As a parent, I am often at a loss to understand my child’s behavior towards new interests. The constantly changing hobbies, circle of friends, and emotional investments displayed by my child can be mind boggling. One day, his main focus is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The next, I am expected to volunteer at our local humane society, with him, for the express purpose of socializing new animals. No cleaning, feeding, or other assistance is acceptable. I am to sit and pet cats. It is during these times that I do my best to provide consistent support, education, and genuine interest in his new found passions. Allowing him to choose his own interests, while still using these interests as opportunities to teach him about life, has become part of our daily and weekly activities together. Showing an active interest in a child’s activities, regardless of outside personal enjoyment, provides a consistent base of reinforcement to the child. It is this reinforcement that provides the knowledge that the child is secure in making his or her own choices.
Our interest in and need for consistency is one of personal security. We need to feel secure in our intellect, emotions, and physical well being, just as much as we need to feel security in our social choices and personal interests. Having this security allows us to succeed in our relationships, interests, and education. By showing an active interest in our child’s interests, and then using those hobbies and activities as opportunity to educate, we provide consistent parental security, while maintaining educational development. Since we, as parents, provide the greatest amount of stability and consistency to the child, it should also become the responsibility of the parent to maintain consistent education throughout the developing child’s life. We create success by taking an active interest and participating in our child’s education, but when we allow the learning process to lapse, losing the consistency needed to make the child secure in their own choices, we miss out on a crucial opportunity to bond with and teach our children.
It is of great importance that consistent education not be confused with classroom education. Education does not always have a need for books, class times, or multiple choice tests. Take the opportunity to provide a history lesson over coffee or tea. Biological Diversity and Nature Conservancy can be experienced on a hike. Math and Musical theory can be absorbed by a night at the symphony. Understanding the difference between classroom learning, to be provided by the teacher, and life learning, provided by the parent, will make the difference between consistent educational progress and yearly lapses. As long as the activity provided comes from the child, building on their interest, it won’t be seen as “Mom/Dad trying to teach me a lesson”. By not down playing to the child, showing interest in their hobbies rather than providing activities you think they will enjoy, you bolster confidence and emotional strength. The act of engaging in the child’s hobby, while still using it as a teaching tool, makes the child feel secure in your emotional involvement, their activity choices, and the mutual respect that is crucial in a parent/child relationship. This way, the child keeps learning, consistently, without ever feeling like they are being “made” to learn.