Why We Don’t Have to Push Kids to Work Hard


This morning, my husband Andy watched as our girls and I got ready to go for a run. As we laced up our shoes, he grinned and said: “What a mean mother you are making everyone run before breakfast!”

Although Andy was joking, I’m sure many people might take his words seriously. Perhaps they would indeed think I am a mean mother because what other explanation is there? Surely four girls wouldn’t choose to get up early, pull on their running gear and head out the door when they could stay in bed?

A few days ago, after I’d finished my morning run, I watched my daughters as they finished theirs. Despite having run about 6 km, they suddenly picked up speed. With determined looks on their faces, they sprinted towards me side-by-side.

A few moments later, as they eagerly upturned their bottles and gulped down water, I asked: “Why do you do it? Why do you always come running with me? You could choose to stay in bed.”

“Well, I have to admit that sometimes the thought of running doesn’t appeal. So I refuse to think. I just roll out of bed and get dressed. And then by the time I’m fully awake, I’m here. And that’s good.”

“Running is hard work. When I’m only halfway up a steep hill, and my legs are aching, I wonder why I do it. But the feeling afterwards? It’s so good. It’s worth all the effort.”

“Running is a challenge. I get a huge sense of achievement from doing it.”

“I like being part of the Team. If I stayed in bed and you all went without me, I’d be missing something. I’d be the only one who hadn’t worked hard.”

“I love being out here in the bush at this time of morning when everyone else is still in bed. We’re doing something no one else is doing!”

Once the girls’ breathing had returned to normal, we gathered our hoodies and water bottles, and plodded home. It was time to eat.

Listening to my girls, it seems to me that kids love challenges. They choose to work very hard without any prodding from us. Perhaps they even have an inner need to get their teeth (or feet!) into something difficult.

Unless, of course, we keep them busy doing things we think are important. Then there will be no reason for them to challenge themselves because we’ll be doing it for them.

“So what are we having for breakfast?” Sophie asked as we approached our house.

“That reminds me,” said Imogen. “Breakfast tastes so good after we’ve had a long run. I’d do it just for that!”

Of course, your kids might not run, but I bet they do like to be challenged. Perhaps we all have an inner need to do something that pushes us beyond our comfort zone. What do you think?


Image: Walking home from a run. Even Nora, our dog likes to work hard which is just as well, because she doesn’t have a choice!

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    • Vicky
    • November 26, 2015
    Reply

    I've always done better working in my comfort zone than being challenged but, then, I've never been very competitive or ambitious. Even when I used to swim laps, I did the same number of laps, every day, without any desire to do more. Though, I guess there were challenges along the way to build up to that point.

    I haven't noticed how our children respond to challenges because they often keep their trials and errors quiet. Yesterday, one of our older boys showed me his artwork. I had no idea that he'd been working on art but, apparently, he's been practising and challenging himself for ten years! How could I have missed that?!

    I guess they do like to be challenged, after all 🙂

    Interesting post, Sue xx

    1. Reply

      Vicky,

      Your observations are interesting. Of course the thoughts I expressed in this post could be wrong. Do you think personality is a factor? Could I just have children who can't resist a challenge? That might be true!

      Perhaps other factors interfere with our need for challenges. For example, tiredness and illness are enough to cope with without adding anything further to our lives. They are challenges of their own. I don't suppose we want these sort! But maybe there are times when some of us can get into a rut and need more stimulation and so we go looking for a challenge.

      When we look at little children they are always working hard learning to do new things. It seems very natural. I wonder if that desire to work hard at something is taken away from them when adults start imposing their own ideas upon them. School wasa challenge for me that I would rather have done without. What would I have done if no one was filling up my time with assignments? I wonder! I remember finishing uni and declaring I was never going to learn anything ever again. I was worn out by fulfilling other people's expectations. Of course, after a rest, I felt ready to work hard again, this time on my own terms!

      I loved your story about your son's art. I bet you smiled when he showed you his work!

      It's lovely to chat!

  1. Reply

    What a great post. Do, what you want other (your children) to do 😀

    1. Reply

      Uglemor,

      Yes! If we want hard working kids, we need to work hard ourselves! Thanks for your encouraging words.

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