What Are We Subconsciously Teaching Our Kids?

Written by: Jorinde Berben
Image credit: Jorinde Berben

When I was growing up, we learned a couple of very valuable lessons from my parents. One of the lessons they taught us was to finish what you start. When I started with dance lessons, I was supposed to finish them (I’m actually not 100% sure that I did). When they paid for music lessons, we attended them until the end of the term (that I definitely did multiple years in a row).

My daughter started horseback riding lessons in September. She’d asked for these lessons for a couple of months, so I looked around and found a place that has lessons but also teaches children how to look after the animals. She happily agreed to go, even though there was no trial class. We had to pay for the first series of 10 lessons up front.

So we did. I’d always wanted to ride horses as a kid but the finances at home were too tight, so I never did. I was happy to give my daughter the opportunity I’d never had.

And then the time came for her first class. She was so nervous! When I came to pick her up again, she was happy, though not ecstatic. When the next week came around, however, she even said she didn’t want to go.

But I was teaching her a lesson here, about finishing what you start, so she went. She did this for 7 Wednesday afternoons, from 2 to 5 PM. Every time she went, she said she didn’t want to. During the last autumn break, she told me she’d never felt fully comfortable at the stable.

By now I’m starting to really doubt that lesson I’m teaching her. I wonder about the subconscious lessons we’re teaching her along with this very deliberate one. Is she learning that her feelings don’t matter? Is she learning to put her instincts aside? Is she learning that money matters more than whether you like something or not? We did, after all, pay for all those lessons in advance.

Her father and I had some conversations on the topic and in the end decided we would leave it up to her. This afternoon is the first time she is not going, and she is so much more cheerful and relaxed. In fact, not having to rush over after lunch and rush dinner after we get back makes for a more relaxing Wednesday afternoon for all of us. I have time to write this article while the kids are playing at my partner’s house. Later we will take a walk in the forest since it’s a beautiful sunny afternoon.

Along the way, I’ve learned some lessons myself from my daughter who is so incredibly wise at her age. This is what I learned:

  • When you can’t try it out, how can you be expected to know whether you’ll like it or not?
  • It’s okay to opt out of stress, even if it means losing some money.
  • Just because you make your kid do a ‘fun’ activity, doesn’t mean they’re having fun. My pleasure doesn’t equal her pleasure.
  • And above all: listen, listen, listen. When you open your ears (and heart) to your child, they’ll share it all and you do what you can to help them be who they want to be.

Thank you, my sweet, sweet girl.

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