When your child was a baby, you probably spent a lot of time dreaming about who they would
Chances are you had a good idea of what activities you’d enroll them in. You probably already had
expectations for how they would do in school and certainly had high hopes for their success in many
areas. And as their little personalities began to emerge, you started making assumptions about their
When children grow, though, parents are often surprised by unexpected differences between what
they had imagined and what is the reality. This might just be different preferences, such as team
sports over individual sports. Sometimes, however, what you hope to see in your child but then don’t
is a much larger issue.
As a parent, you know it’s important to encourage your child when they struggle or don’t want to do
something. But, sometimes, encouragement turns into something counterproductive—and you begin
pushing them too much.
How would you know? Let’s look at some specific areas.
We all know that our children will be different than us in some ways. But, sometimes, the differences
are greater than we expected. Adjusting our beliefs about who our child should be and how they
should act is important in these situations.
Perhaps you and your partner are both extroverted and believed your child would be the same. As
they grew, though, you discovered they were very content playing alone. They didn’t express the
same need as you to be around other people.
If you’re not familiar with what being introverted looks like, this can be quite a conundrum. Your child
may understandably resist your efforts to get them involved in group activities. Rather than keep
pressuring them to act like an extrovert, though, you need to learn to step back.
This is just one example of many ways your child may be different temperamentally than you are.
Emotional or Physical Differences
It’s painful to see our children struggling. Maybe they’re left out on the playground. Perhaps they aren’t meeting the educational benchmarks their teachers want. Or they may still cling to us with separation anxiety long past the time that other kids stopped doing so.
Understandably, you want to encourage and help your child in these situations. You want them to
find more confidence and independence.
So you sign them up for sports, thinking that more practice will help them. Or maybe you insist that
they spend time every night doing extra homework to try to catch up. And you decide to stop putting
up with their clinginess at drop-off and leave them standing on the sidewalk in tears, hoping they’ll
work it out on their own.
Unfortunately, these kinds of steps often backfire. They can create more problems than they solve.
Your child may develop even more anxiety about their abilities, school performance, and
In cases like these, it’s important to realize that there can be underlying issues that need to be
addressed. Emotional, developmental, and physical differences often need to be evaluated and
approached with the help of a specialist.
Age and Developmental Stage
It’s always important to keep your child’s age and stage in mind when knowing how far to encourage
them. So many things are new experiences to toddlers and preschoolers that they may need more
coaxing than older kids. They’re still learning basic gross motor control and social skills.
Your tween, however, may resent your eager encouragement on the sports field or similar situation.
They want to approach the situation using their own time-frame. And it’s important that you give them
the chance to work through some struggles on their own.
As the saying goes, children only have one childhood. Hence, parents have a limited amount of time
to nurture them, encourage them, and find productive ways to help them grow into their highest
potential before they venture out on their own. Sometimes, though, our best efforts don’t seem to
produce the effects we hope for.
If you’re concerned about your child’s ability to handle new situations, emotional or social
challenges, or to persevere with difficult schoolwork, I encourage you to contact our office. We would
love to help you and your child build a game plan for how to best tackle differences and avoid being
pushy but rather encouraging.