helping our children stretch into the new

“Yuck! I don’t like that!”

“How do you know you don’t like it? You haven’t even tried it yet!”

How many times have we, as parents, had that frustrating conversation at the dinner table? Something new is on the plate and the child immediately decides he doesn’t like it.  That’s the issue right there, it is something new, something unfamiliar. Instead of taking a chance the child wants to stick with want he knows. Sounds like a lot of adults I know.

How do we help our children to stretch and grow, to try new things, so that, as adults, they will welcome “change” and “new” as an adventure instead of a trial to endure?

At three years old our eldest, Lisa, often danced around the house. A dance class for young children was offered in our town. I asked her if she wanted to go. She was so excited! I explained that there would be a teacher and other children, that we would have to drive to get there. I told her she would wear a dancing outfit and do as the teacher said. I showed her on the calendar what day she would go and for how many weeks. I explained that she had to attend until the classes were finished. She was so excited! I signed her up. The big day finally arrived.

“I’m not going!” Arms crossed, feet planted, Lisa looked up at me with a pout and a frown.

Where had this come from? Less than ten minutes ago she was all excited! I reminded her that we were going to dancing lessons, that she was excited. Didn’t work. I gave her a hug, we prayed to Jesus and I told her Mummy would be with her all the time. Didn’t work. I told her to get in that car right now; we were going to dancing lessons. Didn’t work.

Her frown and pout increased. My patience decreased.

However, she was three years old and I was her mother. I picked her up. “I don’t want to go!” I carried her into the car. We drove to dancing lessons. Icy silence hung in the air. As soon she knew she had no choice in the matter, she walked nicely into class tightly holding my hand.

Next time it was a lot easier and after about two lessons she was telling me to “hurry up Mummy!”

Lisa was keen to try many new things. The next new thing was gymnastics. We repeated the process, but her protests were less intense. And, she got into the car without help.

Over time Lisa made herself try new things, go new places. She had learned that her fear was unfounded. She learned to see things through. She learned to trust that neither her Dad nor I would put her in harm’s way. She learned that new adventures and new learning can be fun!

When I was four I sometimes had dinner at a friend’s. They served spinach every time. I didn’t like the look of it. I didn’t like the smell of it. I didn’t like the taste of it. I still remember the father forcing those slimy leaves into me. Did it work? Well, I still don’t like slimy cooked spinach.

Every child is different. As parents we learn to know our children and discern what’s best for them. As a young mother I could have taken the less confrontational route and just stayed home, but what lesson would I have taught her? As an adult Lisa participates in many new things and is a committed and respected leader in her church and community. Is it all easy for her now? No, but she has learned through experience that with the Lord’s help new things are an adventure.

Whether it’s participating in new activities, trying new foods, or making new friends, it is our job as parents to help our children stretch past their fear of change, their fear of “the new”.

Children learn by watching you. Do they see you trying new things? How do you react to change?

Recently my three-year-old granddaughter visited. I made soup for lunch. She took one look at it and said, “I don’t like it.” Some things never change!

Let’s journey together…

Let’s journey together…