Parents sometimes attempt to live vicariously through their children even when the child has different interests from the parent. They are likely not trying to control the child but believe that their own dreams will make the child happy. Parents can balance their own dreams for their children with their child’s interests to help guide their children toward productive lives.
The Benefits of Engaged Kids
One study followed more than 300 teens from age 14 until they reached adulthood. The research found that those who participated in extracurricular activities also achieved higher education levels as adults. Involvement in activities also connected positively to improved identity development. Children ask themselves what they are good at and what they like to do. This gives them the building blocks for a strong foundation of who they are and what they hope to accomplish.
Engaged children also earn better grades and have better skills in time-management. The benefits carry through to old age and even show improved mental agility with a reduced likelihood of developing dementia for those who were involved in at least two activities in high school. For example, playing football and taking ballet as a teen might mean that your child will be more likely to remember why he walked into the next room at age 75.
A Father Who’s a Jock vs. a Son with no Athletic Abilities
Some fathers have a history of playing sports and might have even received athletic scholarships to college. Others might simply enjoy absorbing every football game on television, recording their favorite teams so that they don’t miss even a minute of the game. Still others work in the field as adults and enjoy the team atmosphere and camaraderie of athletics. No matter the reason, a father will need to let go of his dreams some point and encourage his son to move in the direction of his own interests, whether that’s music, media or other creative endeavors.
Build Their Confidence
Focusing on any activity — sports or otherwise — that a child doesn’t enjoy will likely end up being counterproductive and degrade a child’s self-esteem. If the child doesn’t enjoy the activity, they probably won’t do well. That will cut into their fragile self-esteem, causing possible problems. On the other hand, allowing them to pursue their own dreams will foster their self-image, boosting their natural strengths and talents.
Teach Them Persistence
Persistence is an underrated quality in many people — adults and children alike. They often tend to dabble in a myriad of activities, learning how to play a sport or an instrument but never becoming truly proficient. Show them through your own endeavors that working hard and not giving up can result in great achievements. However, watch that your child doesn’t engage with a perfectionist attitude, expecting to perform without errors the first time they try.
Watch for Their Preferences
Ask your child, “What would you like to do this afternoon?” If the same or similar answers come up repeatedly, you might have an idea of what sparks his or her interests. For example, if your son wants to go to the library or the bookstore, you’ll know that he obviously has an interest in reading and intellectual studies. You can help steer him towards clubs in school that involve literature, debate, or science. If your daughter wants to go to the park and toss a ball around, she might be more interested in physical activity than quiet reading.
Always remember to be mindful of your children. As parents, we can easily forget that these little clones of ourselves actually have minds and preferences of their own. By figuring out what things they are interested in, you can use your life experience to help them follow a path of interest and responsibility.
From the mountains of Utah, Tyler Jacobson writes about his experiences as a father and husband. By sharing the struggles and solutions his family has faced, Tyler hopes to help other parents looking for a way to better their lives. You can connect with Tyler and read his helpful insights on Twitter & LinkedIn