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Pushing children, how much is too much, how little is too little...

(5 Posts)
SqueegyBeckinheim Tue 02-Feb-16 10:26:27

I've been thinking about this after a conversation I had with a friend recently. She was telling me about how as a child she was good at a particular sport, so her parents pushed and pushed her until it took over her life. My friend feels that she missed out on the freedom of childhood because of this.

My experience couldn't have been more different, the phrase "benign neglect" could have been coined to describe my parents. I wasn't pushed in any way at all, or encouraged to do any out of school activities. For example when I was nine I wanted to play the guitar, so my parents bought me a guitar, but no lessons, not even a Bert Weedon play in a day book grin. I guess they thought I'd just work it out.

I went through my whole school life feeling massively envious of the children who won awards and sporting medals, and got given certificates for music grades. I assumed I must have been spectacularly untalented to never get any of these, it was only years later I realised these children were mostly, barring the odd bit of natural talent, being pushed by their parents to achieve.

I'm now a parent myself, and my DD is showing promise in a particular area. I've been proactive in making sure she has the chance to achieve in this area, with lessons and other out of school activities associated with it. She's eight now, and it's getting to the point where it is taking over our lives a bit. I'm trying to give her what I didn't have, but after talking to my friend I'm worried that I'm heading down the road her parents did. I've told DD she can stop any time she wants, and she's very happy doing what she's doing right now, but I'm also aware she's never known any different and in years to come she might regret that much of her childhood was structured.

MintyBojingles Tue 02-Feb-16 15:04:14

I would gently encourage her, but make it clear she can stop if she wants to - exactly what you are doing. Don't get too worried about it, I'm sure she will let you know if she's bored or had enough.

I too wish I'd had more encouragement as a kid.

Sallyhasleftthebuilding Tue 02-Feb-16 15:07:36

One thing to encourage stuff they like - another to force into stuff they don't - she has an exit route so I wouldn't worry!

My kids come and go with stuff - their choice - that's the difference

Highlove Tue 02-Feb-16 15:41:47

Watching with interest. I wasn't pushed at all - parents were far too interested in their careers to bother, and certainly wouldn't have entertained the idea of carting me about anywhere to do a hobby. Might have been nice to have been gently pushed, though maybe it's my low-level residual bitterness at their lack of interest in anything but work that makes me say that. (We get on well now they're retired.)

But I wouldn't want to have been the friends I had whose parents wouldn't let them give up whatever it was they were doing. One friend was a v talented swimmer but by 15 didn't want to do it. She was very rarely allowed out. Their whole house revolved around her commitments. Needless to say, she resented it and gave it up as soon as she could.

I think your middle ground sounds about right.

strawberrybubblegum Tue 02-Feb-16 21:47:12

Your middle ground definitely sounds good.

My parents were fairly middle-ground: sent me to music lessons, brownies/guides, a sport I enjoyed - and let me give them all up when I wanted to. I think they had a good balance!

But in retrospect:

1. One thing I was later really grateful for was that when I finished guides and was a bit uncertain about carrying on, my father put gentle pressure on me to at least try a few different packs of venture scouts and also cadets, even though I felt shy about going. I found one pack I liked and got a lot out of my time there.

2. I regret that when I declared that I wanted to give up my sport, they didn't ask me why or whether just changing things would be better. To be fair, I was 15, so they were trusting me to know my own mind. But in fact, I just didn't have the emotional maturity to recognise that I still really liked it but wanted to change some aspects.

3. On the other hand, I'm very relieved that when I decided aged 9 to give up violin, they also just accepted that and started me on piano instead. I used to try to make myself sick to avoid the nasty, bullying teachersad. So I would never force a child to continue a hobby. I don't actually know whether I would have been able to express what was going on even if they had tried to get to the bottom of it, but I suspect I would have got upset enough discussing it that they would have realised something was up.

So I'd say that children need more encouragement to start/carry on than you would think, but also an active interest from parents to understand how it's impacting.

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