Kiddo returned home from her Bharatanatyam class and announced that she doesn’t really like it. She said it was boring. This was the first sign of her disinterest and she expressed it directly and clearly. I brushed it aside at that time and gave her a pep talk to keep her motivated to go back to her class the next week.
On the contrary, she also goes to swimming classes for which I do not have to push her at all! As soon as the class is over, she waits for her next one. She constantly pesters us to take her to the pool to practice. She is very attentive to her coach and picks up techniques with great dedication. Her enthusiasm is so strong that it is hard to hold her back.
Few days later, I casually asked her again about her Bharatanatyam classes and she promptly replied that it was boring. But she went into details this time and called her teacher “very naughty”. She complained that her teacher doesn’t let her play with her friends or doesn’t let her use the white board and marker. All that the teacher asks them to do is to practice Bharatanatyam.
The problem here is that Kiddo isn’t used to a strict learning environment. Even her school is play oriented. At home, she is totally free and comfortable with our rules and boundaries. I personally know her dance teacher. She is on the stricter side, as she has to alone manage a class of a dozen 4-6 year olds. She is a traditional Indian teacher. She has strict rules like, kids are allowed to drink water only during water breaks. She gets the kids to work hard but with sufficient breaks in between. I also know that she understands kids – their dramas and tantrums. She has a loud voice that might have intimidated my kiddo.
I had mental battle for few days after kiddo hesitated to go to dance classes. Parenting books I go by, asks me to listen to kids, take clue from their behaviour. Even our parenting style is to go by what kiddo likes and not to push her too much. And here she is telling us clearly that she doesn’t want to go to classes. I almost took her out of the classes but decided to explore contradictory viewpoint – We should let a 4-year-old decide only up to a limit. Letting her quit this time will teach her to give up at slightest inconvenience. This is the first time we are in parenting crossroads.
Kiddo loves physical exercises and she is learning a great deal in dance class. Her muscles are very flexible now. I can see her practice her steps all the time. Sometimes right in the middle of a mall or while waiting at a traffic signal she breaks into a Bharatanatyam pose and announces proudly, “Look amma, I can do a perfect aramandi.”
I want her to hang on to her classes till she reaches a certain level. I want her to get comfortable with different style of teaching. She is not exposed to any kind of danger in the class, this much I am certain of. I just do not want her to give up so easily. I want her to achieve something with this and try and talk to her after that if she still wants to continue or not. I am just not game for switching from one enrichment class to another at the whim of a 4-year-old. But one thing is for sure, if she throws a fuss about not going, I am not going to drop a crying kiddo at the class.
I hope my parenting books can pardon me for this lapse. Like Amy Chua, the tiger mother, says “What Chinese parents understand is that, nothing is fun until you’re good at it. To get good at anything you have to work, and children on their own never want to work, which is why it is crucial to override their preferences”.
I see this is as yet another parenting lesson.
Divya Rao is a mother to a 4 year old bundle of joy. She has one eye set on growing her career and the other watching and enjoying her little one grow up.