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The four year old and I are easing into our Friday. The brothers are off to school and he’s enjoying sole control of the Kindle for another round of Fruit Ninja. I’m savoring a second cup of coffee and procrastinating a major re-write on my current manuscript. In the midst of my
time-wasting caffeine consumption, I’m watching Hoda and Kathie Lee do their thing. They started their hour with a convoluted discussion about whether or not we tell our children if they’re not talented at a particular extra curricular activity.
Listen. Lest you think I take my parenting advice from morning talk show hosts, let me assure you that I do not. I found the discussion both disheartening and comical.
One of the hosts campaigned for passing the buck and taking the child to an expert (voice instructor, musician, etc.) so they could be the bad guy and deliver the news that the child had zero chance of making it in the entertainment business. However, she contradicted that advice when she stated she’d received negative criticism from her sister’s instructor and that motivated her to pursue a career in television and entertainment.
The other host blathered on about her unfulfilled desire to be a cartoonist and a former professor’s advice that her appearance would be a roadblock to her success in the television industry. I can’t accurately represent her opinion on the issue because she never clearly stated her position.
I had a conversation with some other moms this week about how we help our children find their “thing”. Is it through process of elimination? That could be both expensive and exhausting. Encourage the child to pursue activities we enjoy? Sometimes that works, but it also has an excellent chance of backfiring. I’ve sat on many a sideline watching a parent blow a gasket when their child stands on the soccer or baseball field picking flowers, completely oblivious to the action going on around him.
What about when a child clearly possesses natural talent or ability but shows little interest in pursuing that sport or activity? We have a child with a delightful singing voice who insists he “hates” music. Alrighty then. Another child keeps us in stitches with his great sense of humor but refuses to even think about attending a drama class or auditioning for children’s theatre. Our third has a beautiful left-handed throwing motion. T-ball was his idea this year but he looked miserable when he was on the field.
Clearly I don’t have this figured out from a parenting perspective. I don’t agree with finding someone else to tell our child they aren’t going to succeed. There’s a time and a place for constructive criticism, but I don’t think a young child is capable of processing that kind of feedback. I do know that my parents gave us opportunities to try new sports and activities, whether we showed any natural abilities or not. They watched us play hours upon hours of organized sports, funded our equipment needs and often traveled with our teams to watch us play. My sister was pretty good but I didn’t have any exceptional ability. They let me play, anyway. Because they saw value in learning teamwork, cooperation, the opportunity to win and lose graciously. I wrote lots of bad stories and drew hideous pictures of horses, but they never whispered a word of criticism. I begged to quit playing the piano not long after I started … that took some negotiating, but they let me stop taking lessons with only a casual warning that I’d regret my decision. Okay, Mom, you were right. I wish I’d kept playing the piano.
I think a word of encouragement and a willingness to support our children in their hobbies and activities, whether they are talented or not, goes a long way in cultivating children who bloom where they’re planted. I believe negative criticism only belittles their confidence and plants a seed of resentment.
I saw this post circulating social media earlier this year. I think his perspective sums it up nicely: “The Only Six Words Parents Need To Say To Their Kids About Sports … Or Any Performance”.
Your turn: how do you cultivate children who bloom?
I’m linking up with Lisa Jo Baker and her weekly Five Minute Friday post. Come join us and tell us your thoughts on today’s prompt BLOOM.