Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Kiddie sports: the art of pushing

My three-year-old's gymnastics class is hilarious and cute. There is nothing more divine than watching eight little bodies rocket jumping their way across a massive trampoline; their bodies like little bullets with rounded bellies.

My daughter has been doing kinder gym for almost a year and she loves it, at the minute anyway - such are the whims of a preschooler. And it's because of those whims that I'm sometimes left wondering whether she should really do the class. There are days when she looks at me on the big blue mats, and says, "I'm not doing that." Instead of somersaulting her way down the wedge, she'll say, "No. I don't want to."

Fair enough.

I wonder what I'm meant to say to that? She is only three after all, it's not like her life depends on it.

She's not alone, every other three-year-old will have their days when they think they shouldn't do the exercises either. And here's the thing, then parents like myself will try to cajole their child into it. "Aww, but you're so good. Show me how you do the somersault, I can't remember how to do it." Some kids will bite at that, forget their pig-headedness and get on with the task. Other children need more work, and this is where the waters of pushing get a little murky.

Is it okay to gently push your child into the activity, teaching them about times when they need to follow instruction? Are we expecting too much from such littlies by enrolling them in classes like these and stealing their childhood and unlimited hours of unstructured play?

Every now and then I find myself saying, "We've come here to do the class and we need to do the class. If you don't want to do it then lets go home." Then a neat little power struggle will play out, and eventually my child gives in and does the job. But once again, is that child too young to be argued into the task?

There is another mum, who sends shivers down my spine each week, as she yells at her child to perform. I liken it to the 'ugly parent syndrome': parents sitting on the sidelines of a sports match, yelling abusive remarks at players, coaches and their child in a bid to get a better game from their kid. This woman booms at her child, who prefers to be more wayward than obedient, "C'mon. GET OVER HERE NOW! I said, do it!" And the kid runs away - I would to. She's pretty scary.

So at what point does the gently-pushing mum, who's given up on cajoling her child, turn into the 'ugly parent' and should any three-year-old be pushed into the lesson simply because they're scheduled to be there?

My daughter has been having a few of these non-compliant days. Each time I think about withdrawing her from the class, she tells me how much she loves it and that she can't wait to go back.

Tricky isn't it?

I do know one thing, we'll be cancelling classes before my voice bellows, "C'MON, GET OVER HERE NOW."

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