One of the hardest things as a parent is learning when to push your children and how much to push them. On the scale of Tiger Mother to pushover, we probably veer more toward Tiger Mother. Of course, our goal is to encourage them to face the things they initially fear or reject. But, at the same time, we don’t want them simply to do things because we pushed them. This is a label we want to avoid mostly because we fear that if our children do things just because we pushed them, they will abandon it (and/or us) at the first opportunity.
We faced this question last summer as my then 10-year-old daughter Liv started surf camp for the first time. Her younger sister had started a week earlier than Liv did and loved it. Liv went to camp that first day, and, if she wasn’t exactly bounding home with excitement, she certainly gave no indication she was unhappy. We had friends in for dinner that day, but as soon as they left, Liv calmly walked up to me and said, “Just so you know, I hated it. I was terrified. And I’m not going back.”
This is not a typical response from her about anything. She never lets fear get in her way of trying a new adventure. She usually enjoys most things she tries. But she was starting to get pretty worked up as she recounted the day, “You don’t know what it’s like. It was terrifying.” The teachers, like I, had no idea that she was afraid when she was in the ocean. Liv prides herself on following the rules, in not making a fuss, so she just followed along. Because she was older than her sister and a strong swimmer, they didn’t take it easy with her as they did with Lucy. Consequently, they brought her out too far, too fast.