Everyday Parenting: What’s more important than commitment? THIS.
We are waiting outside our ballet studio for class to begin and my 4-year-old is clinging to me, her face buried in my neck, tears in her eyes. People look at me with knowing eyes and sympathetic smiles like this is all totally normal… because for many it is.
She whispers in my ear “I don’t want to go, I just don’t want to go today”. She says that her little sister accidentally kicked her in the face and that she is ok but just doesn’t feel like going to ballet anymore.
I tell her that’s no problem, that she never has to go anywhere if she feels uncomfortable, that it’s totally up to her.
Unfortunately, for many children this is not the case. We witness it every week. Parents dragging reluctant children by the arm, encouraging them, peeling them off their leg to join in, sometimes even threatening them.
When I tell my daughter that it’s ok not to go if she doesn’t feel like it, I know many people believe that this is the wrong choice, and that they would respond differently. After all, the lesson was already paid for, we had gotten dressed and all made the effort to come here, she always loves ballet, and maybe she would end up being ‘fine’ once she started. And what if she started thinking this was ok to do every week? What would it teach her about commitment? What about responsibility?
None of these reasons are of any importance to me. We don’t make decisions based on fear. We don’t subscribe to mainstream parenting myths. What good is it to damage our connection in the present moment, for some vague idea of future ‘discipline’. I don’t think she would ever thank me for that.
This is not a problem, but an opportunity.
An opportunity to reinforce things that are much more valuable in our family.
And so her sisters and I cuddle and reassure her, and after checking that she really doesn’t want to go and understands that her next lesson can’t be until next week, we leave without hesitation. Her big sister offers her a piggy back to try and cheer her up. She is so loved.
So many things were learned from this moment. So many things that I want her to be sure of every single day. So many things that truly matter.
She learned that her feelings are valid.
That she is in charge of her body and time.
That her needs are important.
That she will always be supported
That she is not an inconvenience.
That she has a voice.
That we will always listen.
That there are so many people there for her when she’s just not feeling quite right.
That she should always listen to her instincts and trust herself.
Yes, I could have fallen for the lie that this could create bad habits, that I wasn’t teaching her to be responsible, that is was a waste of money. But at what cost?
The most important thing was that a little girl felt safe and supported and loved unconditionally, and that is priceless.
The best choice is always understanding and respect. Don’t fall for the myths. See your child standing right in front of you, showing you the way. What do they need? What message do you want them to hear? What lessons do you really want to teach?
Choose unconditional love and acceptance, in every moment. Those are the things that every human needs.
this post came to me in the best of moments! my daughter doesn’t want to go to ballet either… last saturday she asked me ‘do i have to go to ballet?’. i’m more about you should finish your ballet year -in june-, it’s good for you, very expensive for us and bla bla bla. her dad’s all about if you don’t want to return to ballet, then it’s ok, just the same way you talk about. she didn’t go and don’t know if she’ll return to ballet, but i guess it’s ok.
also your daughter could try jazz, my daughter absolutely loves it, i think she compares both and that’s why she enjoys ballet no more.
Just LOVE your blogs !! Resonates with me totally. Thank you. Xx
I really love reading your blogs &so appreciate your way of viewing life & relationships. I hear where you’re coming from with this post. I have a slightly different perspective. While I don’t agree with forcing your kids to do something because of some kind of perceived sense of responsibility or commitment, I do think there are times when we can guide them through these momentsso that they find that they can do something, despite their initial feelings. While I think our feelings/emotions are so important, & shouldn’t be discounted, I also think if we are solely led by our emotions, life can become pretty miserable very quickly. I have seen my son, who is naturally cautious and sensitive initially be very hesitant about something – he would say he was feeling scared or overwhelmed. I could just say ‘ok babe, you don’t have to do anything you don’t FEEL like doing’. Or I could encourage him to see it from a different perspective, and to talk back to some of those feelings, to take courage, at the end of the day he may still feel it is something he’s not prepared to do & that’s ok, but often I see him take a courageous step & do that thing he didn’t feel like doing & the sense of empowerment, self belief & resilience he gets from that is priceless. I do agree that showing him I’m on his side is vital & I think often the reason he pushes through to do those things he may not have felt like doing initially, is because he trusts that I am for him & he is loved & heard by us.
What a simple message that speaks volumes. Imagine if everyone was treated with such compassion and respect as children, it’d be a different world
I respect your point of view and your care and love for your daughter is obvious. But if you don’t mind another perspective. 😊 I have teens who I let quit many activities. Why drag an unenthusiastic child out of the house in all weather right? I have more interesting things to do than sit on the sidelines of a class/practice. But as the years went on and they sampled one thing after another, they never pushed past the first phase of an activity when you aren’t very good. They never experienced getting better. While other kids were making tight knit groups of friends with their swim team or soccer team, my kids never stayed with anything long enough to get close to the other kids. They never built up the resilience from trying, failing, trying some more, getting better. There are many ways to gain these skills and many places to find friends. A dance class, a basketball team, these things aren’t necessary. But I wish I had made them stick with something. I feel like it would have enriched their lives. Obviously I’m not suggesting you coerce them into an activity they hate but sometimes we go through rough patches with an activity and if we get through it, we can gain so much. As a parent, it’s a hard judgemental call to make.
I agree with this. After-school clubs are overrated.
First of all , I love your blog and your FB posts, your points of view are re-freshing, interesting and thought provoking. I agree for the most part about this post, but I would also not apply this to all kids and all situations.
Let’s say things are a bit different, lets say it’s a soccer game and there must be 9 kids on the field for the game to start, and your kid is the 9th. And your kid decides that he doesn’t want to go, which is related to anxiety (and you know he gets this anxiety about most things that involve leaving the house). Do you say “lets stay home”? meaning the game is forfeited and all the kids and parents who drove there in the AM have to turn around and go home?
I understand the value of the individual, but you must also weigh in the value of community and family. The culture in the united states has always been geared towards “me” not “us”. We do not force our kids to do any activities, but once we sign up we explain that it is a commitment to the team, it may be different for individual sports, but for team sports we treat it as joining a community, a family.
Do you model the advice in this blog? I’m sure there are times when you don’t want to make dinner, or get out of bed, or drive your kids to ballet, do you tell them that “oh today I don’t fell like driving you so we will stay home.”? I’m guessing no, because you made that commitment to your kids, to your family, much the same way they made the commitment to the team. So as much as we do value individual needs, we also value commitment to community and the two must be weighed in the decisions you make. Ignoring one over the other may cause a skewed outlook on what is important in life.
I’d be interested in tips and experiences along these lines for children not keen on preschool and eventually school.
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