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Parenting: A Delicate Balance

 

Somewhere between “You don’t have to do anything you don’t want, honey” and digging in your heels with “Stop crying and get in there and do it!” is the correct message for your child in that particular situation. Finding the right balance is an art and not a science. There is also persistence, luck and faith thrown into successful parenting. It is not easy, in fact, parenting may be the toughest life challenge you face, but the reward can be happy, healthy children and proud parents.

A particularly tough parenting choice is when the “right’ answer for your child in a situation goes against how you were brought up and what you want or expect. Parenting requires looking at yourself and your child objectively and realizing that reality and your dreams and expectations may be different. However, even if you make a choice that doesn’t work, parenting is a non-stop activity and you will have many chances to make other decisions.

What does all that rhetoric mean in an everyday situation like a preschooler’s gymnastics class? One of the toughest transitions occurs when your child moves up from a class where 18 month – three year olds are accompanied by an adult, to a class where three and young four year olds go into the gym on their own. The basic class structure is that shortly after your child turns three they graduate to the next class and having learned the routine, the transition is smooth.

Of course, children and parent’s individual qualities make for variations in this transition. On one end of the spectrum is the child who is ready to participate on their own but their parent wants to continue to stay with their child. On the other end of the spectrum is the child who is just not quite developmentally ready to transition and their parent or nanny insists that the child go in alone.
 

Here are some comments based on seeing both situations. Parents who would like to stay with their child or at least would like their child to show some regret at leaving their parent behind, step back and pat yourself on the back. Parenting is a process of letting go and helping the child learn to live on their own, and you have started the process successfully. Somewhere along the way your child will give you a big hug or say something to let you know they still need you, so rejoice that they can maneuver class by themselves. However, in the other situation where children aren’t ready to leave mom or the nanny, forcing them to separate is traumatic for everyone. Very often if the child is given another month or two they will be able to make the transition easily, whereas children pushed ahead when they were not ready may still be struggling a year later.

Of course, this can be tricky: the child may just need a little encouragement and a little push to enable them to transition to the older class. Figuring out what will work best for your child may not be easy. It is important to realize that what works for a child in a preschool setting may not work when they are expected to enter a large gym and do part of the maneuvering around obstacle courses by themselves. Parents and nannies can help children prepare by teaching their children what the instructors expect. Help steer your child to make the decisions that help your child master the challenges. When your child doesn’t want to roll down the mat, the teacher can ask your child if they want to do a forward roll or a log roll. As you continue through the obstacle course with your child, entice them into participation by giving them appropriate choices.
A gymnastics class offers opportunities for children to have fun while learning how to control their bodies and their behavior; mastering new social and physical skills.