shutterstock_171263981I don’t push my kids to do anything they don’t want.  It doesn’t mean I shelter them.  I introduce them to new people, places and activities, but at the same time I don’t push them.  I don’t force them to hug anyone, I don’t make them eat things they don’t like, I don’t make them do new things they don’t want to do.

At the same time I do NOT treat my children like special snowflakes.  I have a decent grip on their strengths and weaknesses.  I think it’s important to teach them manners and how to function in the world — the great wide world of which they are not the center.

So I was under the impression I had a pretty good balance going.  I expose them to the world but let them explore at their own pace.  But watching this clip of “Friday Night Tykes,” I’m starting to think I am coddling them beyond belief.

The new the new documentary style TV series follows the rookie division of the Texas Youth Football Association through their 2013 season.  One of the stars, Jaden, started playing flag football with the NE Colts when he was 5, and he has become accustomed to the pressure he gets from coach Marecus Goodloe.

“When I see them not giving me 100 percent and I know their potential, it pisses me off,” he tells the cameras.

I’m not sure I even know where my kids have unrealized potential.  I keep thinking they are so young and they have time (which is true) but then I also think about Tiger Woods on The Mike Douglas slamming a hole in one at the age of three.  If they had some extraordinary talent I might know it by now.  But if they did and I know it, would I have it in me to let them be pushed like Jaden?  Or do it myself?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating becoming one of those intense parents that push their kids to their limits while depriving them of their childhood.  But there has to be a huge spectrum between just sort of letting them find their way and overextending them.  I pretty much let them off the hook as long as they’ve “tried” something.  What if I made them try again?  What if I made them show even more of an effort?

I was raised by parents who are a lot like the one I’m shaping up to be.  They supported whatever I was mildly interested in (meaning they didn’t say no I couldn’t do it) but they also let me quit when I thought it was time.  Most of the time I appreciated them for letting me find my own way, but now I’m wondering if I could have been more or done more if they had pushed me beyond the edge of my comfort zone.  I don’t want to be overbearing and I’m definitely not looking for them to fulfill some dream I have hidden away in my subconscious.  But if I don’t know what they are capable of, will they ever?

At the end of the day, I want my children to be resilient, cultivate perseverance and discover the areas in which they excel. To get there they may need more than just exposure — they need guidance and someone to push them safely beyond their comfort zones, even at these young ages.

(photo: Paolo Bona / Shutterstock.com)