The thin line between pressurizing and motivating

Thanks Blogadda, for the spicy pick!

is what I tread very carefully..

And forever worry that I might be becoming too lax in the process. Especially after Amy Chua happened.

In September, when daughter had just started school, I had enrolled her in a few activities. Ballet class – because she wanted to, Bharatnatyam class – because I always wanted to, when I was little. I know I am living life through her. In my defense, I just wanted to see if she were interested. And Kumon. There were trial classes and I felt it made sense to check it out.

Ballet she loved, so we are still at it. Bharatanatyam – she refused to go after the first class, and I did not want to force her. She was after all just a four year old. So I left it at that. Kumon, she loved initially, but by the end of the second week, I think it got a bit too much for her, and she did not want to do it. And I left it at that.

To be honest, I was never sure if I did the right thing, in letting her get her way. After reading Amy Chua’s article, I couldn’t help wonder, should I have pushed harder? I still am not sure if I did the right thing. When initially she showed no interest in reading by herself, I kept wondering, if I was indeed letting her off too easily. When she started reading, I breathed easy. Yes, she started doing it at her pace, when she was ready for it.

Last week, I tried Bharatanatyam again. Why? Well, because she was really good(I was surprised at how graceful she was) at it when we went the first time – even though it was the first day. I suspect that the reason she balked was because she had just started full time school, and was exhausted. I have seen her energy increase as she settled into her routine. Now after 6 months of being in a routine, we tried again. This time, she had a class mate for company. And she loved it! She can’t stop talking about it. She showed me her moves, she danced for us when we got home – it was wonderful! I do hope her enthusiasm does not ebb down. I guess, I need to push and encourage her enough for her to continue. Will I stop again, if she asks.. I have no idea. I guess the way we react is based on a lot of factors. As parents, if we feel that the demand is unreasonable, we wouldn’t give in. Does it make us tough parents, not in my books. Then again, I might be a lazy or lax parent in some other parent’s book, for giving in the first time, and not pushing her to try harder. At that point, I was worried about putting her off it completely, if I pushed her too much. It is such a tough thing, getting that balance right.

I had plans to try Kumon again after 6 months, but I have shelved it for now. Why you ask? Well, at the moment, I don’t feel the need for it. Now, she is comfortable practising her handwriting at home. She loves maths. Her favourite game these days is for us to ask her maths questions. And before you call me a competitive parent or obsessed with studies parent – she initiated it. That is what she wants to do all day long, if she can get away with it. She does not consider it studying or ‘work’ – it is a game for her. So as far as she enjoys it, and gets to learn at the same time, why would I want her to go to a ‘class’, and feel that she ‘has to’ do something, when she does it all the time, on her own? If she gets her hands on a piece of paper, she makes up additions and writes down the answers – all by herself. And the thing is, I can’t claim any credit for parenting – this is her. She has picked up stuff from school, learnt a way of making it fun, and loves doing it over and over again. And as parent, what more can I ask for?

Can I push her more? I do – I push her limits slowly. I increase the number of stories that she reads, slowly. And as she progresses through the different levels, her reading books get slightly tougher. When she expresses an interest in the book, that I am reading, I encourage her to find words that she knows in it, and she loves it. I might not be pushing her as much as some others, because I want her to truly enjoy it rather than get pressured into doing it. She is enjoying the pace at which she is learning. It does not matter to me whether or not she becomes a professional dancer or the best student in class. What does matter is that she enjoys what she learns, that she gets stimulated as much as possible, and that she remains the confident, sunny child that she is. And makes the most of her life. While grades do matter, I have seen people with normal grades doing spectacularly well.

I will never know how things might have been different if I stuck to my guns and made her stay at all the activities, Who knows she might be reading much better now, or might have been dancing at higher levels.. Sure. Or maybe, she might have been hating it all. I guess I will never know. The one thing I know is that she is happy and content at the moment. At the moment, I do not regret what I did. And if tomorrow she wishes I had pushed her more, I guess I will have to accept it, knowing that I did the best I could, in the circumstances.

Every child is different, as is every parent.

45 thoughts on “The thin line between pressurizing and motivating

    • Gosh, saw this on my reader, and thought I’d be first! But Bikki has overtaken!! Btw, I just wrote a long comment on Roop’s blog on the very same topic and was thinking of writing a post on my blog, but you bet me to it ๐Ÿ˜‰ And I am so with you on your thought process, and the concept of not insisting that ‘my kid be the BEST or the TOP scorer/performer!!’ and rather, focussing on the child just enjoying herself and being happy ๐Ÿ™‚ Well done, Mommy!!!

      You should still post, Pals. I am sure you will have a lot more to add ๐Ÿ™‚ All we can do is do what we think is right.. And hope that we are doing it right, I guess. I would hate for her to feel pressurized to excel or feel scared of failure. At the moment, she is confident and I want her to stay that way.

  1. It seems this is a hot topic ๐Ÿ™‚ as i mentioned in my comments over other places .. WE shud TALK.. to our kids we will soon find out what is good or bad for them .. and as you said you tried with it first it did not go well, now it has gone well .. SO to me that sounds perfectly fine

    Yes, sometimes though they might not tell us. A friend of mine tells me of how her daughter went to ballet lessons for a year, and never told her that she hated it! She got to know at the end when she refused to dance! I would not want my child to feel that she can’t tell me..

    as long as the kids is not wailing and crying and you have them by the hand pulling them pushing them into the class ๐Ÿ™‚

    I agree ๐Ÿ™‚
    I think we as Indians still have a bit of that in us WHICH IS NOT WRONG ๐Ÿ™‚ but time has changed and these days i dont think it matter esepcailly in these countries aborad how many marks you get .. cause it is so structured that kids will soon find out what they like or want ..

    That is true. And the way they teach here is great. They let the child set the speed, so they pick up things really well. And she does writing and number work, without even being asked to.

    We can guide then tell them the good and bad of a decision they make and let them take the step, end of the day what if we force them to be something whch they dont want to be …

    and as you said how wud u know if u force into one thing , and well said each child is different and parents too ๐Ÿ™‚

    so i am sure you are doing a brilliant job with the little one .. so well done you and i would advice you not to read all these articles written by the so called MASTERS , half the time they dont know what they are talking and you put it everyone is different .. As long as you and the litte one are happy .. who care what these so called expert say …

    I know. Every parent has their own technique.. whatever works for the child and the parent..

  2. Its like you stole the title off my mind ๐Ÿ˜‰
    I completely agree with you. We need to encourage the kids, we need to check if they enjoy it and if yes, then definitely push it harder! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Absolutely. I would hate to be a parent who doesnot care what the child enjoys or what the child thinks.. Especially when it comes to early education. Because if the child grows up enjoying studies, I am sure it will stay with them through their life.

    If we ever catch ourselves saying: “Do it since mummy says its right” It’s time we back off!
    Couldn’t agree more.

  3. While you’re signing your little one up for classes, remember that it’s also important to have unscheduled, unstructured free time in order to develop creativity, emotional stability and the ability to amue herself.

    Studies are finding that children are developing stress related illnesses at younger and younger ages, and it seems to be linked to overscheduling and too much pressure to excell as opposed to learn and grow and find out who they are


    • I agree totally. She has a lot of unstructured free time, and that is truly when I can see her imagination soar. And I would not curtail that for the world.

      She goes to 2 dance lessons of 45 mins each during the week. She has play dates, and unstructured play through the week.

      Welcome here Catherine.

  4. Absolutely my point of view Smitha.

    “Who knows she might be reading much better now, or might have been dancing at higher levels.. Sure. Or maybe, she might have been hating it all. I guess I will never know. The one thing I know is that she is happy and content at the moment.

    In the end what all of us want is contentment, and not on some day far away but every day of our lives. Why should growing up or learning be punishment when it can (and was meant to be) a pleasure, just because a child must do as much as somebody else’s child.

    • I know IHM.

      ‘Why should growing up or learning be punishment when it can (and was meant to be) a pleasure, just because a child must do as much as somebody elseโ€™s child.’ So true!

      When she refused to go for her dance classes, one of our friends said, ‘Why are you even asking her if she likes it or not. She will cry a few times, and then will get used to it’. I don’t get the point of that at all! These activities are supposed to be for her to enjoy and learn from, not for getting her to ‘understand our culture’ as some put it. I saw no point in forcing her into something she did not want..

  5. Some excellent points there Smitha ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ˜€
    I think it’s a question every parent comes across at every point of parenting. I absolutely loved the way you gave enough thought,time and space for your daughter’s liking and disinterest before pushing her to do anything ๐Ÿ˜› ๐Ÿ˜›
    {{{hugs}}} to the caring mommy ๐Ÿ˜›

    • Thanks CB ๐Ÿ™‚ Hugs!
      I guess parenting is always about second guessing oneself, wondering if we are doing the right things, and then hoping ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Poohi is darling,cute she.Smitha pls continue her classical dance.I love to get my kids into that but we don’t have any dance school near to my place.

    I hope to continue it – lets see how it goes. Fingers crossed.

    I agree with u each child is different.There is lot of difference between the siblings itself.

    I sent varu to classical music and she went for one month,she wanted to tell me she doesn’t want to go but maybe she feared that i will say something she didnt tell.Each class i asked her u want to go and after one month she said no amma i don’t want to go to music class i want to be at home to read my books.I didn’t force her.

    Varu is such a darling! If she is not interested there is no point in forcing her. She might not be interested now, she might develop an interest later.

    Sometimes if we don’t force them maybe when they grow up they will ask us why u didn’t do this to me or why u didnt taught me this.Then what answer we will give??

    Hindsight is a great thing isn’t it ๐Ÿ™‚ You did your best, you tried, and if she does not want it, there is only so much you, as a parent can do. You could try again after a little time – she might get interested again, you know. Check if any of her classmates are interested – they might enjoy it more with company, you know.

    Then nothing can be achieved forcedly.When come to studies i never force varu.When i don’t tell her to do homework,she does her homework by herself as she knows that it has to be done at any cost.

    That is the best way, isn’t it? When they do it without being forced! Poohi does not get much homework, but she likes to write and do sums without being prompted – and I am not complaining ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. I echo each and every line of this post and the most prominent reason being I am also raising a 4 yr old boy and every circumstance mentioned here applies to him too.
    Very true that with kids, almost all the times, parents have to learn to let go. If the kid is not willing to do something, you just cannot force them to do/learn that.

    That is what I feel too. I am sure that if I forced her, she might have – but I am not sure if she would have enjoyed it as much. And if the child is not enjoying an extra curricular activity – is there any real point in making her do it?

    I wanted to enroll my son for the karate class, thinking that will give him some confidence to face some of the bullies in his class. But at the trial class itself, he made it very clear he was not ready for it and i just decided to back off. Now 6 months later, he himself got interested in the activity and is willing to do it.

    Great! That is wonderful, isn’t it?

    I strongly believe that at such a tender age, there is no right or wrong time for anything. They go through so many changes at this stage, so my responsibility as a parent is just to make him realize that I am there for him for anything and everything he wants me to and watch him grow and learn at his own pace.

    I totally agree!

  8. i’ll be very honest. i couldn’t keep my focus on the topic at all. all i felt was a strong pining for a daughter i could do same things with hehe. perhaps because i’d be exactly the way you are with your daughter, and i hope she would be the same as your daughter is. given that i do get a daughter one day eventually. ;p

    • Roop ๐Ÿ™‚ I am sure you will ๐Ÿ™‚ And I am sure that you will make a wonderful, wonderful mother – and will find your own special parenting techniques that will work for you and your child ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Ah the Amy Chua article! Read it when someone sent it at work with the title “why chinese mothers are best”. You are right when you said each child is different. Pushing might work with one kid depending on their temperament but not with another. I thought the Amy Chua article was very black and white. I agree with pushing to some extent…and of course, based on your child’s abilities. After all, it makes no sense pushing a kid with a learning disability to try and get a 90%! Unfortunately, parents can push their kids too much resulting in them coming to see people like me during adolescence with suicidal ideation and self harm and all that. Makes you then wonder whether it really is worth it!

    Absolutely! You know, I had a classmate, back in school, who was brilliant – in primary school. But in secondary school, he could not manage. It was fine as far as his parents pushed him, but beyond a point, even the pushing did not help. I heard that he got very badly depressed and had lots of problems.. I can’t help wonder if he would have had a better life, had he not been pushed and made to live up to his parents high expectations..

    I think though, as you said, trying once or twice again is good…it’s not going too far and pushing the child to the extent that they hate what they are doing.


    On another note…Kumon?? Isn’t that more speed-based than skill based (if it’s the same as it is here). I’ve seen lots of kids (mostly non-Asian as the Asians don’t seem to have a choice) who have ended up getting bored with it after a while because it’s repetitive. I guess at the end of the day, balance is the most important thing for any child…

    Yes, I found it very repetitive too. I was not sure if I wanted daughter to do it or not.. Right now, I am quite sure that she is fine the way she is. She enjoys her studies, and I don’t want to spoil it for her.

  10. The crux of the post lies in these lines for me.. She is enjoying the pace at which she is learning. It does not matter to me whether or not she becomes a professional dancer or the best student in class. What does matter is that she enjoys what she learns, that she gets stimulated as much as possible, and that she remains the confident, sunny child that she is. And makes the most of her life

    and that’s really important that a parent understands what you’ve understood…I think you’re right on track Smithu… ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. “What does matter is that she enjoys what she learns, that she gets stimulated as much as possible, and that she remains the confident, sunny child that she is.” Exactly, Smits. That is all that matters. As parents we will go through the phases of what if we had done this maybe our child would have learnt better or maybe now..but at the end of the day if our child is happy and content with what she is doing I dont think we need to worry at all. So dont worry.

    ๐Ÿ™‚ That is all we need, isn’t it? And confidence is something which I think helps a person along – a lot!

    You know I’m going through similar emotions. I had enrolled Namnam in ballet classes, but she just didnt take very well to it. I was surprised because it was she who insisted on learning it. But at the end of the class there she was vehemently saying she didnt want to learn further. I just left her as it is because I didnt want to force her. But now I feel bad that I didnt push her further. But another corner of my heart says if I had pushed her she would have probably gone into a shell which I didnt want. So I convinced myself that maybe she is not ready yet and when she is she will take to it , in her own time.

    Don’t worry, I am sure that Namnam will find other activities that interest her. I felt bad that I did not push her – esp when some people actually made it sound as if I was too easy on her. Thankfully, I spoke to my mother, and she was so supportive. She said that there is no need to push a child into something that she does not want to do. Every thing has a time, and if she is interested, she will come and let us know..
    And you know what worries me most about pushing her into something despite her telling me that she hates it – what if tomorrow, she feels that I never listen to her , what if she stops telling me things that actually matter.. I would rather not have her go to a dance class, than for her to not talk to me about how she feels..

  12. Very analytical post, Smitha! This post will be very useful for young mothers to follow!

    I don’t know, Sandhya, I just wrote what I felt, how I feel about these things..

    There is no meaning pushing children to do something in which they are not interested. They will never excel in that activity/subject.

    That’s how I feel.

    She finds maths to be fun? Very nice!
    Yes, she loves it! She has so much fun doing maths!

    I can imagine Poohi dancing, swirling the whole house! She might do it even while walking upto the bathroom…my cousin’s daughter was doing it! Take a video and let us all watch and enjoy, Smitha!

    I will do, Sandhya ๐Ÿ™‚

    When you notice her interest in some subject, you can help her to put her foot forward further and then, it is not wrong at all to push her into it a bit more. It might help her dream to excel in that subject and appreciate you more, when she grows up. Shreya Goshal is an example. She told in many interviews that her parents pushed her a lot into singing because she had a good voice and she was not very happy at that time. She wanted to play like other children. But now, she is happy they did.
    Yes, I agree. And for that, I think a child has to be incredibly talented. If we push a moderately talented child too much – it might result in her losing self confidence too.. I guess parents have to be the judge of how much to push their child, and when to let it go.
    This might not apply to other children…my two children are entirely different from each other…one was a bookworm, one was playing all the time! They have got their own individualities and they are good in what they are doing now.

    As you said here, they should be happy in what they are doing and they will be happy children/adults always!

    That’s what I hope for, Sandhya.

  13. I Totally agree to your point “Every child is different, as is every parent”

    I am not a parent yet, but I have seen the kids and parent surrounding and the parents put pressure on the kids like anyting. Many times, I have spoken to the kids abt their activities and some kids have even confessed that they dont like to do that, but mumma wants me to do it, so I am doing. Its really sad.

  14. Smiths, I love that idea of asking her to find words she knows. That’s so nice and thrills the kids when they feel they know something in Mommy’s big book no ๐Ÿ™‚ Hw sweet ๐Ÿ™‚

    Oh yes ๐Ÿ™‚ She loves it – it is another story that I don’t get much reading done when she is around ๐Ÿ™‚

    And she is learning Bharatnatyam .. awwww our sweet doll. Do post pics when u take a few ๐Ÿ™‚

    ๐Ÿ™‚ Will do ๐Ÿ™‚

    Every child, every parent and every individual is def. diff. Smiths ๐Ÿ™‚ love how u know u will take it in ur stride even if she feels otherwise later. Hugs ๐Ÿ™‚

    I hope to react like this – who knows how I will finally ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. this is one inspiring post..I so agree with you on each and every line !!
    Few days back I was discussing angel’s reading habit with colleagues and one of them said why you are pressurizing such a young kid to read…It was tough to explain i never forced/imposed my liking on her..
    I just gave her option and she liked it and now in totally in love of books..reading is never a chore for her…this is same like any other child enjoying a same way she enjoy her book..
    And as I include abc, colors, numbers books also she is learning that at good speed which is anyways good

    the only thing I take care of is giving her all the option and its her wish to pick up whatever she likes ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. Ur last line says it all….as every child is different, the parent needs to react differently to that child. Even there is a difference in reaction from the first child to the second.

    And I strongly believe u are doing a gr8 job with Poohi. Becos of the independence u’ve given her in telling u, that she can’t do a particular class….its only when a child cribs in the mind and does things, its pressurising the child.

  17. The whole debate around the Chua article has been an eye-opener for me , Smitha. I’ve introspected a lot and seen where I’ve been very lax, and appreciated where my laid-backness has paid off too.

    It’s tough to have a formula, it’s better to keep trying your best with each child, and never make the child hate whatever it is they’re learning. The problem is, some amount of boredom, practice, repetition, drilling is there in every field, whether academics or dance or music. I have regrets about my childhood and how my parents did not push me at all…I could’ve had some hobbies that I was really good at…and so I want to strike a better balance with both my kids. At the very least, I’ve learnt now, to have higher, but still realistic expectations with my kids.

    To my surprise, ‘leaving alone’ was the worst thing we did for our son…staying very involved with him has brought him right up to his potential and I shudder to think of the lax way we were not getting him to do his best. His self-esteem has risen sky-high now, something that happens only when you achieve something! with our daughter too, we’ve decided to step it up a bit, because somehow I think it’s time. At age 9, she does need to get a bit more serious…and so do we! Middle school beckons, and it’s not that easy-going anymore!

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  19. NICE POST.. and the apt discussion for me right now, as after lots of thoughts and discussions i(we) have decided to send my son to school(L.K.G) only next year.. i dont want to hurry.. i jus want him to be ready for it.. he was ready for playschool and so he never cried, even in the beginning.. so now i want him to be ready for school too.. and i want him to take his own time.. ur decision of not trying to push ur daughter is good for both u and ur daughter.. now, she is happy and so r u.. maybe when she is old enough to understand why her mother is pushy then it might work.. but for now u did the right thing..

    • We can never be entirely sure, can we? And I guess as parents, we do the best for our children, based on what we know. In some cases, I do push her, but in some cases, I know that it makes more sense to let her take her time. For instance, she loves numbers, so I challenge her more, and get her to better her previous work.

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  21. Yes that’s the key to it….as long she enjoys it and is happy with it…then it’s fine…
    U will have to be observant…as u rightly said, she may not say it at all… ๐Ÿ™‚

  22. Why is it such a thin line? Aren’t Motivating and Pressurizing completely different concepts? More so because the intent is different.
    You are motivating her to find her own goals, proving options she can explore, and enabling her to work at achieving what she wants to.
    We pressurize when we want them to follow our dreams, obviously so that they can do better, but still it’s a pressure if there is no option.
    The chinese mother may have her day when her child comes out bagging all trophies, but I have it right now, and evertime when I see my daughters enjoying what they do

    • And even if we find something a child is interested in, we can spoil it for her by pressuring her too hard.

      Sometimes a child just needs to play/explore/make mistakes. Not excell, explore…

      And that’s how she becomes her most beautiful, perfect self.


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