Ask Dr Mike: Mom and Dad disagree over grueling gymnastics class

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By Dr Michael Oberschneider

Dr Mike,

We recently enrolled our 4 year old daughter in gymnastics. It wasn’t cheap, but her neighborhood friends do, and she begged us to go. It turned out to be a horrible disaster! From the first lesson, she was frustrated, she couldn’t figure out the instructions, and it was a battle to get her to leave every time.

My husband took the hard line that our daughter had to continue because she was committed and because we couldn’t get our money back. I first shared his location, but he never went to a single practice to see what I saw, and I couldn’t keep dragging my child out of the car crying just to take it off. of me to walk into a room and an activity she was miserable for two hours a week over and over again.

I made the executive decision to take our daughter away and my husband has been furious with me ever since. His inflexible hard-line stance is that our society is all about immediate gratification these days and commitment and persistence mean nothing to today’s youth and we spoil our children by giving in to all their needs. whims. What do you think?

Concerned parent in Loudoun County


Concerned parent in Loudoun County,

As legendary football coach Vince Lombardi once said: “Winners never give up and dropouts never win. But neither Vince Lombardi nor your husband observed what you did, and as a loving mother you probably listened to your head (and your heart) and did well to get your daughter out of a situation that ‘she was unable to manage at 4 years old. of age.

In my opinion, when it comes to stopping a formal activity for a child – piano lessons, soccer, Cubs, etc. – the decision to stop should be entirely based on your child’s bandwidth at the moment. If gymnastics was an “I don’t want it anymore” moment for your daughter, then I agree with your husband that your daughter should have overcome her negative feelings and she should have honored her commitment to finish what you are doing. signed him. for. If, however, your daughter has really had an “I can’t” moment in gymnastics, then stopping was the right thing to do. This is because young children who are pushed harder than their emotional capacities allow are at a greater risk of experiencing increased stress / anxiety and even subsequent problems with self-esteem and self-esteem.

From what you have written, it appears that your daughter was unhappy from the start and was unable to deal with her or herself feelings in the environment; and, she was also unable to master the task at hand. So, again, I think you did the right thing by removing her from a situation that was causing her pain and that would probably only have made it worse for her with continued exposure to the stressor.

Differentiating between an “don’t want” moment and a “can’t” moment for our children is not always easy, but when it comes to protecting our children from harm, loving parents who use their intuition and doing their best judgment usually does things right.

Your husband’s argument that he doesn’t want to raise a sweet child who will later be ill-prepared to enter the world is valid, but maybe he’s too rigid or too black and white for where your daughter is in life. Developmentally, at age 4, getting your daughter out of a situation she couldn’t handle was the right thing to do, but you probably wouldn’t have taken the same approach if she was having a hard time. hire at 14 or 34. It is our job as parents to challenge our children and hold them accountable (age appropriate) so that they can grow and be successful, but the challenges must be reasonable and achievable.

Regarding your daughter, I don’t think that giving up gymnastics alone solves the problem. For example, what will you do the next time she wants you to sign her up for something? At age 4, while it’s important for your daughter to participate in activities and socialize, you can’t give up everything you sign up for. So, I recommend to facilitate your daughter in her next activity; Perhaps take one lesson at a time until you feel your daughter is mature enough to engage in a particular sport or activity more meaningfully.

Beyond your daughter, your choice to make the “executive decision” to quit gymnastics without including your husband is problematic for me. I understand that you and your husband saw your daughter’s struggles with gymnastics differently, but by acting unilaterally, your conflict with your husband only increased. I recommend that you both take the time to discuss this most recent disagreement (and there may be more) and maybe come up with a game plan for how to be more together in the future when a problem arises for your daughter. If you can’t reach a point of respectful compromise, seeking the help of a couples therapist might be helpful for both of you.

Finally, keep in mind that you are not alone in your time and that many parents go through their own kind of gymnastic crisis with their own children. By the way, I recently took my 6 year old son off his baseball team in response to his strong anger while playing baseball. At first he wanted to play, but from the start he was unhappy. After several attempts to make the experience positive, my wife and I allowed him to quit, and it was the right decision. I realized this when we left the pitch just before his first game, and he looked at me with tears in his face and said, “Thank you, dad. “


Dr Michael Oberschneider is the founder and director of Ashburn Psychological and Psychiatric Services. Send your questions to [email protected]


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