Fitness | Confidence | Self-Defense
I can’t make my child…. these words are heard all too often at music studios, swimming pools, recreation centres, dance studios and martial arts centres across the country.
The truth is, children can be very fickle. One minute they want to be like Sidney Crosby and the next minute they are channeling Bruce Lee. As children navigate the world of options for recreational pursuits, musical interests and sporting activities parents can easily become frustrated trying to keep up with the every changing desires of their children.
As a child I can honestly say that my mother never uttered the phrase “I can’t make her”. My mother could make me do whatever she wanted. She was the parent and made the decisions for me. I complied or I faced the consequences. If she spent hundreds of dollars on an activity for me or spent hours taking me to and from my activity of choice, quitting before the commitment was up was not an option.
Children, like electricity, will take the path of least resistance. Playing with friends, watching tv, playing video games or any other free play activity will always be more appealing than a swimming lesson, practicing piano or sweating in a dojo. This is not unlike adults who struggle to find the motivation to go to the gym when the next episode of their favorite show is on.
I spoke once to a parent who was concerned about signing up her son because, as she put it, “he quits everything”. This can only happen if you allow it to. The more often a parent allows a child to do this, the less power the parent has and the cycle will continue and grow.
Decisions we make for our children affect their ability to make decisions for themselves as teens and adults. Our number one job is to parent our children, not be their friends. A parent is the boss. Children need to be able to count on their parents as the ones who make decisions and run the show.
When we allow a child to quit an activity without careful thought or a valid reason we teach them that quitting is an option. As teens and adult they will face challenges staying motivated and engaged because they will always believe there is an out. The skills needed to work through challenges will not have been learned.
When we allow a child to make decisions that affect the time management and finances of the family we give them more power than they are able to handle. Children want structure, guidance and instruction and when we cater to their every whim and allow them to hold the all cards we fail them.
When you teach your child NOT to quit you are teaching your child commitment, motivation and perseverance. When you teach your child that quitting is an option you are teaching your child to give up, find a loophole and negotiate for exceptions. Which characteristics will be most valued when they become adults?
In the dojo, the word “can’t” isn’t in our vocabulary. As parents we need to remove it from our vocabulary as well. We CAN make decisions for our children, we CAN demand them to honour commitments and we CAN expect them to respect our time and our financial obligations. We can and we must.
Being a parent is hard. You CAN do it.