In an old friends pregnancy announcement they praised how excited they were for having a baby boy and couldn’t wait for him to be a star athlete. I could imagine the expectation of a room full of trophies and daily sports games. It started me thinking (which has proven to be dangerous) whether this was a smart move, or just one made in excitement. I have seen many parents and their students differ in their expectations of what niche they would fit into. What if a child didn’t want to play sports, would a parent force them into it? Would a parent rob a child of joy because the child would rather read or be creative than do something the parent once did? I am not a parent, but I have seen a lot of this tension play out throughout my life experiences. Here are some thoughts on the expectations we put on kids.
Allowing a child room to figure it out, and being a person who can help guide that is important. I hope kids can try a bunch of activities and learn from those experiences. Kids get to discover for themselves what they enjoy and like. They begin to learn new skills and develop their personalities. Allowing them to try things gives them a chance to see it for themselves. We should, however, also create a sense of commitment in them to stick with something that they do enjoy. This should come naturally if they enjoy it. Get their curiosity going, help to see and try new things.
As adults we should create a safe environment for kids to be themselves. When we coerce or force a kid into do something they don’t like it frustrations rise on both fronts. There can be an unhealthy expectation on kids to do a certain thing which when they don’t like it leads to frustration and disappointment from the adults. From the kids it creates a tension that can destroy trust and connections with adults. This safety helps kids to try and fail and try and succeed until they discover something that makes them come alive.
Be a champion for kids in whatever fills them with joy. If it is being creative, or band, reading or sports be a kids cheerleader in whatever they are doing. Create an environment that encourages them and creates a passion behind what they are doing. Let their passions become your passions. You will connect so much better when you share this with them. Encourage them to be the best they can be in this area. If it is drawing, ask them to see some work and help them to learn more. If it is sports, cheer them on, teach them new skills, and ask them questions about it.
In giving kids a safe environment where they can discover their passions they will flourish. We begin to see kids for who they are, not who we believe they should be. In families, and in our ministries, we should strive to help kids discover the unique individual God has created them to be. Even if it doesn’t fit our molds.