This question stumps me at times when trying to know how much to expect from my child. Do I push him beyond his limits, or will that break him, causing nothing but pain and frustration? Even though the answer ultimately depends on the child, and the situation, the real issue that needs to be addressed is not so much what the child can handle but what the parent should expect.
Sometimes I tend to look at a situation from the wrong perspective, skewing my expectations. If my child is not concentrating during language, rather than looking at the ‘why’s’ I fast forward in my mind twenty years and fear that my child will struggle in “the real world.” Then, out of fear, I push him too hard rather than working with him at a pace that is reasonable for him. This is unfair and frustrating for both him and me and accomplishes nothing.
Or, I might be pushing him for the wrong reasons. How many times do we see parents enroll their children in a sport, hobby or music lesson not because the child shows interest but because the parent wants to live vicariously through that child? I certainly am guilty of this. Unfortunately, I can be quite competitive and whenever there is a contest they can enter, I sign them up. They generally enjoy it but I have to be careful and watch myself since I have been found guilty of expecting perfection rather than letting them enjoy themselves. It reminds me of a movie I once saw about the ever so infamous Pinewood Derby. The contest is meant for fathers and sons to work together on building a racecar and compete in a race, but, in the movie, the fathers are the ones actually building the cars and basically competing against each other. Honestly, I don’t want to be one of those parents and really have to check myself when it comes to science fairs, art contests and the like. I need to remember that it is all about my child and what he gain gain from it and not about showing off how great my kids are.
Clearly I don’t want to push my kids too hard to excel for the wrong reasons, but I do want to make sure I am pushing them enough, at least in the areas that matter.
Academically, for example, I need to remember that schoolwork is not always going to be easy. I admit that I have been found guilty of giving in to tears or complaining that “the work is too hard.” I might say, “okay, you can just do half of your worksheet today and finish the rest tomorrow,” or I have been known to skip a subject all together. Now when it comes to homeschooling, I know that not completing all the planned work for the day is commonplace because of the demands of life, chores and unexpected events but that it not what I am talking about. I am referring to giving in to the tears. Even though at times, the work might genuinely be too difficult for the child and a change of course might need to occur but more often than not, we simply need to push our child harder than we might normally.
For example, my son kept giving me a hard time during math. He would say he didn’t know how to do the work and fuss and cry. Then, when it came to test time he would always score in the nineties. I was shocked. I was ready to buy a new curriculum and start a completely approach but when the pressure of the test was on, he buckled down and did his work, and did it well. I noticed the same thing with my other kids when it came to chores. Sometimes I felt as though I was expecting too much from them but when I would give them a little bit more work than usual, they would surprisingly get it done.
My suggestion is don’t limit your child, that most likely are capable of more than you realize!