Do you push or challenge your children? Sometimes I think there’s a fine line to walk when we want to encourage our children to succeed. We might see that they have gifts, talents or skills they are not using, or we know that with just a little more effort they could reach their goals.
But the approach we take and the way we view our children will determine whether or not they walk away from a situation feeling empowered and in charge of their own learning, or feeling like they can’t make their own decisions or choices.
How can we make sure we are challenging our children instead of pushing them?
Pushing is enforcing goals you’ve set for your children. Challenging is helping them overcome obstacles on the way towards accomplishing their own goals.
Do you have a lot motivation to help others achieve their goals when they don’t personally involve you or that you can’t see the value in? If not, why should you expect that of your children? If you’d like your child to have stronger math skills, look at what they think is important. Are they saving to buy something big? Would learning some geometry help them build something better? If you can show your child how you can help him reach his own goals instead of pushing him to complete your own, he’ll become an even stronger self-directed learner and be much more open to your advice and encouragement.
Pushing is not allowing your child space to stop doing something she in no longer interested in or has motivation to do. Challenging is reminding her how excited she was to take on that project or new skill in the first place and giving her time and space to approach it in her own way.
Most of us start out excited to begin a new project. We plunge in headfirst, not knowing what to expect. It’s when that initial falling-in-love stage is over and you have to start putting in the hard that many people walk away. We want our children to see that anything worth doing well takes perseverance and dedication, but pushing them to complete something they no longer see the value in will only cause them to want to quit even more. Remind them why they wanted to start the project in the first place. Encourage them to play and mess around with things that interest them just for the fun of it. Don’t turn everything into something serious. There are also times when you’ll want to show them how if they put in the work, they’ll see even greater success; just be careful not to push them so that they lose their love for the project, skill or idea that captured their attention in the first place.
Pushing your child is giving him reasons why you think something is important. Challenging is helping your child understand his own reasons why something is important.
As parents, we have the advantage of experience. We’ve had a lot of failures in our lives to learn from. You can see the importance of learning valuable skills or gaining specific knowledge because they’ve made a difference in your life. Your child hasn’t had those same experiences. Just telling someone why something is important isn’t going to work if they don’t see the relevance in their own life. If you think that something is important for your child to know, you must give him a reason to see why it is important to him. And if you challenge him to come up with his own reasons why what you’re asking him to do is important, or present him with situations where he could see the relevance of what you’re asking and he still chooses not to take your advice, then maybe it’s time to either ask yourself if what you’re requesting really is that important or to drop the topic for the present time.
Pushing is trying to get someone to do something on your own timetable. Challenging is helping someone succeed according to their own timetable.
When you’re kids are little, it’s often more convenient to zip your kid’s coat up instead of waiting those extra minutes for them to do it themselves. You want them to potty train faster, settle down to sleep sooner, help put away toys faster, and you want it done when you want it done. But we all learn at different rates. We all have varying degrees of concentration and patience. Pushing your child to learn to read or do math or taking on outside the home responsibility will only backfire. It will produce the opposite results you’re looking for. Kids are people, too; this is something most people in our society forget. They have their own inner timetable for when it’s the best time to learn certain skills, become emotionally ready for certain situations, and develop their talents and gifts. When you sense your child is very interested in something, that’s the time to gently bring things and opportunities their way. Encourage them to explore as much as they like. Give them as much support they need. But avoid placing a higher importance on your timetable than that of your child’s.
Pushing is making someone feel as if they have no choices. Challenging is helping someone see the choices they never knew they had.
When people are pushed into doing something, they feel trapped. They agree to demands because they believe they have no other choice. Do you really want your child to do what you say just because you nagged her to death about it? Do you really think she’s going to walk away from the experience taking anything of real value? She’ll learn plenty of lessons, but I guarantee they won’t be the lessons you had in mind. On the other hand, if you try to present as many possibilities as you can to your child, to actively get her opinion and advice on things, she’ll see that there are many ways to look at a problem or potential conflict. There’s always more than one way to approach a problem. People are often rigid and narrow-minded in their thinking because they’ve been trained to spew back answers someone has handed to them instead of thinking for themselves. There’s a lot of top-down authority between adults and children, but rarely is there an effort at collaboration. Instead of either or, seek out as many possibilities as you can.
Photo Credit: joguldi
What are your biggest struggles in challenging your children instead of pushing them?
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