My son is 9. He’s still discovering his interests and skills. He’s a smart kid. He’s gifted in many areas. There are things that he enjoys and abilities that he’s developing. This is all a part of the normal process of growing up.
There are also things that he just isn’t into very much, and things that he’s really not that great at. And as we notice these things and draw attention to them, one thing we try to intentionally teach is that it’s okay to not be good at something and it’s okay to not like something.
He tried playing baseball this season. He thought it would be a good way to have something to do after school and to socialize with his classmates. At first, he was interested in it. He was excited about buying new gear and having a real, official practice to go to. He liked being part of the team.
He liked baseball until he actually had to learn to play baseball. When the coach made him try batting and throwing and running the bases, my son quickly realized that baseball was not his favorite thing. In fact, he quickly remembered that he doesn’t even like sports. After a few long, grueling months for him, the season finally ended and he vowed to turn in his cleats and never try baseball again.
My son is not a sports kid. He doesn’t even like to watch sports on TV. Instead, he’s into books and science and animals and nature. He likes to swim and climb and explore. He’s inquisitive by nature and adventurous in spirit.
It’s important that my wife and I recognize these interests of his and reinforce them, rather than make him feel that he has to fit a certain mold or do what everyone else is doing.
Our kids’ unique sets of interests, talents, and skills need to be celebrated, not criticized or compared.
It’s really easy to want our kids to like or be interested in certain things. It may be that we were into sports or music or art when we were young, and we wish our kids would pick up where we left off. Or it may be because we see what other kids are good at and the recognition they receive, and we wish our kids could get a taste of that too.
But it really comes down to this: we need to love the kids we have, not the kids we wish we had. We need to appreciate and give value to the various interests, skills, and passions that our kids develop as they grow, and not redirect or squash them simply because they don’t align with our own wishes or visions.
We also need to be careful with the messages we give our kids about their interests or abilities. Sometimes even unintentionally we can make our kids feel inferior to others or reinforce the debilitating lie that they don’t measure up to someone else. Regardless of what talents their siblings or cousins or classmates have, our kids need to know that they have worth and value and that what they like matters. And they need to know that their worth comes not from what they do, but from who they are. They are not “less than” simply because they have trouble catching a ball or don’t like watching football.
This is especially true and necessary for fathers and sons. It has been said that boys get their nurturing from their mothers and they get their identity from their fathers. If this is true, then it presents a hard challenge to the way that many fathers parent their sons and the messages that they reinforce.
Dads, be careful not to devalue your sons simply because they are “different” or don’t have the skills or abilities that you think they should have.
The same advice can be helpful for any parent of any child. Let them express their own interests. Let them grow. Be patient as their abilities and “talents” develop and change through the years. Guide them, but don’t squash what comes naturally out of them. And don’t work so hard to create a mold of yourself that you miss out on who God has wired your child to be.