How to identify and encourage your child’s interests
It was a happy occasion for all of us at home when my little one turned five, but little did we know that as she grew her way from a preschool to a kindergarten, so would grow her questions. Trust me it takes lot of patience to keep answering all the questions and there were times when I got stuck in the muddle, if I entertain and answer, she would just keep on asking and would never stop, If I ignore she would get disappointed but would ask the same questions another time.
That is when I happened to read an article by the renowned psychologist Michelle Chouinard, who observed that when young children were actively engaged with an adult, they asked an average of 76 questions per hour. Question-asking is not something that children do every now and then—asking questions is a central part of what it means to be a child. From then I started being more patient to my daughter’s questions and thoughtfully channelised her questions so that it became a mode of learning for her.
That was my way of handling my toddler’s questions, I am sure you would also like to try with your child. Let’s look at some more ways of effectively identifying and encouraging your child’s interests.
Children respond to our animated expressions of interest in their interests with visible pleasure. They enjoy this interaction and it is very evident that they want more of it. In a decade of interacting with children of different age groups, I have met a few children who did not want to share their interests with their parents and a few who were not affected when their parents did not respond with enthusiasm to their interests. I have heard children making statements like, “I tried showing this to my mom, but she is not interested”. We might have been busy or had other priorities to address but what we fail to understand is such experiences may lead to sadness and disappointment & later to resentment and withdrawal in children. Let’s show a genuine interest in our child’s interest and let’s see him/ her grow as an enthusiastic and emotionally alive child.
Testing the waters
We are often over confident in thinking that we know what is best for our child, and some of the over enthusiastic parents amongst us, enroll our children and invest a huge amount on multiple activities round the year. We want our kids to be super heroes, thanks to the holistic development articles and speeches and not to miss the social gatherings where we would love to boast about our children and their skills. However, it would be unfair to expect a child to actively participate in all the activities that we have decided for him/her just because we have paid huge amounts for enrolment. It would be wise to enroll your child for short term session to give your child taste of whatever the activity is and help him/her identify if he likes it or not.
Follow their muse not our own
Sometimes we get very excited thinking about a particular hobby or sport we would love to see our child excel in, only to find that they really don’t like it. It’s important to ask them open ended questions and watch how they are interacting and behaving in an activity to see if this is what they want to do so they don’t feel they have to please us.
Children’s growth is not a smooth path, but rather includes many twists and turns and even some detours. Just as maps keep you heading in the “right” direction, identifying your child’s interests and values makes you realise how unique is your child and this equation will help you in guiding your children towards their long-term destination of becoming successful adults who reach their full potential. As psychologist William Damon rightly advises in his book, The Path to purpose, “Listen closely for the Spark, then fan the flames.”
(The author is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Learning Arena, an e-learning company)