None of us want to ever be called a pushy parent, but how do you get the balance between actively encouraging your child to be the best they can be and pushing them to the point where they want to give up. In this article we will examine ways to get that balance in place.
We hear the term thrown around a lot but what actually is a pushy parent?
• I suppose the typical view of a pushy parent is the parent who stands on the side line at their kids sports match, shouting and roaring instructions. Then getting home and going over and over the things their child did wrong and how to fix them.
• Another is the parent who has a racquet or club in their child’s hands or have them sitting at a piano from the moment they can move independently.
• There can sometimes be a fine line between being supportive of your child and their interests and slipping into pushy parent mode. I am all for encouraging your children and helping them develop their skills and interests but when it moves into 2-3 hours of practise a day, at a very young age, their needs to be some balance brought to the situation.
• This can be even more difficult if your child shows a higher skill level for a certain sport or activity and you as a parent can feel under pressure from coaches or teachers offering advice on how to get your child to the top.
Is it easy to get the balance between encouragement & pushing too hard?
• The “simple” answer is “not all the time”! It can be difficult because parents feel that sometimes they need to encourage their children to go to activities that they may not be overly interested in at first, but then go on to love, once they begin to see their skill levels increase.
• There is also the difficulty of giving your children too much control over what they do. By letting them drop out of everything because they “don’t want to do it” after only doing two lessons and then giving up, can lead your kids believing that they don’t have to commit to anything, or that maybe they’re not good at any activities as they haven’t had the chance to build a certain amount of skill for the activity.
• It is important that your child needs enough time at a certain activity to see that they are improving. For some this will be rather quick, while for others it may take much longer. The important thing is to continue encouraging them.
What if your child is really gifted…what do you do then?
• The most important element here is to support them and encourage them, without it becoming the complete focus of their lives. By this I mean, your child still needs to have that balance in their lives where they can do & experience other things that aren’t related to the area that they are excelling in.
• Instead of pointing out faults and mistakes that your children make, ask them how they think they might improve their performance. You may be amazed at how much they know and understand themselves. If they are struggling, you can give them suggestions, but try and shape them in a positive learning way.
• There is no guarantee of success. The reality is that your child may go on to become the next world superstar but the majority won’t. 1% of young people will make it to the top of their chosen field so maybe this shouldn’t be the complete focus of their childhood. We all know the stories of people like Tiger Woods or the Williams sisters in tennis, where they seemed to be bred to be the best, but there are as many Padraig Harrington’s who went onto be Major champions having started in their teens.
• There have been many many junior champions or “would-be” world beaters, who packed it all in or decided they didn’t enjoy it anymore, because it stopped being fun. This can be very frustrating for parents who have invested lots of time and money in their child’s development and can cause issues within the family. Keep in mind, if your child ends up regretting dropping out, they have to live with that, not you.
• It can be important to ask yourself, who is this for? Is it for your child or is it for yourself. Your child’s enjoyment needs to be the overriding reason for them taking part in an activity, and not focusing on having to be the best or worrying about becoming a professional.
Ultimately, if we come from the perspective of "What is best for my child?", we generally won't go far wrong!