“What is your child passionate about?” That’s usually one of the first questions we ask parents and, all across the United States, we have found that many parents struggle to answer it.
Passion starts with an interest. So as soon as our question is met with a blank stare, we back up and ask, “What are some of your child’s greatest interests? What do they love to do?” Once we tie their hands by asking them not to include anything related to a screen (no video games, social media, YouTube or television), we often get more blank stares.
We are not opposed to kids using screens for entertainment, inspiration or research but too much screen time can zap kids of opportunities to create dynamic and thriving interests that may develop into passion.
So why is passion so important? According to best-selling author and researcher Angela Duckworth, passion is a key ingredient to grit and grit is the secret ingredient for success.
Perhaps the number one question we get from parents is how to help their kids discover interests. Obviously, parents can’t coerce kids into an interest but there are some steps they take to help spark it.
It all starts with experiences. You can’t think your way into an interest. Until a person has an experience, there’s no way to know if they will have a genuine affinity for it. So one thing parents can do is offer kids a buffet of experiences.
As a family, you can create a lifestyle of curiosity. Go for a walk through the neighborhood and get curious about the plants, bugs and wildlife that live there. Invest in field guides and become backyard naturalists.
Think of weekends and vacations as opportunities for field trips. Explore historical sites. Visit museums, zoos, aquariums, national parks and botanical gardens. Become familiar with the local library and pay attention to the programs they offer for kids. One of those activities could possibly spark a lifelong interest.
With each experience, observe your child. Do you see her eyes light up? Is she engaged or distracted? Don’t try to force a square peg into a round hole. If something doesn’t click, it’s okay. It was still a valuable experience.
Ask questions. What was her favorite part of the day at the museum? What cool new thing did she learn? Was there anything she would want to do again?
Once you see a small spark, find some books or videos related to the topic. Then back up. Give your kids the tools to do some further exploration on their own, then give them space to see if the interest sticks. If they begin pursuing it on their own without your help, if they begin asking for more, fan the flame. But if the spark dies out, that’s okay too. It simply means you have ruled something out.
When parents offer experiences, observe and communicate and then back up and give children space to explore, interests are soon to develop. And perhaps one or two of those will eventually grow into a passion.
Jenni Stahlmann and Jody Hagaman are mothers with nine children between them, from an attorney to a pre-schooler, and one on the autism spectrum. Together they host a nationally syndicated radio show, “POP Parenting.” They are also freelance writers and international speakers. Get more information on their website, jenniandjody.com.
Powered by WPeMatico