[photopress:Baby_comp_skills_909.jpg,thumb,pp_style]By Nettie H. Francis
My child should be in A.P. Primary,” the mother said, looking at me seriously. As the primary president, I had just informed her that her daughter’s January birthday would hold her back from the Sunbeam class for another year. “But she just barely misses the deadline by 14 days, and she already sings all of the primary songs,” the mother insisted. “It would be unfair to make her attend nursery for another year.”
While serving in primary, I had several disappointed parents when I stuck to the church January 1st birthday guideline for entering primary. I finally concluded that every parent feels their child is “advanced.”
There are similar situations at school, where a parent goes to great extremes for a child to start kindergarten early, or skip a grade. Yet—aside from occasional situations—pushing our children ahead in life rarely has advantages that outweigh the potential problems.
There’s another kind of over-involved parenting: fighting children’s battles.
The moment some parents hear that a student or teacher at school has been “unfair,” they rush to the office, demanding a second chance, or a different class or teacher for their student.
And what about parents who push their children to be involved in every possible extra-curricular activity? Soon a child’s schedule is jam-packed full of lessons and games that fill up their free time and are usually the result of a parent living their surrogate dream through their child’s successes.
Modern day technology and our high standard of living give parents more choices—and control—in their children’s lives today. However, while it’s o.k. to be aware of our children’s abilities, Pushy Parenting resembles more of Satan’s force than Heavenly Father’s agency. How can we allow our children to grow on their own rather than forcing them to bloom at our pace? Here are a few ideas.
Father Knows Best:
Today’s medical options allow parents to name and weigh a child before he actually emerges, and the doctor may even let them choose what day he is born. How convenient! Choose your baby’s birthday in favor of a tax break, a particular school deadline, or avoid the rush of certain holidays. Yet when we take so much of life into our hands, what do we leave to the Lord? Do we as parents really know best? Doesn’t Heavenly Father know how the tax system works? Does he know when the kindergarten deadline is? Perhaps he understands when a child should enter school, be it early or late, and he will plan their birthday accordingly. In the olden days, babies were born when they wanted, and they usually came just fine. Aside from medical difficulties, leave a few choices relating to your child’s birth up to the Lord.
One of our children was due in December, yet born in January. While it was hard to wait until the baby came on his own (and miss out on that tax break), we were grateful we waited for the Lord’s timing. Our own impatience didn’t allow us the vision to see that a few life-changing events would occur the week before the baby came, and it was easier to deal with these situations without a newborn.
Less Is More:
A little boredom in a child’s life can be a good thing. Don’t try to involve your child in every available activity. Let them choose sports or ballet or gymnastics or art classes. Just as seeds produce different types of flowers, children grow to be their own unique adult. Stand back, let them make some choices and see what type of blossom they become. Even children who have no opportunities for organized sports or classes develop talents.
Time on their own to play outside or create inside can easily encourage their unique abilities, without the stress of chauffeuring them to and from lessons. And, a personally discovered talent may provide a child with more initiative to succeed than a “pushed” ability.
Downplay the Drama:
Aside from serious problems, it is usually best to let children deal with their own difficulties in life. Don’t always step in to make things right, like running to the teacher each time your child tells you someone is picking on them, or the rules are unfair, or the grades were miscalculated. Once parents solve a problem, children will expect them to deal with every difficulty that comes along. Usually, encouragement and ideas from loving parents at home will give children the armor they need to deal with disappointments on their own. For example, let them struggle through a week of Scout camp, without bringing them home at the first tearful phone call. Often, time will take care of problems without any intervention at all, and children will learn to deal with life without too much drama.
How do you raise motivated children? Let them make their own decisions. Children feel when parents are controlling their lives, and often become resentful. Pushy parents generally raise children who are less-motivated and sometimes even lose their self-confidence. For example, parents who offer to pay for college if the child will “just go,” may find themselves in a power struggle, with a child trying to “prove” that college is not for him.
Let children find a few answers on their own, and they will gain the self-direction they need, without the weight of a parent on their back.
Set the Standard:
Joseph Smith taught, “Teach correct principles and let them govern themselves.” Our efforts as parents should be spent on the principles of parenting, living the gospel, creating a good home environment, and loving
our children. The real power we want children to depend upon is Heavenly Father, not us! They will gain confidence in Him as we allow them to learn from the mini lessons in life, in preparation for the major lessons. As the perfect parent, He has set the example that true love is parenting, and not pushing.