I am not a forceful parent. I don't necessarily think this is a bad thing, it's just the parenting style I have chosen.
Brynna has responsibilities and she knows that she is supposed to do those things. If she doesn't the consequence is punishment. I don't often choose to force her to do something. She takes the punishment, we go on, life is fine.
Most things that only affect her, she has free reign over. For instance, I remind her to brush her teeth, but since she started doing an okay job of it herself, I no longer pry her mouth open, shove a brush in and try to at least touch every tooth while she screams. Not worth it, in my opinion. Especially since she chooses to brush her teeth 95% of the time and has a perfect dental history.
There are a few exceptions to this non-forcing. I force her to brush her hair. Sometimes. I'll be honest, here, she really hates it, screams like a banshee the whole time and fights me tooth and nail, and so unless she looks like ferrets nested in her head the night before, I am just as likely to ignore the brush on the sink as make her sit down and start brushing. But, since she has only chosen to brush her hair a couple of times, mostly I force it.
I also force her to apologize. Because she hates apologizing worse than hair brushing, I think. And, of course, that doesn't only affect her.
Otherwise, what I try to do is give her choices and then make her live with the consequences. It's not as easy as it sounds, but my hope is that it will develop in her a clear sense that every choice carries a consequence, rather than a sense of don't let mom see.
This summer, though, I have been forcing her to read.
It started out innocently enough. We signed up for the summer reading program at our local library, because I'm that kind of mom and we've done it since she was two. I explained that this year was different, though, because this year she would be reading the books, not mommy. She chose 15 books as her goal, which I thought was more than reasonable. Way back at the beginning of the summer, that averaged out to 2 books a week throughout the program. Very doable I thought.
At the beginning of the summer, she was confident in her skills and excited to read. As the summer has waned, she has lost both confidence (swearing she can only read words she has read before and that she can't - CAN NOT sound anything out) and excitement (swearing that she doesn't really want to read ever).
At first, I tried to roll with it. Let her tell me when she wanted to read, let her choose the books, let her tell me what words she needed me to tell her, etc. As the summer has gone on, that's become me reading books to her one word at a time while she swears that she has no idea what "a" spells.
We've solved some of the problems, like me thinking we should do it at bedtime and her patiently explaining to me that she's too tired to concentrate then. Very reasonable, indeed. Now we do it as soon as we get home and that's helped some. I'm also trying to help her choose the books. Some of our books are deceptively short, but meant for parents to read to children, and therefore chock full of big vocabulary. It's actually better for us to pick a longer book with more manageable words, because she doesn't get frustrated as easily.
I've also made the rule that I refuse to, under any circumstances, tell her what a word is until she has at least attempted to sound it out. Yesterday, she looked at the word "Halloween" and said, "Ummm... Last night? What, I tried it?" So, I've had to change that to "make an honest attempt, actually using some of the letters in the actual word."
It's torture. The rule is that we don't turn on the TV until we've read a book, and last night I added dinner to the mix, because we were both so frustrated. I thought we'd never get to eat, but she finally finished reading Clifford Grows Up almost 40 minutes after she started.
We have four more books and eight more days. It's going to be a long week.
And I don't know if I'm doing the right thing.
I know that she needs to learn to read. I know that this year, she is going to have homework for the first time and she's going to have to learn that she has to do things that she doesn't want to do. I know that this is important. I think this is probably more important that brushing her teeth AND her hair, personally.
But, I want her to love to read. Like me. Like her dad. I want her to think about it with the longing that I spend most of my work day in, rather than an increasing sense of dread. And I feel like forcing her to do it, might just make her hate it.
The Husband pointed out to me last night that I am worrying about it too much. "It'll be what it is," he said. "It's okay if she hates to read, it's not okay if she can't read." He went on to explain that maybe I just have too many dogs in this race, "To you, having a kid who hates to read is like for a conservative pastor to have a gay son. You just can't line that up with your way of thinking." And, he's right. Not all kids love to read. And that's okay. I guess. I just don't really think it's at all okay and I'm not sure that saying it over and over again is going to get me there.
I can see how much she's lost over the summer in terms of skill and we've tried to do all those things you're supposed to do. She can be a good reader, if she'd only try. I just don't know how much forcing to do.
I hate asking for judgment on my parenting choices, because I'm not going to do what anyone tells me, I'm going to do what I want to do, what my heart tells me to do. All kids are different and mine is super-different.
But, what do you think about forcing your kids to do things? Do you do it? Do you try to never do it? What are the exceptions to the rule? How does it work in your house?