How can I tell what my child enjoys?
Simple–when attempting to understand your child and their personal passions, it’s important to take a backseat and listen. Observe. Is your son constantly running to the printer to grab paper and a pencil? Does your daughter take things apart to see how they work? These are little behaviors that can go almost unnoticed, but can tell a lot about what makes your child tick. So if your child always asks to help you make dinner, or has a tendency to dance like no one’s watching or puts on shows for her stuffed animals, these can be the very first clues to understanding your child.
Another way to mine for these gems is to pay close attention to your child’s studies. What do they devote most of their time to? Talking to your child’s teachers and keeping an eye on those report cards can give you a window into your kiddo’s day, and show you what subjects they tend to prefer.
Asking your child about their day at school is another great way to get some insight–what do they talk about the most? One little boy was asked every single day what he did at school, and every day, he would say “We ate lunch.”That same little boy is now showing proficiency and interest in food and cooking–he tries new foods more freely and enjoys watching cooking shows! It starts small, but these flowers bloom fast.
I have an idea of what my child is passionate about…what’s next?
After you’ve gotten a rough idea of what your child likes, it’s time to engage. You can begin asking questions like “You really seem to enjoy writing…is that true?” or “You talk a lot about this…is it something you enjoy? Would you like to do this as a grown up?” Make sure you really listen to what your child has to say–remember, you’re looking to be a partner on your child’s discovery journey, not the leader. If you find yourself marching your child down a path and correcting them about what they like and don’t like, you may want to step back and regroup. For example, if you really want your child to join little league, but he tends to enjoy staying home and drawing, don’t ignore what he loves just because it doesn’t fit your image of your son! Resist judging your child’s choices–it will only lead to a lack of communication and hurt feelings between you and your child.
We’ve narrowed down my child’s passion–how can we encourage it?
Now comes the fun part! There are tons of ways to encourage and foster what your child is passionate about. Consider taking cooking or painting classes together with your child, or helping your child use their allowance for new building set. Consider going hiking or to the zoo on a discount day for an inexpensive outing for your wild child, or just take your soccer-loving girl to the park to kick the ball around. Surprise your kiddo with a new set of paints or let them help you with dinner.
What’s more important than immersing your child in their passion is positivity. It’s natural for children to get discouraged, even when doing something they love–but rather than focusing on setbacks or offering criticism, focus on solutions. Instead of pointing out a sloppy jump shot, maybe offer to play a few pickup games with your child. Don’t allow your child to speak negatively about themselves, either–nurturing a positive self-image will boost your child’s self esteem and confidence.
My child seems to have changed course…what do I do?
Don’t panic–maybe you’ve spent the last few years paying for violin lessons or you’re up to your ears in colored pencils…and suddenly, your child wants to be a vet. That’s okay! Exploring different facets of life is important. Helping your child discover new passions is just one more exciting challenge of being a parent!