Let me just start by saying that having to parent with tough love sucks.

Today was gymnastics class day.  The first class of the new semester.  A chance for Maya to start out fresh and actually try to go into the class by herself.  After last week’s struggle Lorne and I discussed that it was time to exercise some tough love and make her go into class on her own.

Throughout last semester of gym class I had to go into gym class with Maya (it is supposed to be an independent, parent free class).  She would sit on my lap by the door and refused to participate for the first 10-15 minutes of class.  Eventually she would make her way over to join her class as she saw how much fun they were having.  Shortly there after I could leave the room and she barely noticed I wasn’t there.  It worked out well but we felt like she needed to try to do it on her own.  We felt that not encouraging her to overcome her shyness was not helping her.

So, for the last few days we have been talking to her about being shy and nervous and how it’s okay to be shy and nervous but that she should try to fight through it and not let it her stop her from trying new things.  We talked about how important it was for her to try doing new things on her own, like going into gym class all by herself.  And this morning, as we drove to gymnastics class I thought I had her convinced to try it, until we got there.  As soon as we got to the front door I felt her tense up and hold on just a little tighter.  I knew in that moment that it wasn’t going to go well but I had no idea just how bad it would be.

To say it was a disaster is an understatement.  She literally cried, not quiet cries, but full on hysterical screaming through most of the class.  She didn’t participate in a single activity.  She cried for me.  She cried that she wanted to go home. She cried that didn’t want to try anymore.  At one point she had to go potty so I had to go in and take her. She was visibly shaking and kept saying over and over again “I tried mommy, I don’t like it.”  It broke my heart into a thousand pieces.

I made her stay in the class by herself the whole time.  The whole hour she cried.  The whole hour she just sat there refusing to try a single activity.  The girl is stubborn, maybe even more stubborn than me.  This was my first real tough love experience and it was a horrible, disastrous experience.  When we got out to the car Maya said in her shaky, post heavy crying voice “I didn’t have fun at gym class today. I don’t want to go to gym class next time.”, and my heart broke all over again.

I’m at a loss. I don’t know where to go from here.  The whole point of this gym class is for her to have fun, today she didn’t have fun.  Do I make her try it again next week, forcing her to go in by herself knowing it may end up being the same as this week?  Do I go back to sitting with her for the first 10-15 minutes knowing that she at least gets to enjoy most of the class that way?  I just don’t know what to do.

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8 Responses to Tough Love

  • HeatherPride says:

    It’s a tough call! Claire broke down a couple of times at gymnastics class and I marched her out of there. But with her it was because she wasn’t sharing or she was pushing other kids off the equipment! It’s always hard for me to figure out what to do when I have drawn the line and it turns into a crapfest. On the one hand, I feel like giving in makes me a schmuck and I don’t want to set that precedent. On the other hand, I also enjoy keeping the peace! Good luck!

  • cindy w says:

    I think I’d sit in the class with her. I mean, some kids are just shy and some are extra cautious when it comes to trying new things (mine is most definitely the latter). But they overcome their fears at their own pace, and I don’t know if you can push them to do it sooner. If Maya needs that extra little bit of reassurance, I don’t see the harm. She’s still getting MOST of the class, right? Maybe once she gets up off your lap and starts to play, you could sneak out? You can even warn her ahead of time, “OK, once you decide you’re going to go do gym class, I’m going to go sit in the next room, but I’ll be right here if you need me.” That way, she won’t notice you’re gone and panic.

    It’s tricky because each kid reacts to new things differently, so you kind of just have to experiment with it and figure out what works best for Maya. But gym class is supposed to be fun, and if it really isn’t fun for either of you, it might be time to give up on it & try again next year when she’s a little older.

  • Erin Chinnici says:

    This is really tough. I would say work on introducing new activities with her so she becomes comfortable trying new things and being around new people and learning that she is safe and ok. Then maybe revisit the “independence” issue next year. Good luck and big hugs! No one wants to hear their child scream for them :(

  • NT says:

    My little one goes to The Little Gym too (she’s 18 months so I haven’t had to send her in by herself yet and I’m already dreading it) but we missed three classes in a row and she wouldn’t let go of me when we went back. I’ve noticed that it takes her about 10 miutes to process in a new situation -she’s not shy, but she seems to want to observe and process, then she’s herself again and has a great time running around.

    Have you tried going 10-15 minutes early to class? Maybe she’ll go through her shy stage before class and then be okay. It’s a shame she had to start a new semester so upset. Good luck next week.

  • NT,

    We usually show up about 5 minutes or so before class, but I like the idea of showing up even early just to see if it works. No matter what situation she is in be it the little gym, staying with a babysitter, going to the little daycare at the gym she always has to have that transition period. About 10 minutes or so of being in the new environment with mommy before she warms up. After that transition she is fine. I think we just need to give her that transition time and not push her until she is ready.

  • NT says:

    I’m so happy you like that idea! I hope it works. I’ve never actually responded to a blog before, and I’ve been reading yours since I was pregnant and love it. I was talking to my mom about Maya and her class and she remembered running after her mother on her first day of kindergarten in tears. It made me think -is there really anything anyone can say or do to make us feel or think something other than what we feel or think? Maybe I’m a softie, and I haven’t been there yet, but what might she miss out on if she doesn’t ever want to go again? Or try again? And really, at three years old, do they really need to be tough enough to go do something they view as scary on their own? At some point the day is coming when they won’t even want us to come in with them. I’m cherishing every moment she gives me.

  • Erin says:

    The point where they don’t want you to come in with them at all comes very quickly…Sydney didn’t even say bye to me this morning when I dropped her at the sitters! She was so excited to see her friends after being away for a week.

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