As mom to four extremely diverse children, I’ve learnt that each child’s needs are different. While Kyle (15) and Karis (3) are both very domineering and bold, Seth (11) is quite the opposite, and needs to be coaxed. Yet Seth is the one who is more confident about the type of career he would like to pursue one day, whereas Kyle is an indecisive teenager and requires guidance in that area. Karis wants to be a princess… for now, that is. And as we witness the unfolding of their lives – with baby en tow – we’ve begun to realize that when it comes to drawing out the best, and helping our kids find their passion, our game plan needs to be adjusted to suite the individuality of each child.
I learn a lot about Kyle by observing him as he goes about his day to day routine. I know, for example, that he is not that great at time management and lacks organisational skills but excels when he is put in charge of a family activity and can bark out orders and delegate like a pro. He is not an avid reader, but loves computers and technology. He would much rather take on something that offers a challenge, and finds the ‘easy way out’ to be boring and unrewarding. A few years ago he decided that he wants to be a chef and told me that he would like to work in the tourism industry. Knowing his lack of interest towards being in the kitchen and serving on others I knew that anything revolving serving people, sticking to a schedule and being systematic would not be a proper fit for him. This new found interest was probably not a well thought out plan. But instead of telling him this, I found some information about the industry online and shared it with him. After some prompting, question asking, and more observing, I soon discovered that he had been watching a Chinese anime series about a young boy who goes to chef school. It was one of his favorite series to watch, at the time. I also learnt that my teen had quite an impressive anime collection – he loved the story lines and, more importantly, was taken by the artwork and creativity. My son had a hidden creative flair and he did not even know it. That December, we decided to gift him with a small art set for Christmas and encouraged him to use it. Much to our delight and surprise our boy started drawing… first a doodle here and there, and eventually a whole portrait. Just like that we helped to draw out a talent that we did not even know was there! The following year he enrolled for the art program at his school. The program is only open to a select few, and many students spend a long time deciding on what to draw as their entry submission. Because his interest in art was so sudden, Kyle had a shorter period of time to decide on and complete his submission. Fortunately he is a natural, and his art teacher was pretty impressed with his work – and a bit shocked at the new found interest! It seems that buying him that art set really paid off. This showed us that nudging your child in a specific direction – without expecting fireworks in return – creates a safe space where they are able to experiment without feeling pressured. We’ve seen the fruit of our labour with Kyle, as he continues to pursue his newfound love of drawing and the arts. He is looking at going into the graphic design arena, where he will be able to combine his love for technology with his newly acquired passion for art.
The middle schooler
With Seth being as vocal and descriptive as he is, you would think that it would be easier to determine where his strengths and weaknesses lie. But, because he is at a precarious age, where just about anything is exciting to him, it is a tad bit harder. He spent all of 2016 very excited about the school cricket team. We attended cricket games, practiced in the back yard and went shopping for cricket gear – he was determined to join the team during sign up season. For a long time it was all that he spoke about. This year, he has not said one word about cricket, but is now an avid hockey player. Today he enthusiastically told us that he is thinking about pursuing a career in teaching. Last month he wanted to be a professional wrestler. How do we decipher where his true calling lies? For starters, we try not to curb his enthusiasm and do not demand that he decide on only one field of interest. We go with his flow, encouraging him to partake in each activity with his whole heart, and then wait for his cue to see whether this is the one that will stick. He knows that if he is involved with a school activity, he needs to be committed, on time and ready! There is no room for doing things halfway! This will help him suss out which of these interests are worth the effort and which he would be okay with dropping. We see the best results from him when we keep a close eye on where his strengths lie and compliment him on those things. He loves hearing about his aptitudes and I’ve found that pointing them out gives him the confidence to stretch that muscle even more. Seth loves having discussions about the future. We’ve used this to our advantage by creating a safe space for him to share how he feels about school, his dreams and interests. Through doing this we have determined that he loves sports… but is not very athletic… and this really troubled him. Armed with this knowledge we were able to reassure him and instead of dissuading him to back down, encouraged him to share his love for the industry with us. In doing so, we’ve seemingly created a sports boffin! Seth is a deep well of sporting knowledge – it’s quite impressive to behold! He can quote dates and facts; remembering important sporting events, score totals and players history, just like that! He has become our family’s walking sports encyclopedia and we love it! Our excitement has spurred him on and it has been amazing to watch him blossom into a confident boy who takes pride in his effort. As he continues to unravel the layers of his passion, we equip him with information and provide him with resources (the internet; the sports channel) that help him to do so. Who knows, maybe he’ll wake up one day and realize that his true passion is to be a sports coach or to get into sports management! In the meantime, we also engage in conversation that stem around this and other possible career choices.
At the tender age of 3 years old Karis has a big imagination and we love watching her learn and grow through play and role-play. As it goes with toddlers, her interests change all the time! One day she’s all about cooking and playing in the kitchen. The next, she wants to fix the wheel on her doll pram, and the next she’s all about teaching her dollies how to read. We’ve come to acknowledge that what we allow her to watch, during her scheduled screen time, plays a big part in what her latest fad will be. Movies that feature strong, independent girls are her favorite! I appreciate that these introduce her to new things, ideas and places that we may not know to introduce her to. With this in mind, I am very cautious about the type of movies and programs I allow her to watch. I try to choose flicks that have a strong theme, with a positive message that emboldens her to try something different or new! And when she shows interest in wanting to stretch her wings, I let her do so! Whether it be singing infront of the mirror, fixing my hair as my pretend hairdresser or taking out her doctor kit to use on her daddy. We realize that the best gift we can give her, at this stage in her life, is choice. But, with that said, we are careful not to overtax her when it comes to extra mural activities. Even though her school offers an array of after school programs, we are cautious and do not simply say yes to all of them just because it is readily available. From mini gymnastics, to ballet for tots, music class and even a mini chef program, the options are really impressive. But, it can get a bit overwhelming for a toddler to take it all in! Being only three years old, we did not want to flood her with too much information or too many stimulating activity. Instead, we would prefer having her focus on one or two activities at a time, with the hope that it will eventually help her to naturally navigate towards the one that she has an inherent talent for.
Through the raising of my kids, I’ve learnt that showing interest in the things that your child shows interest in is key to nurturing their passion and motivating them to do well in their areas of interest. If your child shows a flair or natural talent for something, spur them on by providing equipment and information that would empower and inspire them to greatness. If they are fascinated in something that they may not necessarily be good in, try to have them look at it from a different perspective – there may be something else, related to the same industry, that would be right up their alley. Remind them that the possibilities are endless. Give them room to grow, but hold them accountable to their commitments and, above all, have fun while doing so!