As long as I’ve been on this earth I have many times watched parents force their children into activities that they have no interest in doing. It’s so sad for the child, unfulfilling for the parent and creates stress and grief for all involved. Pushing a child into activities that hold no interest to them is heartbreaking. The activity itself becomes the bane of their existence and they eventually grow to loathe it and all that is associated with it.
You may have dreamed of being a Rockette since you were a little girl, but that is not a reason to force your daughter into dance classes. You may have had lofty dreams of one day playing for the Red Sox, but it isn’t fair to insist your son plays baseball if he doesn’t want to. Many parents missed their opportunity to live their dream for whatever reason so they see a way to live it vicariously through their child. That’s great if the child also has that dream. But if their dream is something else entirely from what your dream was, accept that and encourage their interests.
The best results come from doing things that we enjoy. If little Johnny loves to help in the kitchen, encourage that. He may grow up to be a world renowned chef one day. If little Susie gets excited about playing the drums, get her a drum set (and get yourself some earplugs). Nurturing your child’s interests will help them grow into well-adjusted, happy adults who know what they want and work towards getting it. Adversely, forcing them to participate in activities that they have no interest in will make them sullen and uncooperative. They won’t have the skills to know how to go after their dreams and to reach their life goals. Encouraging the things they enjoy will teach them how to do just that.
Try to remember that your child is an individual, with unique interests and goals. It may be that your daughter has an interest in something that is predominantly done by boys. Encourage it anyway. The same goes for your son. Whatever their interests are, encourage them. Getting your encouragement is akin to getting your approval and that is so important for their self-esteem. It also goes a long way towards helping them achieve success. And isn’t your child’s success your own goal?
It’s also important to remember that your child may change desires regularly. They are still young and learning everything that there is to do in this great big world. Does it really matter if Johnny wanted to be an astronaut last week and chef this week? No, it really doesn’t. Encouraging everything he is interested in will help make him a well-rounded individual that has many interests in life. When he finds that one thing that makes his heart beat faster, he will know, and so will you. Until then, encourage him in everything that creates a spark in his eyes.
The last thing you should remember, as long as you are still living, you can chase your dream also. But please don’t hurt your child by forcing them to try to live your dream. Instead, show them how it’s done by living your dream and encouraging theirs.