This question comes up a lot. And for good reason.
For parents, it can come up around whether to mandate that a child follow through with something like a sports commitment. For adults, it can come up around whether to stay at a demanding job or work through issues in friendships or relationships.
Those a just a couple of common examples… there are lots of circumstances that bring up this quandary.
While I wish I had a tip to share with you that would let you know every time without fail, there isn’t a “one size fits all” answer. Like with any complex life decision, the answer is “it depends”.
The good news is: I can share some guidance about what it depends on so you can start to develop a formula for yourself and your kid(s) about when to push through and when to let go.
Really, it comes down to knowing yourself and being aware of your patterns.
Much of the reason these moments come up for you or your child is to learn and grow. Usually approaching something like this is not best solved by just ignoring, avoiding, being reactive or finding the easiest way out. Best to give it your attention.
What to look at when you are deciding to push through or let go:
ONE: Do you usually tend to hang on to things too long or do you tend to give up easily?
If you hang on too long, you might struggle with blaming yourself or doubting your internal wisdom. If you give up easily, you might struggle with feeling empowered and confident that you can face and meet challenges. Of course, it is not so cut and dried, but these are just basic outlines.
Here, it’s good for you to look at your patterns in these kinds of cross roads in the past and consider how that could inform this current decision.
Maybe this is a good time to try out a different way of approaching things?
TWO: What has happened in the past when you pushed through? What has happened in the past when you let go?
When you push through, did you find that was a good choice? Were you glad you stuck with it? How does that relate to the current circumstance?
When you have let go of things in the past, did you find that was a good choice? Were you glad you let it go? How does that inform the current circumstance?
THREE: Do you have any “tells” that let you know that something is right for you or your child or not right?
For example, if you are establishing a workout routine, do you only resist in getting started, but you always feel better afterward? That’s a good indicator that it is best to push through the resistance.
Does your child have resistance before going to practice and hates it afterward as well and any time the topic comes up? Maybe a good indicator that this is not the right sport at this time. It doesn’t mean you have to give up on having your child be active, but it may mean mandating that they pick something active to do regularly, but they have the freedom to choose.
When it comes to relationships, do you tend to allow too many boundary crossings (interactions that are not OK with you) and then blow up or cut off? This one can be a mix. You push through by communicating your boundary and let go of being “the nice one”. If that doesn’t go over well, then you know some space in the relationship or less investment in the relationship may be best.
One of my personal “tells” is irritation. I can be resistant to something, but push through and be happy about it or at least feel relief. If I am irritated and in a negative mood regularly in relation to something in my life, it means I need to let go and get space. It’s taken time for me to learn that and see the pattern, but it is very reliable.
FOUR: What is the opportunity?
When you look at the situation, is there an opportunity to practice something that is being presented to you?
Is it a chance to learn how to work through a challenge?
Is it an opportunity to practice something you have not been good at historically?
Is being attuned to your inner knowing (or your child’s feelings) something that happens less than you would like and it is important to do that now?
Is it important just to show up right now when you want to run away or avoid?
FIVE: What is most important?
You want to look at your priorities and long term objectives.
Right now, are you teaching your child about commitment? Or are you teaching your child about listening to and trusting their natural response?
Trusting a natural response is important to cultivate so a child can sense what is right for them in the future, so they know what people are safe or not safe or so they know what they want to pursue in life.
Commitment is important to learn so your child can meet challenges and thrive.
Both of those things are important, but what is it that your child will benefit from most right now? There might be different times to practice each of these things.
When it comes to you, what are you working on right now? What is important for you to practice?