Let’s talk about pressure.
Not physical pressure.
Not work pressure.
How much pressure should we put on our children? Or, how much pressure should we NOT put on our children?
This is a topic that has haunted me (literally, I’ve had nightmares about it) for years.
For those of you that don’t know, I’m a controlling personality. Wait. I don’t feel like you’re getting the intensity of that statement.
I HAVE A CONTROLLING PERSONALITY.
I have to be in control. Period. There is no compromise. There are no questions. I’m in charge. I will listen. I will judge fairly. But in the end, the outcome is what I’VE decided.
Some people have called me strong willed. Some people have called me stubborn. Some people have called me the “B” word.
And they’re all right.
However, I like to call a spade and spade and the bottom line?
I HAVE A CONTROLLING PERSONALITY.
Sorry. I don’t mean to get all up in your face or anything, but I really can’t stress this (character flaw?) enough.
I am not proud of this fact. I’m not. And though it has served me well in a lot of situations, it has also caused me a lot of heart ache along the way, too.
Like now, for example.
I denied this for a very long time, but I was a helicopter parent.
I was always hovering over my boys. I never really ALLOWED them to be boys, to make their own mistakes, to experiment and just BE kids. I yelled way too much. I made mountains over the stupidest mole hills. I was uptight, cranky and really not a fun person to be around.
I sat down and made sure they did their homework every night. I checked it over. I made them do problems over again. I remember sitting with them for hours and going over spelling words. And I mean to the point of exhausting them, me, and making us both cry. (I have to say though that they’re both really good spellers, so I suppose all of that grinding did some good).
I have no idea WHY I felt so compelled to push things, but push them I did.
As a result? My boys couldn’t make a decision on their own. They were too used to ME doing their thinking FOR them. You can’t blame them, the blame lies entirely with me. I was the controlling factor in their timidity – quite literally.
It really didn’t hit me that I needed to back OFF until they reached middle school. Dude started middle school and just sort of expected me to do his homework for him. It wasn’t until that point did I start thinking about long term. Were they going to be THIS dependent when they got into high school? Wasn’t I hurting them by not allowing them to make their own mistakes?
So, I started backing off. Bit by bit, I pushed them out of my shadow. It was a hard break, for both me and the boys. But it was necessary.
There have been a lot of tears, a lot of frustration (from all three of us), and a lot of hard lessons to learn, but in the end, here we are – high school.
I think because I went SO overboard on the pressure thing when they were little, I’ve been even more conscious to ease off the pressure now. I still give them advice, but now they are free to take it or leave it. Before, they didn’t have the luxury of saying no, they were just expected to do whatever it was that I expected from them.
And even though life is A LOT more relaxed than it was a few years ago, I still worry. I agonize over their futures. I want them to be happy, but I also want them to be successful and comfortable.
Please do not assume, for even ONE second, that I have this parenting thing figured out. I grapple, on a daily basis, on whether or not I’m doing, or saying the right thing. I want them to do their best, but I want them to be realistic, too.
For example – not every kid is capable of making A’s. Again, I’ve learned this the hard way. Dude is not the best at math. He never has been. I’ve finally accepted the fact that math is a real struggle for him. And the grades he earns? Are not A’s. This does not mean he’s a failure at life. This only means that he struggles with this one area of his life.
BUT, even though we have had lengthy talks about this, and I KNOW he’s tried and he truly wants to please me and Kevin, I always wonder if he’s trying enough. If we’re being too lenient on him. Could he do better?
Again. It’s not just about the grades. I want him to learn that anything worth having is worth working for. I want him to experience that bitter/sweet victory of conquering something he was ready to give up on. And though I realize that I can’t give that gift to him, that he’ll have to earn it, it doesn’t help ME as far as how far and how hard to push him to get there.
I’ve been on one end of the pressure spectrum. It was not fun. I do not want to go back there. I want to be somewhere in the middle. My problem is? I have NO CLUE where the middle of the spectrum is.
Precisely how far is too far to pressure your kids? I realize that it differs with each child, but here I am, a 43-year old woman with a 17-year old and a 15-year old and I STILL haven’t figured it out yet. And I should be fair, it changes as they get older.
But the not knowing – it both confuses and exasperates me.
I expect them to do well in school. I firmly believe that teaching them to try their best, to push themselves, will benefit them in life. But at the same time, I don’t want to put so much pressure on them that they simply give up.
I don’t want to break their spirits. And to be perfectly honest, I think I have gotten very, very close to doing that in the past. Which is all the more reason I’m determined to chill out and simply concentrate on supporting them. They know my expectations by now. There is no need for me to remind them every day. I think my role now, is to simply encourage them. To do their best. To pick the classes they want to take. To pursue the interests they are interested in. To keep my mouth shut if they choose something outside the realm of my expectations.
My sole mission now is to allow them to simply be who they were meant to be.
I need to let them go.
I HAVE let them go.