When Do You Push a Kid To Do More Activities?
Some children are joiners. Throw any activity at them and they jump in gleefully. I don’t give birth to those kinds of kids. My children tend to hold back a bit. Or a lot.
Like when one of my daughters was in first grade, she agreed to try soccer. Except maybe I should have questioned her a bit on the phrase “try soccer.” Because I paid for an entire season of soccer and her cleat never touched the field. She did eat a lot goldfish from the sidelines though.
This kind of scenario has happened many times over the years with various children.
And once again, I am faced with a child who wants no part of any organized activity. My 5 year old son will try nothing outside of school. Soccer? Tears. T-ball? No way. Art? No, again. Some kind of cool Ninja jumping, shoot imaginary enemies gymnastics class? Nope.
I often hear from my son’s PE teacher that he is very athletically-inclined and participates with exuberance in gym class. The PE coach kept telling me, “You’ve gotta get him involved in sports after school.” “You convince him,” I told the coach. “Because, I can’t.”
Here parents are drowning in over scheduled afternoons and I can’t get my kid to do anything. I decided to give my son time. Having spent useless energy pushing my older children to find passions outside of school, I just didn’t have the inclination to drag him to things he didn’t want to do. I can understand another family handling the situation differently, but for me, this was the best choice.
Plus, with five kids, I didn’t have the time or energy to push him anyway. And it’s a real money saver when your kid won’t do anything after school except playdates. And since he’s only five, I felt like he still had a lot of years to grow and change his mind.
Because things can change significantly over time. That girl of mine, who at one point wouldn’t put one foot on a soccer field, is now 11 and she doesn’t have enough afternoons to do everything she wants from gymnastics to art to dance to yearbook club.
But then I noticed something. My son was bored. Very bored. He’s never been particularly good at entertaining himself and with no scheduled activities, he seemed to just roam the house with no real focus except to bother his older sisters. Something needed to be done now.
I sat my 5 year old son down and said simply, “I think you should do some kind of after school activity. Just pick something to try. Just one class. Anything.”
We went through a long list of possibilities. He thought for a moment and said, “piano.”
I was surprised because my three daughters have been taking piano for two years and not once did my son show any interest in playing. And yes, I had asked him several times.
Okay, let’s try piano!
And well, he loves it. It’s a 15 minute lesson once a week, plus practicing his song each day. He practices on a keyboard at home.
It doesn’t take up a lot of time. Thankfully he still has plenty of unstructured time to wander around our house, tormenting siblings.
But I can tell he’s excited to be apart of it. He took a small step out of his comfort zone and that’s a big thing.
I don’t have all the answers of parenthood. But I know sometimes you have to push a little bit. Then hold back. Then encourage again. Then give them space and time. Then try again. Because at some point, they are ready to fly.
Or you know, play piano.
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