I never wanted to be an annoying pushy parent that forces her kids to do things they don’t want to, but I’ve always known that there has to be a balance. Between overindulgent and pushy, I would almost rather be pushy. But, I believe there is a middle ground from which a parent can manage the tension of these opposites.
Pushy parents have admirably produced children who excel in academics, sports, and the arts. But these excellent children aren’t always happy about the choices that have been made for them or the manner in which they were pushed. And a lot of times, the pushing strains the relationship between parent and child or the kids burn out. Come to think of it, even the parents burn out, too.
On the other end of the spectrum are children who are over-indulged. Parents cater to their emotional fragility and allow them to do and act as they please. They avoid failure or get used to being rescued from consequences. When they face discomfort, they are allowed to back-out. In the end, they never quite grow up to master their emotions or develop the will power to aim for excellence.
It is so easy to swing to either side when you are a parent. But the most important thing to remember is to focus on character instruction. Character determines true excellence. But this kind of instruction requires supernatural empowerment from the Lord and good teamwork with your spouse!
Edric’s involvement in the lives of our kids has been so crucial. He is the leader of our family and first and foremost, he is a spiritual leader. Once a week, he has a family devotion where we will discuss a character trait and memorize a verse to live by for the rest of the week. Because Edric has taken charge of what character trait to teach, this allows me to focus on reinforcing the trait during the week. I provide the support. It helps so much that we work as a team to encourage our children to “grow in wisdom, stature, favor with God and man.” (Luke 2:52) And we get the entire household to be on the same page. No one is supposed to sabotage the character trait by acting and behaving in contradictory ways to it.
The more we prioritize character training, the easier it is to get our children to respond to everything else. Last night was a good example of this reality. Edric has been teaching determination and diligence these past two weeks for our family devotions. So when we all went running as a family (sans our baby girl, Tiana), Edric and I got to see determination and diligence in action. We were only supposed to take the two older boys but our three year old couldn’t stand to be left at home while his brothers did something seemingly fun. He had no idea we were going to make him run a considerable distance for his little self.
At first, my three year old was ecstatic. After a few meters, he joyfully exclaimed, “I like this!” About a hundred meters later he said, “I want to go home.” His face was red like a tomato and he was breathing heavily, but we had hardly gone anywhere!
It was time to “push.”
“I’m sorry, honey, but you said you wanted to come and we are going to finish our run. You can do it.” I was reassuring but I was firm. Both Edric and I knew this was going to be the perfect application for diligence and determination.
After the first kilometer, the same son was panting even more and said, “I can’t do this, mommy.” And our second son started saying, “Ouch, ouch!” because he was getting a cramp. My goodness, I thought to myself, these boys are too urbanized. They need to develop hardiness! More than ever, I wanted them to finish.
So I said, “You guys can do it! We will all finish and then we can go home.” I took my youngest son’s his hand and that helped a bit. He knew that Edric and I were set on following through with what we started, so he kept up. Even our second son who suffered from cramping, kept going.
After the second kilometer, the kids were still running. “Remember our lesson on determination, boys!, Edric would call out. And they would pick up their pace.
While nearing the third kilometer, my youngest son again said, “I have to stop, mommy.”
I looked at him, assessed the seriousness of the situation, and said, “Nope, we are going to keep going. You can do it! You are doing so well! We are almost home.” He was fighting the urge to cry but the “almost home” bit of info got him motivated again and he still kept running. They all kept running until we got close enough to home to do a cool down walk.
My three year old was relieved and so very proud of himself. Our second son managed to endure his pain and ran even further than we suggested. Our eldest son, whose endurance is much better, did great. Edric and I were so blessed by all of them, especially since this run was a first for our younger boys. We complimented them profusely.
Why did we push them? For the sake of character development. At a certain point in our mini run it might have actually seemed cruel that we made them keep going. However, we wanted our kids to experience a small victory that evening — finishing. We knew that allowing them to quit and back-out would contradict our instruction about diligence and determination.
Well, it turned out that all the pushing paid off in the end because they felt a real sense of personal accomplishment. It may have been a small thing in the grand scheme of things, but little victories such as these help to strengthen the willpower of our children to push themselves to be better and do better.
How do we know how much pushing is too much? The more time we spend with our children, the more we understand what they can and cannot do, and the more we know what is going on inside their hearts. More importantly, the more time we spend with the Lord, the more he exposes any wrong motivation and selfish intent on our part as parents. And as we seek his will for our kids, the more we know how to best parent our children and navigate them towards excellence, to be who God wants them to be.
Ephesians 6:4 “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”