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How Hard Do You Push Your Kids Academically?

My son is 4. He's a bright kid and goes to a great Pre-K program for 3 half days a week. I'm pretty sure that if I enrolled him in an enrichment program somewhere he could learn to read and begin doing basic math.

I was raised to believe that "kids should be kids". School is important, but it is equally important that they laugh a lot...have lots of fun/friends. Let 'em run around all day and get dirty! So, when I see kids being pushed/challenged, my first reaction is "leave the poor kid alone!".

Then again, things are different than they were when I was a kid. It seems that the world is more competitive. How do you find a balance? If my kid is bright, or even "gifted" (I don't really like that word), how do I nurture that part of him without going overboard? My mom made me try lots of things, but I wasn't a joiner or interested in practicing things, and she let me quit everything without much of a fight. I have mixed feelings on whether that was a good/bad thing.

So...anyone have any thoughts on how hard to push/challenge kids -- whether it is academically, musically, or athletically?

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We always followed our child's lead. Her interest and her excitement.
We NEVER underestimated her abilities. We just made sure she had what she needed and we stayed interested in her interest."

We read all of the time. We played all sorts of music and yes, she watched TV.. We took her to museums, parks, camping, movies, restaurants, libraries, festivals..

We gave her words for everything, we got down on her level to see what she was looking at. We answered honestly to anything she questioned us about. And we asked her opinion all of the time.

We talked about all sorts of things and asked her to think of these things in different ways.. "Tell me a story.. What is another way that story could end? What if instead of a girl it was a boy? A animal? An old person?"

We were both working full time so she attended day care and loved it. Playing with the other children.. She loves rules, so following rules was great for her. She loved their activities, the different teachers.

She was not so much into toys as she was into creative play and creative activities so we fed on this..

I remembered in the OK City bombing the mom of the 2 little boys that were killed, "My only regret is that I did not read that 1 more book, they always asked for at night.". So my husband and I always did read that one more book and there were tons!!! Yes we may have spent hours on her bed reading some nights, but we would have rather done that than anything else.

Once school started we always told her, "Just do your best. We know you will do great." "be yourself, you are perfect just the way you are."

She loved school and I made sure to be involved. We are still friends with all of her teachers and Principals. Many of them attended her graduation parties and are her friends on FB..

Sports were not her thing, but once she got to middle school she announced she wanted to" row". We have no idea where this came from.. And so she took rowing for 6 years after school (got school credit)and got a waiver at school so she could take 1 more class at school every semester,.

Our daughter graduated with all sorts of honors and now attends a fantastic College on a huge scholarship.. At college she literally "glows" It is her place, her world. She will leave in a week for her Senior year and like we have always said to her each fall since Kinder.. "Just do your best and be yourself, we know you will do great." That is what we tell her when we drop her at the airport.

Just let you child be who he is.. Offer him all sorts of choices. Listen to him. Play with him. Make sure he gets to play with lots of different children and meet all sorts of people. Respect him just as much as he respects you.

And always tell him he is loved and you will always be there for him. When he knows you ware always on his side, that will give him power his whole life.

5 moms found this helpful

I expect my kids to always do their best - not to be perfect but to always do their best.

We laugh a lot in our home...there are times when homework has been fun because we used Cherrios to count or divide.....we've done the lemon and baking soda experiment - so homework isn't always a "chore"...

In sports - again - always do your best...

In music - practice practice practice!

We try to balance fun with everything...some days are better than others!!!

5 moms found this helpful

I'm a homeschooling mom...

When a child is young (under 7), I think their world should be mostly play. I'm not big into academics at a young age. They learn SO MUCH by playing and using their imagination. I think craft activities & other various activities are great learning lessons...presented in a way that they don't realize they are learning. For example, we bought one of those Butterfly Habitats where you get them as caterpillars. Then you watch as they go through the cocoon stage and emerge as butterflies. We didn't use a worksheet...we just used the real thing.

So, with young children, I definitely am against pushing them. They should be encouraged to explore the world and taken places or have things brought home that can help them learn and explore it. So, I'm all for offering them learning situations....just not making it the boring kind of learning that I felt they had in school when I was a kid!

I do think letting them lead the way is important. A few weeks after my son turned 4 yrs old, he only knew his alphabet and recognized some of his letters. He seemed interested in learning to read, so I started by having him watch a DVD that taught letter sounds. Two days later, he knew them all. Four months later, he was at first grade reading level - and half of that was interrupted by me having morning sickness. Then he lost interest after reaching first grade. He was only four, so I didn't push. He's still four, it's a few months later, and he's interested again. So, we'll start it again soon. I definitely believe he's gifted, but I still feel like the best thing for him is to play and be a kid unless he REALLY wants to learn something. And, again, I do offer learning environments for him...he just doesn't always realize he's learning.

When my kids are older, they will need to learn certain subjects. If there are topics that they really struggle with and hate, I will not push. I'll try to help if they need help understanding, but otherwise, I'll give that topic a break for a little bit and try again later. Often, just a little bit of time is all they need. I often think it's a waste to try to force kids to learn something when it would be so much easier (and less stressful for the child) to take a breather and try again in a month or so. My oldest daughter is like that. And it's amazing how much easier it is for her when we try again.

When it comes to things like martial arts or piano or other skills that are developing a talent, I wouldn't force my child to do those. BUT if they want to do one, I would get a commitment of time from them before they could do it. For example, if my daughter wanted to learn martial arts, I would ask her how long she is willing to commit to it. If she said one year, then I would hold her to that. At one year, we'd re-evaluate and see how she feels. Then I would either get another time commitment from her, or else she can quit. If she quits, I would investigate why and make sure there aren't issues that need to be cleared up...or maybe she just needs encouragement. In the end, it's her decision, though. If in the middle of a commitment - say six months into her year commitment - if she decides she wants to quit, I would hold her to the year mark (unless something bad was happening, like everyone being mean to her or something).

Anyway, I don't know if that helps at all. I'm REALLY big into NOT pushing young children at all. Their lives should be full of the magic of childhood. They should run, play, use their imagination, and explore the world. I think sometimes that is taken away too soon, and they are stuck in the world of "learning", which deprives them of their natural way to learn through play.

Oh, and as for gifted kids, I think mine fit that definition (though I think every kid is gifted in their own way!), and I'm still opposed to early teaching or forcing of anything...UNLESS the child shows interest and wants to learn it (like my son did with reading). I still fully expect him to do great and excel quickly in school...but for now, he's only four. So, I let him be a kid. It won't harm him at all. In fact, I truly believe it'll help him!

And I am basing a lot of what I'm saying off of things they are researching and finding out about teaching children too young. They used to think that the brain was fully developed, just there waiting to have info dropped into it. Now they are finding that the brain keeps developing. If a child learns something too young, a "less efficient pathway" is developed in the brain. So, while the child appears to have learned it, they didn't learn it as well as they would have if they were older. This can lead to comprehension issues later on. Whereas, if a child is older when they are taught things, their brain is more developed, and a "more efficient pathway" is created in the brain, allowing for a deeper understanding and growth from that knowledge. Another study compared children started off at different ages in school. One school started them at age 5. Another school was at age 7. They both could learn it, but the 7 year olds learned quicker, developed deeper comprehension, and in the end, they clearly benefited from being older.

So, with your son, I'd suggest waiting until he's older than four, as well as following his interests...if he wants to read, help him. If not, don't worry about it. Just because he's gifted doesn't mean you need to feel pressure to teach him young (unless he's interested!). He'll still be gifted later on, and you'll probably be amazed at how fast he'll learn and how much deeper his comprehension is. Hope that helps.

4 moms found this helpful

Kids learn by playing - that is how they interact with the world. Taking him on hikes, planting a garden, visiting the zoo and museum - will all teach him about nature and science. Flying a kite, building things, mixing paint colors and making art - will all teach him as well. He will learn to love to read because you read to him and he sees you reading for pleasure - not because you force him to trace letters and do work books. At least this is my approach for my DS - currently 5-1/2.

3 moms found this helpful

Straight A's are not necessary in our household. I do however expect them to study and try their best. I was never good at school, but hubby was #1 in all of his classes even college so I pray they have his smarts.

3 moms found this helpful

I have four kids, all from the same gene pool. Only one has blown the world away though all four were given exactly the same thing.

Based on my experience it must come from within.

I don't really worry about the other three, even the one that is an adult. See I was like him, smart as a whip but I didn't do tricks. If I blew someone away it was because I wanted to do so. Oh all the knowledge I could get get my hands on is sorted in my brain but I was not an exceptional student. I went back to school to get my degree. Four years, 173 hours, yup, I can do tricks if I want to.

I guess my advice to you is get them around knowledge. If they are smart they will learn. If they want to do tricks they will, if they don't it doesn't mean they aren't smart or they aren't learning, ya know?

Oh, same kid who blew everyone away in school was also an amazing athlete. A keeper no less, mean as spit, a mans goalie. It is just part of who she is and I did nothing to make her that way but give her the opportunity.

I hate the word gifted as well. :)

3 moms found this helpful

I encouraged my kids to read and learn. One of the best ways to get them to like reading is to read to them and let them see you reading.

One of the best ways give your kids a good marriage is to let them see you loving and having fun with your wife/husband. Since I was dating my wife, I always opened doors for her and offered my hand when she got in and out of a car. I give my wife flowers on a regular basis and write her love notes and poems. My wife and I celebrate our anniversary every month. (Its been a game with us to see who can wish the other happy anniversary first on the 28th of the month.) My kids picked up on this and 6 of my eight children were married on the 28th of the month. All of my sons are gentlemen to their wives and all the spouses(except 2) of my kids have come to me after they were married and thanked me for teaching my kids to be ladies and gentleman.

I wanted my kids to appreciate the finer things in life, even though we were poor. We played classical music and refined music for my kids when we went on road trips. I insisted each of my kid have one year of music in high school. I told them it was their choice to have a year in the band or the chior. All of them decided to have more than one year and they all enjoyed it.

I insisted all my kids do the best they could in school and do all their home work. I enrolled all my sons in the scouting program of the Boy Scouts of America. I cannot tell you how much they benefitted from doing that. It was tremendous.

Academically, I pushed them to do their best because I wanted each of them to go to college and get a good job. 5 of my children did very well in school. They all got scholarships. The other three didn't do so well, but all of my kids have graduated or have some college. I have one son that graduated from medical school and just got a job in a pharmacy. He just passed his state exams and is just waiting for his certificate.

Good luck to you and yours.

2 moms found this helpful

For the most part I let the kids lead, but after a certain age make sure they understand that a commitment is a commitment so if they sign up for something, they stick it out even if they don't like it. I can't remember what age that is (definitely not 4 lol). I do try to make sure that they're signed up for something every season, be it an extra-curricular club or leadership group at school, playing an instrument, doing a seasonal sport, taking art classes or theater, or doing a season-less sport or activity such as Karate or scouts. My oldest son is pretty passive and does nothing but hockey and lacrosse and my step-daughter can be a little passive and not a joiner so we're pushing her to find something to do, especially academic things like the math team. My younger boys are game for everything and between the two of them have done soccer, baseball, basketball, skating, lacrosse, karate, and drums (they're 5 & 7). My 7-year-old will probably be like me and want to do everything and stress himself out, but I survived and thrived doing that so if that's the road he chooses, I'm all for it but won't push him.

I tutor kids in SAT/ACT prep and college admissions and it's amazing to see how much the "elite" kids manage to do. My top students have all excelled academically and were also very competitive athletes, artists or performers (and were usually nice, and attractive, and wealthy to boot - tough lives!). While I would love to see my kids in that peer group some day, it's not terribly likely to happen but I will continue to give them chances to push themselves and if they happen to excel at something, great! But if they're happy being in the middle of the pack, that's fine too.

2 moms found this helpful

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