The following is a post written by Kari Patterson of Sacred Mundane.
How hard should we push our kids?
This has been my most common homeschooling question. No matter what homeschooling method we choose, we all must determine how much and how we will guide/push/lead our children in the way they should go.
Even when we employ great tools like games, field trips, and delight-directed learning, we can’t always just let our children do what they want. We are our children’s greatest coaches, and all great coaches push their players toward greatness.
Two reasons to push our kids:
1. To help them go where they want to go.
We’ve all been there. We want to try something, conquer some fear, master some area, but we’re struggling. We need someone to gently help us do what we don’t think we can do.
That’s a great reason to push our kids.
Our mistake comes when we’re too zealous to make kids achieve things they don’t care about. Although my 5-year-old daughter enjoys learning to read, she doesn’t have that deep desire yet. So, at this point we work on reading a little each day, but I don’t push her.
However, she wants to ride her bike without training wheels, so even though she’s struggling, I’ll keep pushing her to practice because even if she protests, I know she really wants it.
In this way, we gently give them more courage than they would have on their own.
2. To help them go where they need to go.
The truth is, sometimes we need to grow in some area but we just plain don’t want to.
We are not called to passive parenting or passive educating — we must be active coaches.
But another area I have mis-stepped with my kids is in labeling “need” too early. First graders don’t NEED to read. Seven-year-olds don’t NEED to ride bikes without training wheels. But they do need to obey, be kind, pick up after themselves, and do their best even when it’s hard.
I find it helpful to think in terms of 3 R’s: Readiness — Reluctance — Rebellion.
Readiness — Let’s go! Push them off the ledge and let them fly!
Reluctance — They are capable, and the aim is worth pursuing, but they are fearful or need help. Gently push.
Rebellion — They just don’t want to do what they’re told. Discipline.
So now, how do we determine this?
We all know the right answer, right?
Know your kids.
It’s true. The more we know, listen to and understand our own children, the better we’ll be able to discern when and how to push them as they learn and grow.
But what other practical wisdom can guide us along the way?
I interviewed my parents — who raised and homeschooled two kids, coached hundreds of athletes, and taught hundreds of public-school students. Here are a few practical thoughts:
1. Go slow.
There’s a difference between pushing and rushing. Often I need to stop, slow down, and ask myself: Am I pushing him to conquer his weaknesses or am I rushing him because of my own impatience?
In our culture, we often rush our kids to grow up but don’t push them to excellence and virtue. We can let our children be children and embrace a slow-pace, while still pushing our children to do their best each and every day.
Look and listen and take your time to determine what is gentle prodding and what is rushing.
2. Check your motives.
Again, nine times out of ten I can get to the heart of the issue by checking my own motives.
Why am I wanting to push him to do this?
If it’s my own impatience or pride, that’s my issue. If it’s his weakness or character issue or fear, I can move forward in love, carefully encouraging and helping my child become who I know he can be. It’s the whole log-in-the-eye thing. I can usually see my children’s legitimate needs better once I deal with my own issues.
3. Get close.
My own rule is: The more I push, the closer I get.
When we were struggling through Dutch learning to read (which I knew he wanted to do but was having a hard time), I would always have him sit on my lap while we went through the Bob books.
Last week we were tackling a particularly problematic area of math, so we took the worksheet and snuggled up on the couch while we worked on it together, rather than having him sit at his desk.
When I required my daughter to make a difficult apology one day, I held both her hands and stooped down low beside her to help her be brave. Although I’ve been using the word push, I prefer lead.
We don’t let our children avoid difficult things, but we’re eager to lead them through, staying close, instead of pushing them at arm’s length.
May you be filled with wisdom and discernment, love and grace, to courageously lead and gently push your children to be all they can be.
Thanks for reading.
Your turn: How do you gently push your kids to be all they can be?