January 12th: How can we bring out the best in our children…even when they refuse?

There’s a lot of pressure out here in the Midwestern suburbs to have your children in the right activities, and that pressure starts WAY too early. I want to take advantage of the opportunities that we have to enrich the lives of our children, but at the same time, I don’t want to push them. I want them to find activities and hobbies that they love and can enjoy for life. So I’ve hung back. While some of my son’s four year-old peers have taken everything from tennis to swimming to music, we’ve chosen a different angle on enrichment. We go swimming together as a family. We have impromptu jam sessions as a family. And we throw tennis balls around and chase them on the court–you guessed it–as a family.

Unfortunately, it seems like my son might have become a little too comfortable with this set-up.

As social as we are, we’ve always noticed that our little guy hangs back in social situations. Lately, he becomes flat-out paralyzed. At birthday parties, even with his friends, he won’t participate, insisting on sitting on our laps or being held, hiding his face instead.

We decided it was time to build some confidence, so we enrolled him in a local martial arts class–just five sessions, 12 kids his age, four instructors, and right by our house. Pretty non-threatening, right? I didn’t go, but apparently, it was a disaster. The gap between his behavior and the appropriate behavior of all the other kids was, for my husband, a source of great discomfort and concern. I’m not trying to push my kid to be a blue belt by age five here. I just want to see him act like the other kids his age and be part of a group. And that’s not happening.

We spoke with him about his feelings and experience, and he says he will participate next week. So while I might choose to be optimistic (or to dismiss the significance of this experience entirely), I know my son’s patterns. So I’m left with a big question. How can we build up our child? Especially when he has no interest in building up himself? Of all the questions I’ve explored, on this one, I feel furthest from an answer.

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