I have to admit..

…. I would be one of ‘those’ parents. If my kid was on a soccer team, I am pretty sure I would be the mom yelling out ‘Run Faster! Get the Ball!’. I don’t really care so much about the Scoring The Goal bit, but I do care about the Trying Hard. It irritates me immensely to see kids goofing off when they can, and should, be focused on the task at hand.

I guess it is a good thing my kids don’t play team sports. Ha! It is one thing to see your kid goofing off.. but it would drive me to the edge seeing other kids goofing off and wasting everyone’s time. Definitely when the kids are older (age 8?).. but not now. I see parents with their 2 and 3 year olds soccer and t-ball practice… and think to myself ‘I wish I had THAT kind of patience’. I don’t.

So when it comes to swimming, I have the same approach. Both my kids are comfortable in the water. My older one has always been that way… my younger one is fine, unless she has to put her face/head under the water. At age 4, I knew she was capable of conquering that fear and doing more. So I said NO to a swim vest this summer. The only thing she could use was a pool noodle. She was VERY upset at first. “Fine!“, I told her. “You are welcome to sit out and watch.”. Well that stuck for five minutes. When she saw everyone else having so much fun, she got into the pool. Without a vest. Once in the pool, she stayed by the wall. No vest, no roaming free. I let her play a while but she had to practice new things for at least a few minutes. In this case, putting her head under water. She protested. Oh, she protested a lot. But we did it once. Twice. Three times. And soon enough that fear faded away. And now, with the help of swim lessons, she is making so much progress. Letting go of the wall, and swimming a few strokes under the water. I am so proud of her!

I always tell my kids, ‘Never say the words “I can’t!“‘. So you will often hear my younger daughter muttering to herself, like the Little Engine That Could, “I think I can. I think I can. I know I can. I think I can.“. What I do works with the personalities that my kids have… I understand that this approach would not work with all kids. I can even empathize with the ‘what is the hurry? they will learn when they want to!’ . But I think sometimes we have to show them that they are capable of more than they believe. Push them beyond their comfort level. And always be there to catch them if they fall.

xoxo, Rashmi

8 Responses

  1. such wise words Rashmi. My 4 year old is in the “I can’t” mode now and I am not sure quite how to tackle it. For now I’m too busy with the 9 month old to do much about it and I am sure that is NOT the right approach. Other than the Little Engine that Could approach…do you have any other tactics?

  2. Hi Trish,
    So hard to say since each child has such a different personality. I tell my kids that they CAN do anything.. never say ‘I can’t’. And then we decide how little or how much they can try and do. And we do it together. We started out with one second under the water, with her pinching her nose and eyes closed. Then slowly went to no nose pinching, eyes open. Then goggles. Then blowing bubbles. Step by step. I tell my kids that sometimes it won’t be fun, and that is okay. If we finish up with the un-fun bits, we can move to the fun bits. And sometimes, good old bribery works like no other. A single scoop of ice-cream is still the highest form of currency in our home.

  3. Totally agree with you Papal. I have been determined to make sure that Ameya goes as far as he can with anything he chooses to touch. I have had to steel my heart and push him despite his hearing and speech issues.

    However, I will caution you, when they get older and you push them to try harder, you will experience guilt and self-doubt at times. You will wonder if you are pushing too hard. You just have to set that guilt aside and keep at it.

    After all, only you, as parents can provide them with the motivation and opportunity consistently. I don’t believe that a child should be left alone to find their talents. I don’t believe that a child should ever be allowed to feel the “I can’t feeling”. They should always know that we are there to catch them when they fall and push them out there again.

    Our kids live in a country that provides one limitless opportunity to succeed. Compare that to kids in countries fraught with war, poverty or those that culturally consider their female population useless (a.k.a Saudi Arabia etc). We owe it to our kids to fill them with confidence, respect, kindness and determination.

    That’s my 7am musing.

  4. BTW, L is ready to go play soccer and WIN WIN WIN. Get her involved soon. She is going to be a terrific student for some lucky coach.

  5. Clearly your approach works with M and L. And clearly watching them do brave new things helps bujji get braver too. Bujji is definitely in the “I can’t” mode when it comes to swimming but I hope that once we move and settle down with a permanent nanny, permanent home, school etc he will feel like he can do anything he wants!

  6. I am not sure our approach would work with all kids at all!! Some kids just take longer to be comfortable in new situations.. they are observers and will do when THEY are comfortable. I think with such kids, perhaps waiting and watching is a better approach.

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