Life Lessons: Inspiring Our Children to be Great

Since I started my little project of sending Gavin to as many different trial classes as possible, I have to confess my enthusiasm has waned considerably from the time that I conceived the idea. Despite how simple it sounds, the endeavour has been far more exhausting than I had envisaged.

Spending the day at home today working on a new jigsaw puzzle that Gavin begged me to get for him seemed a lot easier in comparison, especially since it appears that Gareth has just begun his journey of the terrible twos and no longer complies with sitting in the car seat. Having to endure two car rides with his unceasing howling and screaming was beginning to wear out my nerves, not to mention the guilt I felt for having to put him through it because I would never have allowed Gavin to cry in that manner at this age. I’m afraid Gareth’s ability to take things in stride far more easily than his brother has led to me abusing his genial disposition. Just because he handles it so much better than Gavin ever did does not make it okay.

But I’m digressing… As I said before, one of the reasons for exposing Gavin to a variety of experiences is to help him find his passion. Although he has enjoyed most of his classes so far and it is tempting to just settle on one of them, it would defeat the purpose of the entire exercise to quit now. With there being so many other activities that he has never tried, how would I know if he might or might not like them? I had fully expected him to come away telling me he had no interest in Monster Tennis after his trial but he surprised me by putting it among one of his top choices of classes he would like to do.

Recently, I saw a Youtube video of Zara Larsson performing at the European equivalent of Britain’s Got Talent and it reminded me of what a child can achieve with passion, opportunity, and means. She was only 10 years old when she sang The Greatest Love of All. Watch the Youtube video and be totally blown away.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N0_Ib4Rg0Tk

Here she is singing One Moment in Time:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qjmgLtf5IE8

And A Moment Like This:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LsMsbvhXs64

Some time back, I wrote about Akiane – a child prodigy in art whom, at 5 years old, could draw better than I can now. The similarities between Zara and Akiane is that they both found something that they had a passion for and they were given the encouragement to develop their talents. I don’t wish to belittle their achievements because they are indeed amazing achievements, but I do feel that if more children were given such opportunities to discover what they love and encouraged to nurture their talents (instead of being told the odds of failure and the futility of trying to break into “tough” industries), we would have more prodigies. More importantly, we would have more people doing what they love and making a difference to the world with their passion.

The problem with being a parent is that we have this instinct to protect them. We try to protect them not only from physical dangers but also from suffering emotional pain, such as the disappointment of failure. It is the classic example of “heart in the right place”, of having “the best intentions”. If your child tells you she wants to be a world famous singer, the instinct would be to tell her to find a more realistic goal because so many people try and fail. Part of what makes children so successful at learning is because they don’t know what can and cannot be done – until we tell them. As parents, we have the greatest power to crush their dreams with the wrong words. Sometimes, in trying to protect, we end up doing more harm. So instead of crushing their dreams before they’ve even tried, encourage them to give it their best shot. There are plenty of obstacles that children have to face in life without having to add ourselves – the parents – as yet another obstacle. If they fail, they will learn from it, and we will be there to help them up again. If they succeed, everyone is happy.

Even if they don’t end up pursuing this interest into adulthood, there is a lot they can learn from the experience. A friend of mine once told me about the daughter of a home-schooling mother she knew. The daughter loved cake decorating and her mother allowed her to pursue her interest. By the time she was 12, she had been through three professional courses on cake decorating and she was the only child amongst adults in her classes. She had started an internet forum on cake decorating and had direct contact with professionals in her field. Even if she decides not to continue with cake decorating as her chosen career, the experience would have taught her so much about what it takes to succeed in life. What better way is there to learn such lessons than through personal experience?

And that is what I hope to achieve with my sons and that is the reason why I persist in sending Gavin to so many different extra-curricular activities for him to “try it out”. At the end of the day, all I am hoping to do is to ignite a flame that will fire a passion. Whether he is good at it, becomes a professional in the field or not, is irrelevant. It is the experience of it all that matters.

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of Figur8.net (a website on parenting, education, child development) and RightBrainChild.com (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

One thought on “Life Lessons: Inspiring Our Children to be Great

  1. That said, it is probably not a good idea to get too carried away with signing up the kids for a whole string of ECAs.

    I thought I should balance out the arguments a little in case this blog post was misinterpreted. The idea here is exposure and providing experiences – not overscheduling a child with too many ECAs and rushing him from one activity to another. Hence the reason why I did this over his school holiday break and we only did a few activities a week.

    Case in point on the overscheduled child:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/13/your-money/childrens-activities-no-guarantee-of-later-success.htm

    And why children need downtime (when they do nothing, and yes, even feel bored):

    https://figur8.net/baby/2010/04/22/child-development-the-value-of-doing-nothing/

    Like

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