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Push and pull

May 16th, 2013 | Posted by Amy Boughner in Parenting

I was listening to Q for a bit as we were driving around today and he had on a guest, Rasmus Ankersen, who was talking about how parents help their children when it comes to creating skilled athletes.

This former professional soccer player has written a book about high performance athletes and he and Jian Gomeshi were discussing how parents involve themselves in the activities/careers of their children. Now, I’ve heard more than once that an NHL player would have quit hockey after his first practice if his parents hadn’t made him keep going. I’m sure there are similar stories in other sports. Ankersen’s thesis is that ambitious, committed parents play a vital role in creating great athletes, and that parents can push kids to excel in other ways in life as well.

Part of his thesis stems from Malcolm Gladwell’s theory that you need 10,000 hours to become proficient at something and that young children will have to be pushed to train that much before they develop a passion for something.

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We are a household that loves hockey, my husband is also a musician and we both want our daughter to learn an instrument. Since she was born I have put her in different activities to keep her active and see what she likes. I’m hoping she’ll find a passion. She’s done swimming and gymnastics, skating and dance. We let her play often enough, with us and by herself, we try to get her around other kids, but activities are important and her Dad got a lot out of his time in hockey and playing in a band.

I have often thought about how much pushing is too much, what’s encouraging and supportive and what’s overbearing?

When she didn’t want to go to dance class should we have made her? She still says she wants to be a dancer and I’ve tried to explain that it will take a lot of practice and classes, but we’ll support her if that’s what she wants. Being a dancer will certainly take going to classes without her parents, when she doesn’t feel like it, eventually when something hurts.

But how do I know when she’s choosing and what we’re choosing for her? What does she want with that 10,000 hours?

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