It is natural for us to have aspirations for our children. Even from birth we will wonder how well they will do in life, what they will become. We will want to provide them with the best opportunities. We want them to do well and be the best they can be, they are our pride and joy. We are also conscious of what we did and didn’t have in our own childhood or upbringing and want to make sure it is as good as, or better than this, for our own children.
But are you guilty of encouraging your child to do things you wanted to do, but didn’t get the opportunity to pursue in your childhood; enforcing your own aspirations or interests on them, rather than allowing them to develop and follow their own? I’m sure if you do it is with the very best of intentions. But are your best intentions in the best interests of the child?
I remember, as a child, showing an interest in music and then being given piano lessons, which I enjoyed, for a while. But when I began to lose interest I was made continue and enter for exams, made to practice and work towards grades. It put me off. And I understood at the time that making me practice was good discipline, trying to teach me not to give up. But it also demoralised me. I wanted to be outside, doing other things. If the lessons had been fun and not gruelling, I may well be able to play and enjoy the piano now. I would like to. But somehow, I still don’t as the memory has spoiled my interest!
I know now, that my mother had always wanted to play the piano and had taught herself. She was fairly good, for someone who was self-taught, but not proficient. She wanted me to do something she had wanted to do. It was her aspiration for me, not mine!
When I was young, I was also really keen on horses and learning to ride. I was privileged as my parents decided to buy me a pony when I was 11. I was thrilled. We found two lovely ponies and I had a favourite! One was only just broken and was very young. He was extremely handsome, and my mum preferred him. I didn’t bond with him. I much preferred the more mature one, which was steady and solid. I loved it. I felt safe and confident with it. It was friendly and probably more suitable.
But my parents chose the other one!
Now don’t get me wrong, I still loved my new pony. I decided to call him Spice. My mum preferred Spicer - which he soon became and a new name plaque to that effect appeared on his stable door. But I could never understand why he needed to be a verb, not a noun, and the ‘r’ on the end of his name never felt right to me. Again, my mother’s choice, not mine.
I looked after him well, even though sometimes he was not very keen on me being in his stable and would turn his rear end towards me - which meant he may be threatening to kick! That much I had learned in my pony care lessons. As I started to learn to ride him, he would often bolt or refuse to do things. He would nip me too. I was just too inexperienced to handle this particular young pony. Now if the choice of pony made had been mine and had been my mistake, I might have learned from this. But it wasn’t. And the only thing I learned was that my Mum made the decisions for me! But in her interests and not in mine. I felt that I hadn’t succeeded. And I was disappointed.
As an Emotional Wellbeing Coach, I have children brought to me with all sorts of issues, fears, phobias, insecurities or lack of self-confidence. All showing anxiety or challenging behaviours. It is my job to find out why and then to help them to overcome their problems. Some of the common issues I come across are friendship issues. And quite often, these can stem from children being enrolled into activities they are really not interested in.
One lad came to me with such issues, mainly with the children on the rugby team he played with.
His Mum had said he was getting into fights with the other lads, was being bullied and sometimes bullying them. That he was being constantly sent off by the referee for bad behaviour. She told me this was now affecting his home and school life.
He told me everyone was being ‘unkind to him. After much chatting and searching for the reasons behind all this, it turned out that he really didn’t enjoy rugby at all.
His Dad was one of the rugby coaches and was very keen for his son to play. So, the lad played rugby to please his dad. He didn’t want to disappoint him. He didn’t perhaps have the choice. But he would much rather have been inside, building Lego models or playing at the park with his friends, even kicking a football around. He was also extremely creative, and artistic and loved time to be at home writing and drawing. He wrote some amazing stories and illustrated them superbly!
I remember, as a child, showing an interest in music and then being given piano lessons, which I enjoyed, for a while. But when I began to lose interest I was made to continue and enter for exams, made to practice, and work towards grades. It put me off. And I understood at the time that making me practice was good discipline, trying to teach me not to give up. But it also demoralised me. I wanted to be outside, doing other things. If the lessons had been fun and not grueling, I may well be able to play and enjoy the piano now. I would like to. But somehow, I still don’t as the memory has spoiled my interest!
We can and should have aspirations for our children, but I believe it is really important to make sure we bring out the best in them, based on their hopes and desires too, not just our own. If we do this, we will not be setting up emotional problems for them or even possible mental health problems for the future. Allowing our children to become who they are is so important. Nurture their talents. Be proud of who they are - not just who you want them to be.