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And what do YOU want to do today darling?

I remember being very small and really not wanting to go to my ballet class (isn't it weird how certain childhood memories just stick?)

I was standing at the top of the stairs and my Dad (a bit of a softie) was quite happy to let me skip the class. But my Mum told him that they'd paid for it, I'd enjoy it when I got there and playing with my toys or watching television would be no better for me.

Of course, I went to ballet that day, loved it as usual and continued for years. In retrospect, I can see that it was entirely the right call. Thank you to my parents for making me stick at something.

If you are a parent, you might be considering how you approach these situations with your children. In my own case, I see the different ways that parents react almost every day and my conclusion is that parenting has changed quite a bit since I was a child.

In most ways, of course, this is for the better. Children are now rightly seen as being at the heart of a family. They are recognised as complex individuals who need love, support and nurturing in order to help them achieve their potential. Parents are more interested and more knowledgeable than ever about how their children develop. There are parenting books, parenting magazines, parenting classes, parenting coaches and you only have to visit Mumsnet for a few minutes to be amazed at the extraordinary dedication mothers and fathers are putting into trying to be the perfect parent.

So we've come a long way from the Victorian attitude that "Children should be seen and not heard." But has the pendulum swung too far?

Once you've accepted that children's needs and desires are as important as our own, the obvious next step is to extend the sorts of choices we make for ourselves to our children. But is that always wise? Are children really able to decide what's best for themselves?

Don't get me wrong. At Perform, children get to make a lot of choices. ?How should PF escape The Cruel Commander? How does this music make us feel? How should we move to it?" But we would never say to them ?Would you like to make a circle now?? We'd always say ?Let's make a circle?.

As a teacher, I am conscious that I am responsible, in charge and know what's best for the children in my care. As a parent, I have that role too. But, as a parent, it's easy to confuse helping your children feel empowered with allowing them to do exactly what they want. So many times I've had parents say to me, ?Sorry we weren't here last week. Johnny was glued to a DVD and we never force him to do anything he doesn't want to?.

In my view, this is a mistake. Not only are these parents doing the child a disservice by allowing him to miss out on an activity which will stimulate his imagination, exercise his body and help him interact with his peers, more importantly, they are failing to teach him an important life skill: the ability to commit to something. This should be encouraged from an early age because it is the children I see that come for years and years to classes that really do go on to achieve success.

Perhaps this seems dictatorial. Perhaps, it's a bit hardline to tell a child what to do all of the time? But what if, by allowing your child to take the easy route and neglect their allotment of potential, you're leaving a fledgling talent to wither on the vine ?

I always think about my Grandmother who was an exceptional pianist. Her mother saw that her daughter had a talent and made her practise. A LOT. If my Grandmother ever complained that she didn't want to play the piano, the choice was simple - either play or start peeling the potatoes. Funnily enough, she chose to play and thank goodness - otherwise a seriously good talent would have been wasted. In her case, she was given a choice (albeit a rather dull one), but it was hers to make.

I was talking to a friend about this the other day. She told me that, as a child, she would be asked by her father to provide three good reasons for doing something her way. The result was twofold; firstly she would have to use her mind to justify her request and secondly, however well she argued, her parents always had the final say because they decided whether the reasons were in fact "good enough"! She is now a successful barrister and believes that this practice at making strong arguments as a child has stood her in good stead as well as teaching her that there were good reasons behind everything her parents wanted her to do.

I am all for empowering children, encouraging decision-making and giving them the confidence to know what is right for them so that by the time they become young adults, they are equipped with the skills they need to make their own choices. But let's face it, many young children, given the opportunity, would choose to watch TV and eat sweets rather than take part in an energetic activity - however enjoyable they always find it. Allowing them to default to the path of instant gratification is NOT in their best interests because they don't have the ability to forward-think or see the bigger picture . As parents, we are in the best position to know what's best for our children long-term and we should take the lead.......unless of course they have three VERY good reasons why we should not!

Leave a comment

    From Daniel
    Being a strict parent is not a good thing for both the sides kid as well for as parent. Just set your baby free and you will find yourself easy and happy.

    Daniel @ http://www.danceconnectionnj.com/newjerseyyouthballet/Nutcracker-for-Kids-Nutcracker-NJ.html
    From Lucy Quick
    thanks very much for reading.
    From toddler dance classes
    I completely agree with your post.By imposing your wish on your child, you are killing his/her desire.Parents should let them free to make their decisions up to some extent.You will definitely find some better environment around you.

    Nick Jackson @ http://www.danceconnectionnj.com/childrens_dance_classes.php
    From Lucy Quick
    Thank you Emma J. Great to hear your thoughts as a mum and as a Perform teacher.
    From Lucy Quick
    Exactly. I totally agree Mummy Zen.
    From Mummy Zen
    Great post! I agree with what you've said and also with the comment above that it's important to allow a certain degree of choice to your child but to limit those choices to something sensible and applicable to a young mind.

    If you let them make every decision, they'll rule the roost and won't understand the importance of sticking with something and learning how to act in structured environments that are teaching them valuable life skills. I do think that some parents are afraid to be firm with their children about certain things and yet that attitude doesn't help their children in the long-term.
    From Emma J
    Well.... I'm a fairly strict parent, as I was a fairly strict Perform teacher and as a consequence I find myself banging my head against the wall in frustration quite a lot. However, I really believe that it's worth it and the rewards can be extraordinary. I most definitely subscribe to the "picking your battles wisely" rule. For example, I would allow my son to choose which way we walk to school rather than stressing out with needless arguments because I would prefer to walk through the park, but I would be strict about saving the packet of sweets (all the children have been given as its another child's birthday) until after lunch. It sounds fairly straightforward but I find myself running into difficulties when, at the school gate, another parent has blatantly opened the packet and handed them over to her child. Obviously, there's a lot more to it than direction of travel and a packet of sweets but you get the idea.... It's a constant battle and it's hard - it's a lot harder than I thought it would be. It is so much easier to say yes to your child all the time and some days I really feel like doing that - but then I take a step back and smile when my children practically take themselves to bed, when they say please and thank you for everything and when my eldest skips to and from school and then happily shares that packet of sweets with his younger brother.....
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