We sign our daughter up for piano lessons and art classes because we know music and creative endeavors are good for her brain.
We register our son for soccer in the fall and baseball in the spring because we know getting regular exercise and being a part of a team will be beneficial for him.
But what happens when our child has different interests and passions than the ones we had in mind for them?
As the only daughter of former long-time University of Alabama football coach and athletic director Mal Moore, Heather Cook grew up surrounded by the world of sports. Her husband Steve was a star multi-sport athlete in Nebraska, as well. When the Cooks’ two children came along, it was only natural to raise them to be involved in athletics. Their daughter played soccer and ran track in high school. Their son spent his childhood playing all sports until he got to high school…and decided he wanted to get involved in the theater program instead.
The Cooks did not see this change coming, as they had always been a “sports family.” They loved watching their son play soccer, baseball, and basketball. Now he wanted to give that up and act on a stage? What were they to do?
And that is exactly what they’ve done. The Cooks now get their son voice lessons instead of sports coaching. They attend every show and encourage all of their friends to come, as well. Heather is now the co-president of the Chaparral Theater Company Booster Club and fully supports her son’s newfound passion wholeheartedly.
“It was hard to see our son give up something he had invested so much time into and was so good at, but we could see what was making him happy, and we were willing to give theater a go,” says Heather. “It took me a while to stop calling rehearsals ‘practice’ or intermission ‘halftime,’ but slowly and surely, I have evolved from ‘soccer mom’ to ‘drama mama.’ ”
And this is what we are to do as parents: Selflessly step aside and support our child in their endeavors rather than stand in their way dictating what we feel may be a better use of their time or talents.
In Katie Hurley’s book, “The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World,” she encourages parents to step back and zoom out to explore a wide range of interests.
“When parents support instead of push, kids find their passions and interests and learn to follow their own paths toward success and happiness,” she writes.
When we allow our child the space to discover their passions, instead of fulfilling ours, we tell our son or daughter that we believe in them and their ability to lead their own life. When we push our child down a path we have deemed best for them or their resume, we tell our child that we don’t trust them to make their own choices, diminishing their self-confidence and overall outlook on life.
No matter how many children you have, it’s vital to raise each one as an individual possessing personal passion, talents and desires. Suggest activities and present opportunities you think might be good for your child, but strive to let them ultimately decide how they want to proceed. Do your best to not limit your child to what is comfortable and familiar to you or to do what every other family seems to be doing. Open your mind and your child’s mind to lots of possibilities and take the time to get to know your child and their interests.
Strive to be a supportive parent, instead of a dictator.
By // Amy Carney