Thursday, January 15, 2015

Encouraging Your Children to Try Different Activities

Are you a parent that gives a gentle nudge to encourage your child or are you a "shover?"  My husband and I are definitely more nudgers, but that nudge can go from gentle to firm depending on the situation.  (Speaking metaphorically of course, not advocating actually physically nudging or shoving your child...)

When our teenager was younger, she was not necessarily interested in any activities, but my husband and I both feel that if it is at all possible, we want to encourage our kids to try different things to see where their interests and passions lie.  When her younger sister was born, we wanted our elder daughter to have something special to do that summer and not feel like the whole world revolved around the new baby, so we signed her up for a dance summer camp.  Week-long summer camps are a GREAT way to try things out -- they are not as big a time or financial commitment and it gives your child a chance to test the waters and see if they would be interested in doing something long term.  Our daughter loved dance camp, made a friend who ended up going to elementary school with her, and both girls signed up for dance in the fall.  Our girl loved dance at first, but then she seemed to find it a drag and she was not as interested.  We "nudged" her (firmly) into staying through the year (she had been in for months) because we explained that there was a recital and they were counting on her to be there.  It was mildly torturous for all of us because she did not want to be in dance and frankly, we did not want to hear her whine and complain, BUT, we are sticklers about honoring your commitments and we all suffered through.  The recital day arrives and lo and behold she LOVED it -- had a great time, wanted to do dance again!  She stuck with dance for two more years and then decided she was no longer interested and ready to try something else. 

She became a Girl Scout and loved that and stuck with that until we moved, and now she helps out her sister's Brownie troop when she can. Thanks to the generosity of Gramby and Grandpa, she (and our little one) took swimming lessons for a number of years, and she also thanks to G & G took a couple of years of sailing lessons which she really loved until the last day of the last year she did it and some boys were really nasty (with comments) to her and made her cry.  There was no getting her to try again the next year. 

In the 4th grade in NY, it was time to pick an instrument and have the opportunity to learn to play and join the band.  She wanted to play and we nudged her toward clarinet because I had one already.  She got into band but hated to practice and there were some fits and tears and again she wanted to quit but again, we firmly nudged her into sticking it out because of her commitment to the band concert.  In 5th and 6th grade in NY she was in band and jazz band and enjoyed that more than she had in 4th grade.  When I researched towns in NH for our move, I made sure to look to see if the schools had band and in particular jazz bands because she really enjoyed that!  Before we moved to NH, she was a little hesitant about starting up with band here, but we gently nudged saying that's the best way to make friends -- you instantly have something in common with them!  She joined band here last year and impressed everyone immediately, because she started school here one week before the holiday concert but she was ready (the band director - now her very favorite teacher - said she was more prepared than some of the kids who had been here the whole year!).  We nudged and nudged to get her to try out for jazz band this year and guess what?  She got in, she loves it, and her very best friends (5!) are girls in the bands!  Sometimes we parents know what we are doing!  ;)  

One thing that she has always done, is write.  She is a very talented writer (teachers have told us for years -- it's not just a mom's bias...) but since we moved, she had really gotten out of writing.  I had a long talk with her last week about picking it up again.  She had wanted to be a writer since 3rd grade and then this past year switched her goal to screen writer and was saying that she doesn't like writing any more because scripts are easier, she sees things in her head of how she would film them, etc.  I told her that she's a talented writer and it's like a muscle that you should keep exercising and that regardless or what type of writer she wants to be, the best thing is to write, write, write -- anything!  I told her that we've never been the type of parents to shove our kids into things (I used the example that her dad would never force sports on the girls if they weren't interested), but when things are important for them we will give a gentle or firm nudge if need be.  I reminded her about band and how we nudged and how well that turned out.  I also reminded her that her dad is an excellent skater -- played hockey for years, used to teach "Ice Babies " (skating for little kids), ice skates and roller skates / blades -- but when he had tried to get her on the ice or on roller skates she adamantly refused, so now she does not know how to do those things.  And she wishes that she COULD do those things.  I wish my parents had pushed me to continue to take piano lessons -- I took them for  awhile, hated to practice, whined, and they (Dad?) let me quit (after the recital!).  I would dearly love to really be able to play!

After that conversation, my girl grabbed a notebook and started writing about the daily happenings at school.  She wrote and wrote that first night and the next night she decided to type all of that up on the computer and she's been writing just about every day since, adding to her original story.  It's quite entertaining, and she's really excited about it!  I'm glad I nudged!

We're parents, we know our kids, we know what it's like to be a kid, and we know what life brings as an adult.  I have no problem nudging a little to make sure my girls get opportunities to discover what is really important to them, and where their interests lie.  Being a well-rounded individual will only benefit them in life.  And my little one?  She's in Girl Scouts now, and in two years she will be nudged into trying an instrument (doesn't have to be a clarinet -- that one's occupied these days!  Did I mention she's first chair, first clarinet?  ;) or joining the chorus, or trying out for a sport!  Nudged with love and the best intentions for a full life! 

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