Thursday, September 6, 2012

Nurturing Children's Interests

 "I think I'm joining the Mathletes."

She loves bowling!
I bookmarked this article in Good Housekeeping months ago because it reminded me so much of my little Bear. The child has enthusiastically signed up for a dozen activities, only to flame out within weeks or months (or days, in some cases).

The author writes about her similar experience and frustration, and acknowledges that her tendency to compare her girls to those kids who seemed to spring from the womb with their passions and talents at hand is unhealthy and unfair. I too am aware of this fault, and yet I still find myself wondering why my girl can't stick with anything or find something she really loves.

This section about the three stages of learning really resonates with me:

"'Stage one is unconscious incompetence, when you don't know what you don't know—a kid picks up a guitar, thinking it'll be as easy as professionals make it look. Stage two is conscious incompetence, when a kid realizes this is hard and she has a long way to go. Stage three is conscious competence—she puts in the effort and learns to play. Most give up in stage two. Fear and insecurity have to be overcome. Some kids are little perfectionists. If they can't do something perfectly right away, they get frustrated and want to quit.'"

The "expert" goes on to explain that there is often a dormant period between stages two and three, when the child will rediscover an interest in an activity and might want to re-explore it with the wisdom of experience on their side.

I can absolutely see that in Bear. Some things are clearly just not for her, but I think that once she finds her "thing," she'll really excel. With her it's a matter of understanding what she responds to—which is not pressure and external expectations. She responds well when she's given the tools and left to her own devices. This, I think, is why competitive sports and stuff like guitar didn't work well for her. Mentally and emotionally, she's not yet ready for the discipline required if it's not something she truly loves, anyway. She needs to have a fire for something in order for the work to feel worth it.

So I'm letting her try things. She has to learn that some things require hard work and discipline, but I think it's important to let her figure out what those things are on her own. As she gets older she'll become increasingly capable of tackling difficult challenges, but at the age of nine, life should still be fun and her primary job is to play. There's plenty of time to learn to think like an adult later. For now I just want her to explore her interests at her own pace.

Easier said than done, of course. One of the things she desperately wants to do is to act and sing, and if you get cast in a show there is simply no room for a lack of discipline. She's auditioning for a show next week and whether she gets cast or not, auditioning is a valuable experience. But I have had to put some level of expectation on her. She has to prepare her music, she has to understand audition protocol, and if she is cast—she has to work very hard on something very repetitive for eight weeks. That's heavy. After MUCH inner turmoil, I decided to let her give it a try. One way or another, it will be a learning experience for her. 
It's all about balance, amiright?

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