Monday, January 24, 2011

The ugly side

As far as parenting William goes, he's been a dream child.  I hear stories from coworkers, friends and other family members and I cannot believe that things can really get that out of control.  Usually, I tend to look at the parent and wonder if it's their behavior that makes their child act out of control, or whether that person is just a complainer (because that's a disease that my generation has become infected with).  

Two prime examples are when people talk about the terrible twos or how out of control their children behave when they eat chocolate.  Really two years old was an amazing year and each year gets better.  And as far as chocolate or soda goes I never see abnormal behavior after William (or any child) consumes those.

The fifth year of William's life has brought out an ugly side that Jaime and I are left unsure how to handle.  William has turned into a child that is pushing boundaries in one area: he doesn't want to participate in organized activities.  The two examples which have been the most difficult have been softball and swimming lessons.  Wish soft ball the season's first practices started out okay.  He was excited, made hits and ran the bases, but then something changed.  He became aware that everyone was watching him and he no longer wanted to even go on the field.  We tried making him sit thru all the innings with his team on the bench and watch, even if he wouldn't participate, but we soon gave into the fights thinking perhaps he just didn't really like soft ball.  

When school started we had some hesitation with him being excited to start but it all changed and he's excelled in school and looks forward to going everyday.  We thought perhaps it was just soft ball and wrote it off.

And now William is registered in swimming lessons.  He was in them when he was younger, but they were parent/tot classes and really didn't get anything out of them, other than being in a pool on a weekly basis.  I have taken him swimming quite regularly over the years since, but I decided this year I had to enroll him again because swimming is truly survival knowledge.  I would be somewhat failing as a parent to not give him this basic knowledge.

Since it had been a couple of months since William and I had been in the exact pool that he would have lessons in I took him to an open swim for three hours the day before his first lesson.  He realized that he had grown enough to touch thru all areas of the pool and that gave him a lot of confidence.  The next morning however he didn't want to get into the water.  His insecurity over-ruled any reasoning that I presented.  I told his teacher to continue the class without him and made him sit on the edge of the pool and watch his two other classmates as they went thru the lesson.  After class was over I went over what they had done in class and asked him what he had been afraid of and there wasn't anything.  He left promising that the next time he would get in.

This week we went back to the open swim all Saturday afternoon.  We did most of the same things that were covered in the previous lesson and he seemed good to go.  I even put him in a life jacket for a portion of the swim to know what it felt like to have no dependence on me in any capacity in the pool.  He was so proud of himself and said he'd be in the pool the next morning.  Sadly, this morning was the same old story.  He had tears streaming down his cheeks and was very silent.  I had to again tell the instructor to continue without him and told William that I was disappointed and forced him to sit on the edge of the water while I went back with the other parents.  And for about 20 minutes a different instructor came over and talked with him trying to coax him into joining the class.  It was a no go.

I'm at a loss.  I remember what it was like to be the child who was paralyzed with insecurity and didn't want to participate.  But I don't want William to be that child.  This behavior held me back in many areas of life.  He deserves better and as parents we need to help him overcome this hurdle.  But how?  I don't think it's really something he should be punished for, because it's really an emotional response for him and not behavioral. And I don't want to offer rewards, because that is just setting us up for years of problems having him do anything.  So what option do we have?

How do you get your child to grow up with confidence and willing to go outside their comfort zone?  

1 comment:

Jody said...

He will be ok Jeff... I think its probably stressing you out more than him. You are providing him with lots of love and security (which is most important) and he will probably go through lots of varying stages in his young life and this will probably pass.

Some people never want to be part of a big group setting though and forcing him could prove more tramautic in the long run. Like you he will find his way and discover what works for him.