One of the biggest goals — if not the single biggest — in parenting is ensuring that you’re raising and preparing your child for a successful adult life. While learning to read early, enrolling you child in a million classes and extracurricular activities and instilling them with skills and values are absolutely important, it’s equally as important to help them figure out what they love and to foster that passion. Helping your child figure these things out may seem a little ambiguous, so here are a few tips to learn about your child’s priorities and passions together.
• Include them in your decisions. When making decisions, ask and encourage your kiddo to have an opinion and help you make your choices. Be it shopping for new paint for a room or deciding where to go out to eat, ask for input or preference from your child in those decisions. Learning to make choices is a little formidable and kids can get nervous about the pressure, so encouraging them to have opinions about low-impact choices from an early age can help them learn the skills to make bigger ones in the future with less anxiety.
• Allow them to be themselves. Parents often have preconceived ideas about what kind of child they want to raise, (“he’s going be captain of the football team!” being the normal cliché), but recognizing your child as a unique individual from an early age is important for the development of their sense of self and therefore their own confidence. It’s important to remember that they might not like the same exact things that you do or the things that you want them to enjoy, but that’s okay. If anything, learning about their interests and passions will open new opportunities for you to learn, too.
• Pay attention. Listen to the things that they like and try to pay attention to their personal preferences. Have them journal, or write down things so that you can reflect on where their interests lie. Take subtle opportunities to find these things out rather than directly asking, so your child doesn’t feel pressure to make a split-second or reactionary decision about their likes or dislikes. For example, during the Christmas season, have them write a letter to Santa Claus about what they’d like for Christmas, or what they’re proud of having done that year to be put on the Nice List. These are things that your kiddo might not want to tell you directly and you can learn these things in a roundabout way. Rewarding them with a personalized video from Santa Claus can reinforce their confidence in their decisions.
• Go out and find new things to try together. There are tons of after school and community activities available in most towns, and you should look for things that you and your child can participate in together so that you can actually witness your kiddo’s reaction to those experiences. When you do things together, you don’t have to pry and ask about how the activity was or what they did or didn’t like about it, in those instances you can sometimes get convoluted answers, or they may tell you how they felt about the activity in a way that they think will make you happy. When you participate in things together, you’ll have a fun time learning new things and bonding in addition to learning about the specific interests that your child may or may not have.
• Offer variety. Say your little one expresses an interest in drawing and so you enroll him or her in an after school art class. After some time, try a pottery class or a painting workshop. If they express an interest in one kind of activity or endeavor, perhaps they’d like another that’s closely related slightly more. If they like taking ballet classes, why not sign them up for another performance-related class like gymnastics or theater classes. Experiment and see what they like by offering versatility so they don’t feel trapped in a singular decision that they made at a young age. Diversifying talents and interests also lends itself to the ability to acquire other skills and interests later on in life, as well.
Remember that they might not pick a single thing or be a prodigy. That’s not the point of cultivating your little one’s passion. This is about helping them learn to make decisions and develop their own unique identity. While you may find yourself with a prodigy chess player, a Major League pitcher or the next Monet, it’s more likely that you’ll have a kid who likes logic puzzles, sports or creative arts.
They also may not figure out what they’re passionate about until later on in life, but if you work on their preferences and passions when they’re young, your little one will grow up with the skills of decision-making and confidence in choices that are necessary to confidently figure these things out when they’re older. Remember, this is about who they will be and with choices and confidence, they’ll be more likely to be happy, and personal happiness should be the ultimate goal.