice at first, they want to be good immediately. That takes practice and it is up to the parent to know better. I'm not advocating anything unreasonable. A half an hour a day for a young child, or an hour a day for an older child is enough for them to improve enough for the experience to become rewarding for them. Once that happens, they will want to play and practice makes perfect. If they never want to practice, like with one of my kids (even though she was talented) we stopped the lessons and practicing after one year. The other issue that must be taught or pushed is to learn to be a good worker. Help them to do what they are told, so that eventually they can follow directions at school or at work. Learn how to start and finish tasks. If they empty the trash cans, put them back. If they wash the dishes, put them away......help them learn the feeling of accomplishment from being a good worker. It will help them throughout life. Last but not least.......pick your battles carefully.....no two kids are the same. It is our job to help them find their own path.
Laura Monteros March 10, 2011 at 12:49 AM
I agree with Leslie about chores. Every child should have age-appropriate chores and should at least help pick up after themselves. (When they are really little, they do need some help.) They should also be expected to pitch in on chores that aren't usually theirs when it's necessary. Similarly, they should be allowed to handle money. I don't say "taught" because the best teacher is experience. I started mey kids with a small allowance when they were three years old. A certain portion had to go to church offering, but the rest they could spend however they wanted. One of them usually spent his money right away, but he decided he wanted a certain toy, and he saved for six months to get it. I think it was $14 and he got about 75 cents a week allowance, but he managed with that and birthday money. He had that toy for years and passed it on to his younger brothers. A word about bedrooms...I stayed out of my kids' rooms after they hit puberty. Mainly because I couldn't handle it! By then, they were doing their own laundry so I didn't need to go in to get their clothes and they would take the sheets off the beds and give them to me on my laundry day.
Laura Monteros March 10, 2011 at 12:52 AM
Speaking of laundry, it's a perfect example of how to teach kids to be independent. I started with them helping me to put the dry clothes in the laundry basket, then they learned to put away their clothes after they were folded, then they learned fold them themselves, and finally (when I couldn't tell which clothes were clean and which were dirty), they learned how to sort and wash their own clothes. In fact, I think laundry is a metaphor for what the job of a parent is. Step by step, teach them what they need to know to become independent, healthy adults.
Nina Malone March 10, 2011 at 02:10 AM
We too have decided w/our daughter to allow her to try different activities, she chooses what she wants to do (we decide on how many we think she can handle at a time) and she has to follow through for as long the activity is paid up. There have been times when she doesn't want to go to dance, I allow her to make the decision whether or not to continue, and so far, she's always continued. I ask her why she doesn't want to go and when she says it's hard, we discuss how it takes practice before something comes easier. So far, she's understanding it and wanting to continue. I've also tried to give her a variety of things to do so she can identify a few things eventually that speak to her. We also chose her school based on their alternative homework approach. It is a project-based school and doesn't send home rote homework every night. They feel that if the child's not learning it in school, they're not teaching it right. so if the child needs extra help etc., they find alternative ways of teaching so that it is comprehended. Having said that, while I don't sit at home doing pages of homework every night, I find myself constantly exploring the variety of topics she is studying with her in alternative ways (through the internet, library, home materials, outings, etc.) and developing our own projects to work on. I find she is learning so much in this manner. I'm not saying it works w/every kid tho, you've got to know your kid regarding anything in which they're involved.
Nina Malone March 10, 2011 at 02:19 AM
While I think many children are definitely feeling stressed from ridiculous amounts of homework, I think the schools need to reassess how to better teach and evaluate the kids. For some reason kids aren't producing like they should, but they are having more time in school and more homework. I think kids are incredibly overscheduled also and parents need to really tune into their kids behaviors, open dialogue to assess how they are doing mentally and spiritually. We also do "chores" a little differently. My daughter is 6 and she likes helping around the house. So rather than pay her to do stuff, she either takes the initiative to help out (vacuuming, clearing the table, setting the table, cleaning her room, tidying the living room) or we ask her to do things and we buy her things that we feel are appropriate when she wants them (even if she had the money, we'd be deciding if she can buy it anyhow). She also gains money along the way from birthday money, pocket money from us, etc. so she's got a nice stash in her piggy bank if she wants for money. We've asked her if she'd rather get an allowance, but she likes feeling part of the family and working together, so we've kept it that way and so far it's working out well. One other thing. I used to dance and I ended up taking a year w/a horrible teacher (same thing with violin). I quit both and to this day, regret never having gone back. Kind of wish my parents would have "encouraged" me a little more. Just saying.
Laura Monteros March 10, 2011 at 05:10 PM
My kids didn't get money for doing regular chores and I didn't withhold allowance if they didn't do them until they were in high school. Chores were part of being in the family. Allowance was so they could have some independence in spending and learn how to handle money. I never told my kids how to spend their money, but I didn't buy unnecessary things for them out of my money. They had to save up for the extras. I was actually glad my kids got homework every night, because I felt it prepared them to study as they got older. However, I do feel they got too much (a lot of it busy work) and in middle school and high school, the teachers did not stick to the schedule--English and social studies two nights, math and science the two other nights. Some of the assignments were too long for most kids to do in an evening and sometimes they had homework in five or six subjects on one night. Homework should always have a purpose to it, and it should never be assigned based on how long it takes to do. If the meaningful work can be done in 10 minutes, don't pad it to 45 minutes because that's what some government program or school standard says must be given.
latia February 07, 2013 at 06:56 PM
hi, my name is tia i have this girl name kiki suggs and her son name kendick suggs its like when he gets sleepy and tired he gos and jump on tites and she told us how to get you kid off your beasts and we told her that to puch him off and he will get tired of it and i said to her that it can cost to get you chest pain and it can hurt really bad and you have to go to the doctor for that chest pain and your breast can hurt very very bad to so i said to her when he come to you and put his hard on your breast tell him to get off of you cause that hurt.


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