Are You a Pusher Parent?

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Big E turned six last week so I’ve spent a large amount of my time celebrating. There was the family dinner, presents, a bouncy house outing and taking a friend, cousin and sister to the arcade. With a birthday in January and my being eight months pregnant my outdoor celebratory options were minimal. I did arrange for Big E to go skiing with a talented teenage neighbor (Mountain Dad doesn’t ski yet) but the morning of his big day he told me in no uncertain terms, “Today’s my birthday. I can’t go skiing.”
I’m not sure what about the day would prevent him from skiing. In my world snowboarding would be the number one activity of choice for my big day. I was flummoxed and asked him repeatedly, “Are you sure you don’t want to go skiing today? You can go for just an hour if you want.” But he was sure. It was his birthday and he didn’t want to spend it skiing.
This brought up an interesting self reflective question. Am I a pusher parent? My answer: Yes.
You know the kind, the ones who live vicariously through their children, who excessively encourage sports, academics, dance or any other interest to the detriment of their over-scheduled offspring. There’s a great chapter on this in the book All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior. I talked about this book in this previous post.
It discusses the pressure parents feel to have their children involved and the causes of that pressure. What parent doesn’t want their child to develop talents, learn discipline, and make friends, after all? Sports, scouting, clubs and groups are great ways to accomplish that, but how does the child’s schedule affect the family unit as a whole? I don’t want to be just a taxi service for my over-involved children and after reading All Joy and No Fun I decided I wouldn’t force my kids into anything.
Then ski season came around.
We live near Sundance Resort in Utah. Our family chooses to live here because of its easy access to recreational activities. I LOVE snowboarding, it is one of the top ways I feel joy in being alive. In fact being pregnant during this entire ski season has caused more than a few depressed days this winter. I fully intend to teach my kids to ski and snowboard as soon as they can walk. I want that to be the sport they care about as much as I do. In my house I’d love for the winter X games to be a bigger sporting event than the Super Bowl.
If that makes me a pusher parent, oh well. I believe a love of outdoor sports is worth a little parental pressure.
I hope my influence doesn’t cross the line between coercion and creating a outdoor family culture. My goal as a parent is to give my children skills they can use throughout their lives, very specific skills that have brought joy and adventure to my own life. Here’s my list:
1 – Skiing or Snowboarding.  It’s just so awesomely fun, plus when they’re teenagers we’ll have something in common and they’ll be stuck on a lift with me, forcing them to talk to me about it.
2 – Music. Playing the piano and trumpet opened doors to friendships I would not have had otherwise. I could take pride in my abilities, even though I never was an exceptionally good musician.
3 – Speaking Spanish. Learning a foreign language was hard. For me it included two foreign exchange programs and a lot of extra classes in high school and college. But I use Spanish in my life a lot and if I can give that gift to my kids and make it easier by teaching them when they’re young, I’ll do it.
4 – Riding a bike and swimming.Swimming can save lives and every kid should know how to ride a bike.
I guess my kids will have to live with the fact that I will push them in these areas. I’ll have to get over it too. Activities above and beyond these will have to be inspired by the kids themselves.

So, in what areas are you a pusher parent? I can’t be the only one out there…I hope.

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Author: Mountain Mom

Hi! I'm Mountain Mom. I live with my husband and three young kids in the mountains near Sundance, Utah. When we're not hiking, biking, skiing and camping, I spend my time doing Mom stuff and reading. Summer of 2016 we traveled over 7,000 miles along the US National Park to Park Highway.

0 thoughts on “Are You a Pusher Parent?”

  1. Mountain Mom,

    I think I am the pushy parent too- I loved sports and I wanted my son to have every opportunity to do them. So we mowed lawns, sold pop cans, etc. etc. to make sure we could get him dribbling a basketball.

    Then guess what? He loved the outdoors just as much and we had to change venues. This was a HUGE deal because the pressure that was put on him by coaches to play after time invested. But he loved to ski and guess what……. early in his childhood career of being a kid we purchased a "snowboard."
    But we outfitted him for skiing. This year he asked if we could use the close hill, cheaper rentals, etc. to try out snowboarding. I thought of you and went ahead and let him. Not that I am against boarding but, once again, we'd put a lot of investment into skiing.
    "you have to pay for the rentals." I told him.
    And he did. I thought of the effort you talked about when getting outside. So I packed up my body and got him to the hill. It took A LOT of effort. But guess what! I SAW him come down the hill from the window in the lodge. He looked like he did on his skateboard during summertime.
    Susan, he came up to me and said: "I fell! And I am falling for it!" Granted my heart fell into my wool slippers but, ya know, I am glad he feels comfortable enough to tell me what he wants.

    I will have to read that book. And let you know that next year we will be heading your way for some snowboard lessons. (He has told me he will ski Targhee and board at Kelly Canyon unitl he is good at it. And he commited to earn money this summer to pay for boarding costs next year.

    Good with me.

    Long journal entry, sorry! However, you are right and you inspire me to push myself. Now days that is harder than ever. It has helped that you are pregnant so that I don't compare myself to someone not carrying a burden as well.

    There is something about getting these kids outside that helps clear their minds. And mine.

  2. great post, susan! well i totally agree/think that some kids really need some level of pushing in certain areas. i like to think it as "encouragement" with occasional bribery (or, ahem, "behavior modification") involved. but, let's face it, im a mom of three and all three kids have different levels of motivation and sometimes i just know better……….. that being said, of course, we need to watch out for going overboard. i think we need to trust our guts and find a balance. and get outside! 🙂 🙂 -annie aka OutdoorsyMama

  3. Great post, Susan! It's always tough to find the right balance between encouragement and pushing. I make a point of exposing my kids to things that I'd like them to be interested in, because I think it'd be fun to enjoy some of them as a family. Skiing is one example of something that I'd really like them to get into and luckily they love it so far. Horseback riding is another one that I've encouraged, but although they like it I can tell they're not as crazy about it as I was when I was their age, so eventually that one might have to go. If I push too hard, I know it will backfire…

  4. Amanda,
    What a great comment! Thank you for sharing. I'm so glad you and your son took the snowboarding plunge, I seriously love that sport. But I know what you mean, many great hobbies and sports are expensive and take a lot of investment. It's hard to know what's worth the effort.

    I'm also glad that something I wrote was helpful to you. Sometimes it feels like I just put words on the screen to complain about how hard (but worth it…usually) it is to get outside with kids.

    How old is your son? He sounds very responsible to earn his own money for snowboarding, that's awesome.

    Susan Strayer

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