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Wednesday 6 February 2013

Can You Teach Children Resilience?

I've got a parenting dilemma, and it's all Robbie Williams' fault.

You see, despite my previous misgivings, I recently signed both daughters up to a "Performing Arts" session on a Saturday morning. I always knew it would be mainly for the benefit of my 5 year old, who is very much into dressing up and performing, but her older sister also often enjoys "putting on a show", so I figured I would try them both with it.

The younger age group has an hour first thing in the morning - split into 20 minutes of singing, 20 minutes of dance, and 20 minutes of drama. For those aged 6+ this goes up to 3 x 1hr = 3 hrs in total. After the first session, both children declared it to be "brilliant" and couldn't wait to go again. Excellent. So I signed them up for the rest of the half-term and bought them each the t-shirt.

After last week's second session, younger daughter was still full of enthusiasm, however, DD1 seemed a little subdued when she came out and didn't say much. To be honest, this isn't unusual for her, so I put it down to a strenuous morning and didn't think much of it.

Until, that is, we heard this song....

...which apparently is one of the songs they had been dancing to. It prompted a very sudden, and very definite, outburst of "I don't want to go any more" from DD1. Trying to get to the bottom of the whys and wherefores didn't really bring me much joy - all she would say initially was that it was "boring" (presumably because they were practising the same songs/dance routines as the previous week?), however, she did later admit that she "missed us".

I don't know why this has riled me as much as it seems to have done. After all, I knew from the outset there was a good chance it would be less her "thing" than her sister's. I suppose I was thrilled to see her initial joy, and yes, there is the fact that I have now paid for a half-term up front based on her declarations that she wanted to carry on!

It's also not the first time this has happened - we had similar tears at the start of Rainbows, then Brownies, school choir, and even school swimming lessons! It seems her initial reaction to something is to give up if she isn't immediately comfortable with it.

I suspect, however, that deep down I am projecting too much of myself onto her. The poor child not only looks like the spitting image of me, but we are both very alike in temperament. We're both introverted, and not particularly good with strangers or new situations.
However, I very much enjoyed performing in my yoof, and did a lot of drama etc - it was one way I was able to build some confidence and pretend to be someone else for a while, and I suppose maybe I was hoping it would be the same for her.

So now I find myself in a dilemma. She is still at the age (not yet 8) where perhaps she has not yet found her niche, and by forcing her to do something that she doesn't want to do I am preventing her from fulfilling her potential. Or, alternatively, she just needs a bit more time to feel comfortable, and once she gets over her initial hump maybe she will enjoy it...in which case a gentle push might be a good thing for her. I guess I'd like her to demonstrate a little bit of staying power - but is that unrealistic at this age?

Answers on a postcard, please....


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