So often, as parents, we notice our child showing a special interest, enjoyment, talent in a particular area – art, math, writing, sports, science, drama,music., etc.
It can be so tempting to swoop in – sign them up for classes – praise them – point it out to others – take over their interest, rush the process, label them as “the scientist”, “the athlete”, “the artist” in the family.
I’ve talked with young adults who have shared their disappointment, their stress when their skills seem to define who they are – or even how much they matter. A young woman told me how she loved playing tennis, was a young tennis champion before age 12. But as she grew older and faced increasingly challenging competition, she didn’t win every game anymore, and her self-worth plummeted dramatically. For she felt that winning at tennis was her expected role, her ticket for her parents’ love and attention.
She never plays tennis anymore.
So what’s a parent to do?
Proceed with care. Expose your child to field trips, performances, books, more books, materials, tools, opportunities and then step back to allow him/her to absorb, integrate, extend, and enjoy – at his/her own pace.
Provide age-appropriate materials your child can utilize as she/he hones this interest. I say age-appropriate because in today’s world, it’s easy to fast-forward way ahead of the child’s readiness. A family I know has a 6-year-old son who is very interested in science. For Christmas they went out and bought him a super expensive, high intensity microscope. It sits unused. It was too much, too soon.
Let young children invest in their development through simpler means – at their own pace.
I love the story of our son’s 5th grade classroom. It was the beginning of the school year in a new district program that would have technology play a definite role in their curriculum. However, the school year was underway and the computers had not yet arrived.
Not to worry. Our son and a few of his friends created their own intricately designed keyboards out of paper and markers that they taped on their desks. They refined them and “worked” on them. It was contagious and most of the other students joined in, adding their paper keyboards to their desk tops. The play and the actual learning that was initiated by these boys’ creative solution was rich, age-appropriate and satisfying.
Allow your child to feel satisfaction from within. Rather than “You’re such a good artist, I’m so proud of you.”, take an interest in what the project is. Ask questions. Notice color, design, the hard work it took to do. “You must be proud of how you figured out a way to come up with such a workable design.”
You are your child’s helpful resource but let them lead the way.
“If you put them in the spotlight, they will be unable to see their own light.”
quote by William Martin, The Parent’s Tao Te Ching – Ancient Advice for Modern Parents
Enjoy and cherish the pace of childhood.
Let your child’s own light shine.