Here’s a link to a revised version of this article that was published by ksl.com
When I was young, my mom required that all 5 children learn to swim until they could pass the Jr. Lifesaving class. I hated it. I hated water and the smell of chlorine. I hated diving for those weighted rings.
I looked up at my mother sitting in the spectator balcony and glared at her whenever I could. My body language clearly stated, “I can’t believe you are making me do this. You are the meanest mom in the world.” She just smiled back and waved at me.
About the time I was enrolled in the Jr. Lifesaving class, the movie “Jaws” came out. By today’s movie-making standards, the special effects are cheesy, but to my 11-year-old, fearful-of-anything aquatic, impressionable brain, it was horrifying. I couldn’t put my head under water (let alone take a bath) after seeing the film. When the swim instructors lined us up behind the diving board and it was my turn to arch over the horizontal bamboo stick to dive into the water, I couldn’t do it. I stared into the deep, blue abyss and could only see a set of teeth on a open shark’s mouth, waiting for me to dive into its hungry cavity.
I couldn’t do it. It was humiliating and traumatic.
But my mom didn’t seem to care no matter how much I whined and crumpled on the floor. She wanted me to pass the class since she had almost drowned as a girl and her lifesaving skills saved her. I eventually passed the class and never looked at another swimming pool for a long time.
I now swim multiple times a week for exercise. You heard me right. I choose to swim for fun. I love it. Every time I get in the pool, I look up into the empty balcony bleachers with a smile and think, “Thank you mom, for not giving up on me.”
Being a “pushy” mom or dad requires True Grit. Courage. Fortitude. A Backbone. When life gets hard, kids tend to give up. If we insist they stick with it, we are called “mean.” Someone wrote, “My kids just told me I’m the meanest mom in the world and I’m freaking out. I don’t even have a speech prepared.” Parents! If your child hates you for something that is really, really good for them, take a bow, accept the nomination, and thank your audience.
Parents raise successful kids by being pushy in these three ways:
Push Toward Good.
I once knew a parent who buckled under their 5 year old who refused to take his prescribed medicine. Some things are hard, some things don’t taste good, some things are boring (like brushing our teeth), and some things hurt (like getting immunized) but we insist our children do it anyway because it is good for them.
My sister has taught voice and piano for 30 years and out of the hundreds of students, only two loved to practice. The rest think it’s hard and boring. Many kids dropped playing the piano after the first year. Those who became good were not prodigies or genius musicians; they had pushy parents who made them practice 5 days a week, year after year.
Recently, I helped my daughter register at a university. However, she became anxious and lacked confidence to navigate a new campus. As we sat with her adviser, fear took over. I realized I needed to not only reassure her, but to push.
Adviser: So what is your major?
Daughter: (shoulders slumped, eyes down) I don’t know.
Me: Integrated Studies.
Adviser: (wondering who is this pushy mom) So what will be your two areas of emphasis?
Daughter: I’m not sure.
Me: She declared Spanish and Business.
Adviser (looking directly at my daughter so I didn’t butt in) Will you start Summer of Fall?
Daughter: I don’t know.
Me: (pausing first before butting in) She’ll start Summer.
Adviser: (giving me the stink eye and then turning to my daughter) Do you have your transcript?
Daughter: Yes, but I don’t know how to download it.
I stayed out from that point on, but I’m telling you, we sometimes have to hold our kids hands and baby step them toward the unknown, scary future. To that adviser: Don’t judge.
Push Away from Bad.
Children have a lot of choices these days and they’re not all good. Some may seem good but turn into problems if there are not diligent parents afoot. It’s okay to tell your young child they don’t need a cell phone with Wifi or unlimited data. It’s okay to push away bad media programming that infiltrates our homes and electronic devices. A wave of filth is threatening families but we can push it away. Say “no” to children who tell you everyone else’s parents are letting them do it.
Tell them you love them more than that.
Push Back from Pressure.
Unlike many children, there are superstar kids who excel at everything and want to do it all. They overbook their lives, or their parents overbook it for them, to achieve greatness and an impressive resume. There is so much pressure to raise trophy children and compete with over-achieving friends.
Raising a great kid who is successful means they lead a balanced, happy, well adjusted life. Children need a childhood. They need play time, laugh time, creative and social time. If your child wants to be the drummer in a rock band, be on the high school basketball, swim, and baseball teams, be student body president, and sing in the prestigious school choir, it’s time to push back. Life is full of great things to do, but we need to teach our children that it’s not realistic or healthy to try to do it all. We all need to learn how to choose and prioritize.
So if you are a pushy parent, take it as a compliment. You know that you’re doing something right and you’re in good company.