What’s enrichment and What’s “pushing?”

Recently I have been thinking about “pushing” kids and how one knows whether or not to push a child in a given situation.  We’ve probably all observed parents we thought were pushig their children too hard.  I have met parents who are considering how their grade school or middle school child’s activities will look on a college application. Many of us have been at children’s sports events and heard the parent coaching from the sideline.  I know all these parents are doing what they think is best for their children.  Often they are offering their children opportunities that they did not have as children.  They may also in a community where many parents are programming their children’s lives in a similar manner.  From their point of view it looks like good care of the children

What is pushing and what is offering enriching  experiences and teaching valuable skills?

  1.  Are we having fun yet?   A friend of mine used to say to her children when they were playing sports, “Sports should be fun.  If you’re not having fun, we should find another activity.”  Of course,  your child won’t have fun every minute.  Sometimes the goal tender lets in a goal and feels wretched about it.  But overall, it should be fun.
  2. Your child should still have time for free play, hanging out time with friends.  Being with team mates in a game is not the same as hanging out together.
  3. There should be time for school work.  If your child has great difficulty with organization or works slowly due to ADHD or a learning disability, she will need more time for school work.  You might wish she should just be more efficient, but it’s possible that she just needs more time  Do you find yourself nagging about homework?  Maybe you need to rethink the schedule, not in a punitive manner.  This is just about being realistic about who your child is.
  4. Your child needs time to relax.  Everyone needs down time.  You child might be enjoying the activities, but if you perceive that as a family you are always rushing, you might want to make a change.  This is a way to teach your child about balance in life.
  5. The motivation to excel at the activity–whether music, drama or sports–should come mostly from your child.  Of course, there are times that you insist on practicing or on going to the game.  This is part of teaching your child to be responsible.  But overall, whose dream is being pursued?  Are you hoping for a sports scholarship to college?  Are you pursuing your dream through your child?  Think about where the motivation comes from.

There are valuable lessons that parent should insist upon.  Children need to be responsible about doing their homework, about helping out around the house, and about doing their best at whatever they do.  They also need to be taught to be good friends.  I like to think that as parents we offer children many opportunities to learn new skills and activities.   Sometimes our ideas work out very well, and sometimes they don’t.  This is how you and your child learn about who she is.  Maybe she has no skill for basketball, but she loves soccer.  Maybe she has no skill at sports, but she loves to play the piano or guitar.  All children benefit from a sense of accomplishment.  Hopefully they experience that in a number of arenas.  These activities provide settings in which to teach good sportsmanship, pride in accomplishment, and self-discipline.  It is my experience that these lessons come most easily when there is balance in life and a good fit between the child and the activity.


One Response to “What’s enrichment and What’s “pushing?””
  1. Judith McCaffrey says:

    I have to share this story about a soccer coach of a friend’s child. After a losing game, his team (9-year-olds, I think) was very down in the mouth. “What’s the matter?” he asked them. “We lost,” they said. “Was it a sunny day?” he wanted to know. “Yes.” “Did you see your friends?” “Yes.” “Then you won.” he told them. We used that story over and over with our own kids–part of the family patchwork quilt, as it were.