This little boy of mine, he likes things to be easy. New experiences are great, so long as they don’t push him out of his comfort zone. As I wrote here recently, he decided after his first swimming lesson (which he happily smiled his way through) that he was done. No more. He didn’t like having to swim on his back. Water got in his ears and water feels weird around a loose tooth, you know.
He staged a sit-in during the second lesson. I dangled a couple of enticing carrots prior to the lesson but said very little about him not participating. He was devastated when he didn’t get the promised rewards afterward like Baxter did.
I’ve thought a lot about quitting this summer. No, not quitting my family, but about kids and quitting and when it’s okay. I let Lyle drop out of a couple activities in recent months and I believe this set a pretty bad precedent for us. However, when I let him leave activities they were things that he was clearly not enjoying at all, or weren’t working out well for him. He was anxious and uncomfortable all the time while doing them. I draw the line when I see him enjoying an activity (such as camp, or swimming lessons) and just deciding afterwards that one part was too hard and he’s done. Those are the times when I push him to follow through and overcome his challenges in order to learn new skills, and I’m kind but very no nonsense about it.
And so although I let him sit out the swim lesson last week, I did follow through with some tough love and he felt the consequences of non-participation. His teacher told me matter-of-factly that if I could get him to sit on the stairs in the pool this week, they’d take it from there. She told him that if he participated in just 4 activities, he’d get to play during free time. I got him there, in spite of his wish that I never let go of him and couldn’t I PLEASE come in the water with him. I was firm and he got in without me. I quietly walked away and sat with the other parents, watching in amazement ten minutes later when he decided to join the group and participated for half an hour, doing everything he was asked to do. When he got out, he ran over grinning and told me it was “Very very very very very [x20] fun!” He asked when he could swim again and told me he had improved from the last time. But best of all, he expressed something important I’ve been working hard with him on this summer when he said, “I am going to remember I was happy this time. I’ll focus on that and not forget next Saturday.” I can’t tell you what a relief it was for me to hear him say that.
I think it’s very, very hard to know when to be a hard-ass and when to follow through on a child’s requests to stop an activity. At the moment I draw the line here: if he’s actually enjoying it most of the time while he’s doing it, and the adults facilitating the activity are supportive and understanding, we push through and keep going. That’s not to say that we don’t talk about it, discuss and acknowledge feelings around it, and work to increase self-awareness of reactions to challenges, but the difference is there’s no negotiation about the activity.
Where do you draw the line?