Have you ever sat at your child’s end of year graduation and hopefully waited for them to receive an award? You may have felt incredibly disappointed when they were over looked or left unacknowledged. As a society (and unfortunately often in schools too) we celebrate big accomplishments. We celebrate these in our social media posts, at special events and often in our daily conversations.
It’s so easy to reward exceptional talent, like being the smartest or the sportiest. That is why parents often try and identify their child’s “big strength” that makes them stand out from the pack. The biggest or most visible talents are often falsely perceived as the best. I believe that the backstory of our children’s lives is often not focussed on enough. The smallest talents can produce big rewards for each child who uses them well. Fully-developed small talents make big contributions to the world.
I always caution parents when I hear them disappointedly saying things like, ‘All Johnny wants to do is go fishing.’ I have a brother-in-law whose sole interest in childhood was fishing. My mother-in-law realised very early on that there was something unique about his interest, so she never discouraged it even when it was at the detriment of his school work. Today he runs a very successful business. From our children’s small interests, consistently explored, big things can develop.
It is easy to miss valuable talents by underestimating the worth of their interests.
The smallest of actions and emotions, once strung together, can paint a picture of who our children are becoming. It is easy to dismiss the little things our children talk about as unimportant, when in reality they have the potential to provide us with critical insights for parenting.
While I subscribe to the idea that humans can participate in anything, I don’t subscribe to the idea that everything will bring our children joy. Notice what brings your child joy and be diligent to listen to what your children are telling you, not what you want to hear. I want to give my children permission to pursue what brings them joy in life.
Here are three simple ways parents can do this:
1. Allow time for play. Try not to fill every waking moment with chores, homework and events. When our children have down time, they have opportunity to informally discover themselves. Structured activities don’t allow them the same opportunity.
2. Listen to their desires. You might find yourself setting academic or extra curriculum goals for your child. While there is nothing wrong with casting vision, you may find them you are projecting unhealthy expectations on them. The most empowering things we can do it tune into our children’s interests.
3. Be careful what you celebrate. If you notice you get happy when your child performs well, or achieves something out of the ordinary, realise that you may be teaching them to undervalue who they are. Celebrate who your child is, not just what they have achieved. Celebrate effort, discovery and engagement with the world around them.
RECOMMENDED READING: For more, check out Michelle’s book “Everyday Resilience: Helping Kids Handle Friendship Drama, Academic Pressure and the Self-doubt of Growing Up”.