August 7, 2012

How hard should parents push their child to succeed?

When I watch the Olympics, the cameras always flash to the parents.  I wonder what goes through their minds as they watch their "babies" compete.  

Do they remember the constant shuttling back and forth to swim meets and practices?  Do they remember all the trophies and medals, intense competitions and at times crushing defeats?

And do they remember what they said to keep their child going and focused on the prize?

This thought ran though my mind as I debate whether to keep my three year old daughter in dance.

She just started.  I put her in a summer session so she could get a taste of ballet, tap and gymnastics.  On her first day she made a friend, learned the word plie, knew how to shuffle and came running out with a smile on her face. 

So I was surprised when she said no to being signed up for fall classes.

When I asked her why, she just repeated the answer. No.

I'm not saying she has to be a prima ballerina.  But should I push her to keep dancing, knowing full well that she will have a good time...or do I just let her quit?

My husband says she should do one more session before deciding whether to stop.  I of course agree, but a part of me...a big part, wants my daughter to say the words, "yes, I want to keep dancing."

And as I watch these parents sitting in the stands in London, I wonder if they went through the same battle.  What did they say when their child said, "I'm done.  I quit.  I don't want to do it anymore."

And as they cheer their child on in the OLYMPICS, I wonder if they feel the battle was worth it.


  1. Please remember that your daughter is 3, not 7, 8, 9, etc. Developmentally at 3yrs, she does not understand the concept of long-term committment to any activity. She just wants to learn something new. It is great that she has experienced dance and if she leaves happy, she may want to returned to it. Why put undue stress on a child so young? Her brain is still developing - creating connections (synapses) that will be the foundation for all her learning. Many experiences - many connections - well rounded child. Enjoy her as she tries as many different activities as possible.

  2. First, it might not be realistic to compare yourself with Olympic parents.
    If you take the time to ask her whether or not she wants to dance, why wouldn't you want to honor her answer?
    What subtle message does that send? How does the impact of that message compare with your desire for her to dance?

    We all want great things for our children. It's a constant challenge as parents, to not project our desires onto their experiences. They CAN lead us down THEIR path of joy. We are facilitators, guides, structure and boundaries. And Love. If we listen to them and get curious about who they want to Be, we are demonstrating that their voice matters. If we offer them choices and allow them to live out those choices,(and yes make mistakes!) we are teaching cause and effect. But more importantly, over time, we are encouraging a person who has competence and experience making decisions. (That will come in handy in those teenage years I'd imagine.)
    Consider what it could look like if you made more choices for her.
    There are creative ways to inspire her to dance. Take a class with her! Dance at home, go to the theater. If she finds this bliss on her own, she will guaranteed be soooooo happy doing it!

    Tangible alternative to philosophical rant above:
    If taking classes/gaining experiences is really important to you as a parent, consider sharing with your child something like "We feel it's very important for children to have fun learning while enjoying new experiences. We love you so much and it's important to us that you are excited about the activity. We have 2-3 options you can choose from that sound fun and interesting to you. etc"
    ~All Love Nikki, whatever you choose, your already a great parent for even asking yourself about it. Respect