Pushing your Kid the Right way


How do we know when to push our kids, and when to let them find their own way? 

How do we know when to brush off the dirt and wipe the tears away, or let them curl up with their blanket and stay in their safe place.  Finding the balance between pushing our kids outside their comfort zone and allowing them to do as they want, can be extremely difficult.  I am finding this to be more and more true as my kids get older. The tears are bigger and the motivation level is non existent.  

I tend to push my kids to try new things all the time.  Maybe it is because I have two out of three that don’t do much of anything.  My oldest child, Kyle, has closed himself off from the world for so long, that now it is a very scary place.  His favorite thing to do is to be curled up with his blanket, surrounded by his favorite toys and me close by.  It is his safe place. Through the years, I have exposed him to every sport and tons of activities from art to guitar, acting, cooking, even lego building (which he loves), always willing to try it once.  I am still waiting for the one thing he is going LOVE. Sometimes I push to hard and instead of being a positive experience, it stays with him as the worst time of his life. Roller coasters, Junior Lifeguards and sleep away camp are top of the list.  What I think will be fun for him, I have learned doesn’t matter, he has to want it. The problem is, there is nothing that excites him, nothing he wants.  

There is a huge difference between allowing your child to have alone time, and totally isolating themselves from the world.  If you spend your life in a dark hole, the thought of stepping outside can be overwhelming. Kyle boarded the bus this year, headed away for four days to outdoor ed.  His face and hands up against the glass window, his green eyes beaming at me with tears running down his cheeks. My heart broke. No parent wants to see their child sad, especially as they are literally pulling away from you.  The days leading up to outdoor ed, we had several conversations about Kyle not wanting to go. He was still feeling the pain of being homesick from sleepaway camp, and although this was only for half the time, the pain was real and raw.  

So what do I do when I have a situation that I am not sure how to address, I call on my team.  Kyle has been a kid who teeters with depression, so I didn’t want to ignore his feelings, but I also knew that he had to go on this school trip.  For one, it was a school event and two, if he didn’t go, he would further isolate himself from his peers. Because Kyle can sometimes manipulate me with his sad eyes and pulling on my heart strings, I need to look at each situation carefully.   I need to make sure I truly understand his feelings and I don’t ignore signs if they are bigger than what I think them to be. One of his teachers overheard him at school saying he would rather kill himself than go to outdoor ed. In my heart of hearts, I know Kyle would never hurt himself, and he was saying this in a non-facetious way.  However, I will not be the parent that ignores things. I will not be the parent, that heaven forbid something happens to my child, who says, “I saw the signs, I just didn’t think much of it.” I will not stick my head in the sand and allow my child to be alone without helping him through the dark and scary times.  

After discussing with his therapist, Kyle understood he needed to go, even if he didn’t like it.  There are things in life that Kyle is not going to want to do. Some of them, we can talk about and some of them are not negotiable.  We have choices in life. The conscious choices we make about what we want and what we don’t want. What is acceptable and not acceptable.  How we want to spend each day or view a situation. Kyle had a choice to make. He was going to be on this trip for four days. He could choose to spend four days hating every minute, or he could choose to allow himself to be present and experience what was ahead.  He actually may even enjoy himself.  

The four days were long, with no real way to communicate or check up on Kyle.  I tried to stay busy. I knew he was okay, but I didn’t want to allow myself to think of him sad, when I couldn’t be there to hug him and make the hurt go away.  Luckily he has an amazing teacher, and she knew his state coming on this trip. She checked in with me a few times to let me know he was doing well. Seeing his face as he walked off the bus filled me with so much emotion.  I was happy he wasn’t crying. I was proud, I was hopeful, I was anxious and I was relieved as much as he was it was over. All I did was hug him and tell him how much I loved him. When he was ready, he shared and shared it all, not missing one meal eaten or one story that was told.  And he actually said he had a little fun.

Angela Wingard