There are almost as many parenting styles as there are parents to have children. Of course, not all are good, or even valid. Many parents that care for raising their child in the most supportive context may grimace when they see beauty pageant parents making their child ‘look beautiful’ and chastising them when they fail to win a competition. We see an overly enthusiastic father trying to live through his son’s or daughter’s sports career, and think that this in itself is terrible parenting. Of course, we cannot know the full story, but having reservations about that can seem right.
But while it’s very easy to see just what we do not like in others, especially when it comes to the treatment of children or teenagers, how can we provide a necessary counterpoint, to overcompensate for this by guiding your child in the healthiest possible manner? Perhaps this is best illustrated by how a parent helps their child of about 12-17 consider their future as a late teenager or young adult. At this age, children begin to express an interest in something, and while this can change, interest and passion are two things alway worthy of encouraging.
Here’s what healthy handling of this may look like:
Do Not Force Them Down That Path
Even if your child finds something incredibly interesting and alluring, there’s no guarantee they will find it that way forever. By all means, be sure to help them explore it, but when you start defining your child by this select interest, you can have a real problem. This is why allowing them to explore that path and giving them a manner in which to appreciate it can be important, but forcing them in that direction is never okay. After all, a child can naturally develop their interests when you also give them time to, not when it becomes something they must do.
We can use an example for this, although of course, like most examples, it is not a universal rule. When scheduled to take instrumental lessons at school, it can be that lugging around heavy instruments at school, or having to attend in their lunch break, or being forced to attend band practice can lead them to feel like this interest is being artificially constricted, even if they make progress. But taking them to see an instructor after school in a private setting? They may flourish in that environment where force is not needed.
Guide Them Carefully, But Thoroughly
Even when your child or teen finds something interesting, it’s very easy for them to feel disheartened. For example, if they try sports and fail to ever score or adapt in certain ways, or if they struggle to meet a worthwhile challenge, or if they’re just not aware of the best approach going forward, it can be easy for them to feel somewhat as if this is not for them.
However, it can also be that looking at the practice in a new light may help them understand the best approach. For example, if they wish to learn martial arts, perhaps judo is not something they enjoy. However, Karate might be something they love, or maybe even boxing gives them that tactical interest they’re looking for. It’s okay if they bounce off their interest or struggle with it, as long as they take a thorough approach to it, and you can guide them in this direction.
Show Them Their Options
Taking the time to explore their options and potential routes forward may motivate them to take this up as a hobby they love, rather than something they feel is a ‘side interest’. For example, it might amaze your teen to understand that US pilot studies and aviation degrees can be applied for, and that the best services help educate you as to your options. This is a very real, lucrative career path, and though the entrance requirements are picky and it will take plenty of work, showing your child that this is possible can be all the news they need to make this a real ambition of theirs.
After all, isn’t guiding your child, no matter how old, towards something they love and enjoy always the best responsibility of a parent outside of love and protection? Additionally, if they begin to find a lofty goal such as this something to aim at, allow them to feel this is a possibility. It may nurture an ambition they might not have known they had.
Invest In Their Interests
Of course, as a parent, it’s important to help your teen invest in the things they love or wish to develop. If a child is showing a very keen interest and dedication learning guitar, for example, driving them to lessons, purchasing them a guitar for their birthday, perhaps helping them bid for that electric guitar and amp on eBay, or allowing them to practice and fail until success night after night is the loving support you give that can nurture their interest.
Think of just how many parents have chastised their children for trying to learn an instrument like a violin but playing poorly (as with the case with all beginners). The child will feel disheartened, and unlikely to continue. Who knows if they’ll try and follow a similar passion with as much interest and zeal as before? That would be a tragedy, but unfortunately, it will have happened somewhere the world. Learn from this bad example and understand that there are more important things than not listening to bad violin or its equivalent for an hour each night. Of course, if your child is practising martial arts moves on their younger siblings, that’s another story entirely. There’s nuance here.
Encourage & Support Them
Sometimes, a little word of encouragement can be enough to help a child keep at something. Perhaps despite their best efforts their team have failed to win the interschool trophy this year. That’s fine. There are more important things than being successful, such as having good sportsmanship, persevering, training to get better, trying to play as a team, and showing up to practice each day.
Encouragement can be a very worthwhile approach should you apply it in the right way. Of course, be sure that this is rational. If you praise your child for everything they do, they will not feel like they tried, or that they need to try. If you praise them for when they do try, or when they go all out, or when they go for something new, that shows you are watching them correctly, and are genuinely happy for them. There’s nothing quite like a child feeling as though they’re making their parents proud, and so giving them that compliment when necessary can help them take that extra step on the journey and see something through, provided it is well placed.
Allow Them To Change Or Try Something New
It might be that your child has played the violin for the last five years, and have played at many local concerts. Perhaps they have achieved a certain competence and skill in their grading. Perhaps now they are happy with their progress, and wish to try something new. Allow them to do that, and to start as a beginner all over again. Do not force them on one path. After all, they will be a beginner in so many areas of life and have to learn that it’s important for them to internalize those lessons now.
With this advice, you’re certain to help correctly mold the passionate interests of your child.