Letting kids follow their heart to camp 0
Fuelled by warm memories of winters spent at the skating rink and summers at camp, well-intentioned parents want their children to reap the joys and benefits of their own favourite childhood sport or activity. (Thinkstock)
Hockey camp rules! Or so you think.
Fuelled by warm memories of winters spent at the skating rink and summers at camp, well-intentioned parents want their children to reap the joys and benefits of their own favourite childhood sport or activity.
But forcing kids into activities that don't fit isn't fun for anyone, so parents need to park their passions and let their children's interests lead the way, experts say.
Your child is not you, says Houston psychotherapist Mary Jo Rapini. Pushing your interests onto them leads to resentment and failure to achieve -- so too does pressuring, punishing, shaming and insulting your kids to get them to pursue your passion.
"We treat children like projects," says Carl Honore, U.K. author of Under Pressure: Putting the Child Back in Childhood and In Praise of Slow. "We start off with a fixed idea of what we want our child to be when he or she grows up and then strain every sinew to make it happen."
Analyze your motives. If you're pushing your kid into an activity mainly to satisfy some need of our own, then back off, says Honore.
While you may want your child to learn to become a piano virtuoso, he or she may be more inclined towards playing tennis or golf, says Thornhill therapist Sara Dimerman. "It's important to not insist on your child pursuing an activity just because you wish you had."
Allow them to follow their own paths, adds Dimerman, author and creator of Helpmesara.com.
"Help your child find out who he or she is, rather than force them to become what you want them to be or to do what you want them to do," says Honore, of Carlhonore.com.
Respect your child's dreams, wishes and interests, stresses B.C. parenting expert Kathy Lynn. "When I see a birth announcement with a mention like, 'Here's the new member of the soccer team,' I cringe. What if this child hates soccer?"
Making everyone's life miserable by trying to turn an artist into a jock just isn't worth it, says Lynn, adding bribing is never a good idea. "When you bribe kids they are only working for the prize and the prize has to be something they really want, needs to be offered right away and usually need to get bigger."
Take your cue from your kids: Watch what they do during their own unstructured free time and build on that, says Lynn, of Parentingtoday.ca.
"When we ask them to do things that don't fit with their particular interests and temperament they are likely to do badly," Lynn says. "They will not only be unhappy about the activity, they will feel like a loser because we tend to do well at what we like and badly at what we don't like."
According to Rapini, today's parents are living through their children instead of living their own dreams. "It is no longer good enough to have a child that is great at a sport. They have to be the best."
Your job is not ever to push your child, Rapini says. "It is your job to teach them the skills they need to push and motivate themselves. A wise parent finds what the child is interested in, helps them set small goals toward that interest, and then congratulates them when they achieve those small goals."
According to Dimerman, if your child isn't keen to try a new activity, encourage him or her to try it two or three times - once is not enough - with the understanding that if he or she still doesn't want to pursue it, you won't push any more.
"Sometimes by pushing too hard you run the risk of your child pushing back and investing more energy in fighting you than trying it out," Dimerman says.
In order to encourage participation, share with them why they may be interested in this activity, says Rapini, of Maryjorapini.com. "This means you must know your child's interests and find similarities in the new experience they don't want to try."
Negotiate with your child, "but bribing, cajoling, shaming or forcing will always backfire on the parent and, ultimately, the child," she says.
Do's for supporting your child:
- Listen to your child. What does she want to do?
- Support the activities she loves.
- Become an involved parent, i.e. driver, coach, etc.
- Learn the rules of the chosen sport.
- Allow her to change her mind and try something different next season.
- Kathy Lynn, of Parentingtoday.ca
Sure bet confidence busters:
- Belittle his choices.
- Make your attention on him depend on his choice of activity.
- Force him to participate in something he hates.
- Compare him with his cousin who is into the sport you love.
- Show your disappointment in his choices. "And if this becomes a real problem for you, go for counselling so you can accept him as he is, not as you want him to be."
- Kathy Lynn, of Parentingtoday.ca
The bad and good of pushing your dreams on your kids:
- You are telling your child you know best because it is your dream, not theirs.
- You are telling your child you think your activity is more important than theirs.
- You are telling your child they better perform well because you did - and your expectations are high that they will also excel.
- It will afford you and your child time together and if you aren't fighting about the activity, it could be a healthy way to bond.
- Your child may discover another interest.
- Your child may catch your enthusiasm and see a different, happier side of a parent.
- Mary Jo Rapini, of Maryjorapini.com
A gentle push is OK
Children sometimes need a push to try things they might otherwise avoid, agree experts.
"But that pushing is best achieved by working with the child rather than against him or her," says Honore.
Consider gentle persuasion. "Talk about why the child does not want to try the activity. Sometimes you find the root of their aversion is something else altogether: On the day in question, the child already has a busy schedule or wants to carry on seeing a particular friend after school. That might help you find a way round their reluctance," says Honore.
Offer up examples from your own life of when you tried something outside your comfort zone and discovered you liked it. "This is especially powerful if you can remind children of similar examples from their own lives," adds Honore.
The key is not to force, and to continue with positive affirmations at the child's attempts or efforts, adds Rapini.