My daughter needs to be pushed into doing almost everything. Be it to taste some new food. Or, to climb a slide that is closed on the outside; or, to cycle; even, to try wearing a new dress. Anything. You name it and she needs constant encouragement. ’There’s nothing to worry. Amma is here with your, right? Just try once and if you don’t like it, we can let it go!” These are words that I keep repeating almost every day.
Given that I have two kids of the same age, it happens that they always like to do things together. And yet, when one of them is scared of doing something, it is this encouragement from us that comes to the rescue.
For instance, my son loves water. So, when we moved to an apartment where a swimming pool was available 24×7, there was no one happier than the son. Every weekend, we’d be in the pool splashing and playing in the water. However the daughter, like always, needed a lot of push to even get a new swimsuit for her. She would always stand on the pool’s side and see her brother enjoy himself in the water.
Whenever we asked her if we can get her a new swimsuit so that she can join him in water, she would immediately retaliate with a ‘no’. Although she would sound cheerful and all that, I would notice a sense of longing in her eyes. For about two months, this was the scene – we, constantly telling her there was nothing to fear about water; that we would be there with her always; how her brother was enjoying himself and all that. Yet, we didn’t push her further because we were worried if we would cause her a lifelong fear of water.
After about two months, no one knows what changed; she agreed to get herself a swimsuit, goggles and a tube. Although she was suffering from a constant cold then, we refused to let go of the opportunity and took her to the pool. And, we are so glad we did that. ‘Cos from then on, if you can forgive me for the cliché here, there’s been no turning back. Now, she loves the water and refuses to come away once in the pool. The brother and the sister have lots of fun in the pool along with their dad.
It was a similar story while teaching the kids to play chess. We observed that their memory was good enough for the makings of chess player. (That, chess is in their genes is another point to be noted, here!) The first few times we sat down to explain the moves, the kids had whatsoever no interest in it. Although we always never wanted to give up, we knew forcing them was of no use. They needed to like something to give their heart and soul to it. At periodical intervals, we would open the chess board and try our luck. All we could manage, after a few days of coaxing, was the daughter picking it up and playing inky pinky ponky. Sigh. After about close to two years of trial and error, now, the son loves the game. The other day, we were on the elevator and we noticed four lights on the corner of the ceiling. The son looked at it, motioned a diagonal sign with his hands and said, ‘Isn’t this how a bishop moves, Amma?’ There I was… a happy mommy.
For me, the biggest takeaway from these episodes are that there is a thin line between pushing a child to do what you like and helping him/her do something they are good at and what they like. In both the above cases, we realized that they had the potential to do something but were a little apprehensive about doing it for reasons known only to them. Tomorrow, if my son says he doesn’t want to play chess, I do not foresee forcing him. ‘Cos he knows what it is to play the game. If my daughter says she doesn’t like to swim, I would let her be. ‘Cos she’s experienced the joy of floating in water. After all, it is the enjoyment that matters in the end.
This post first appeared on Parentous here.