To Push or Not To Push

Dear Dr. Bill,

Our 7-year-old son approaches many situations in life with “caution.”  For example, he doesn’t like going fast on motorboats so we start slowly until he’s used to it.  He doesn’t like high and fast roller-coasters, but he’s okay with smaller ones.  But my husband and I disagree on how to handle such things — Dad believes he should be pushed harder, but I want our son to feel free to take his time and not feel like he’s not “tough” enough.    What do you think?


Dear Cindi,

It’s important to take into the account unique personality differences of each child.  Some kids are simply biologically wired to be more cautious, and birth order can affect their temperament as well.

It’s also important to consider a child’s age and level of development.  The fact is that there are a lot of 7-year-olds who would not enjoy traveling in a speed boat at break-neck speed or riding on a gigantic, “death-drop” roller coaster.

Here’s the key: God designed men and women to parent differently, and kids need the balance that comes from having parents of both genders.   These differences should complement and complete each other, so it’s critical to value the contributions that your spouse makes to the parenting process.

I’d encourage you not to overprotect your son—he needs to bond with his dad and develop masculine interests.  Express confidence in him, affirm him, and let him know that you believe he can overcome his fears.

At the same time, your husband needs to be careful not to “push” your son into activities he isn’t comfortable with.  The worst possible thing he can do is to shame or embarrass him—this will have a permanent impact on his self-concept and his confidence level.

As parents, give your son the time and space he needs to develop into the person God created him to be.

Thanks for writing, Cindi.  If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “Questions” link on the Family Expert page.

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