A year ago my husband and I pulled our three-year-old son’s unconscious body from the bottom of a pool. In the moments that followed, I rushed to call 911 while my husband performed CPR.

After two days in intensive care, our son was discharged with no physical or cognitive damage.

It was a miracle to see our little boy running and playing days after the trauma occurred. One would never know the shadow of death that passed over him so blatantly. The only physical evidence of the experience was the hospital bracelet he refused to take off since it “kept boo boos away”. It seemed a small price to pay to give him comfort, but I soon saw the bracelet wasn’t the only reminder of the accident. He held a fierce resistance to any water and sleep became more of a challenge than it already was. After many months of patiently working with him, we saw great progress. Baths and showers were no longer a source of panic and full night of sleep became more of a norm.

I was very aware of the improvement, but I couldn’t help but be sensitive to every fear he had—and there were many. It seemed anxiety had permeated his entire world causing him to push back in any new or challenging situation. He had always been cautious, so I struggled to know what fears were his personality or age and what were results of the accident. Regardless of the reasons, I constantly wondered when to push him to buck up, keep trying, or obey. 

My decisions were often impulsive, and failing to have any direction caused me to worry about whatever action I chose. Recognizing the fear seeping into my own world, I got down on my knees and prayed for help. I needed a decision-making strategy that would help him grow, offer consistency and ease my mind. Not only would this help me parent my son, but also my other two children, because it doesn’t take a tragedy to cause a parent to wonder when to push. We ask ourselves this question during potty training and when choosing extracurricular activities. It comes when the battles rage about food or grades and for as long as they are our children, it will continue.

I have found if I commit to answer the following two questions before I push, I am much more confident and at peace with my decision, which in turn, positively affects my children. 

“Why do I want to push?”

There are a lot of reasons I push my kids to buck up, keep trying, or obey, but not all of them are worthy.

I now have a why statement I consistently say to my children after acknowledging their emotions surrounding the situation. It goes, “My rules and instruction are for your safety, well-being and because I love you.” It not only informs my kids there is a bigger picture than the here and now (even when they don’t want to or can’t see it), but it helps me determine whether or not a battle is worth the fight.

Are they capable of completing this task?

At some point, we all have judged children as advanced, average or behind in an area of development. Unfortunately, our judgment is based on unqualified sources. Even with the numerous child development classes and trainings I have attended, I still find myself evaluating my kids based on what a friend told me, how I see my neighbor’s children acting, or the sarcastic memes that seem to validate any negative behavior in kids and teens as normal.

When I recognize my small (perhaps ill-informed) sample size of evidence, review trusted resources of child development and STUDY my child, I gain a better perspective of what I can expect from him or her. 

So, next time before I push my child to buck up and continue playing in the game, keep trying at his instrument, obey my instructions of sitting still without a screen, or face the fears embedded deep within him, I’ll alleviate my own waves of worry by first asking myself two questions. When I can confirm my reasons for pushing aren’t selfish and my child is capable, I’ll know it is worth the push, because I know the effort I spend wading through these challenges together with him will train him to someday do it on his own.


Allison Struber

Allison Struber is a military spouse and mother of three. Inspired by her kid’s energy and her husband’s dry humor, she spends her days teaching character development in schools, volunteering and trying to figure out a ways to bottle up the sweet moments in life. Find her at fb.me/STEMwritings.