Recently, an acquaintance was asking me what I would do if my son liked something that I didn’t. Like football, the military, being a nomad, etc and I told her that I would accept him for who he was and that whatever he likes is fine by me so long as it’s not illegal or has anything to do with being a bad person. She was pleasantly surprised since I guess her parents were not this way with her. She said that she felt forced to like or do certain things because her parents wanted her to- she felt that she couldn’t be herself with them and this ultimately affected her happiness and sense of well-being. Yikes!
It’s understandable that as parents, we want the best for our kids. We want them to be healthy, happy, well-adjusted, smart, good people, and sometimes a parent’s unfulfilled “I wish I did that as a kid” may get pressured onto their young ones. Parents may want their kids to be in dance, play an instrument, be involved with outdoorsy activities, or other wishes. But the thing that never really gets said is this: while all those things are lovely, if you child isn’t interested in them, don’t push it! Sure, have your child try piano lessons for a few months and tell her that she can get good and play easily if she practices and have her give it a good go. But if after a few months it’s a dud, let it go and move onto the next activity to try.
Nothing is worse than a parent who feels “disappointed” in their child, who didn’t like a certain activity that a parent wanted them to like. It’s nothing against you, it’s all about discovering who your child is as a person and embracing it and helping them flourish and blossom into the best person they can be! It’s good to delve into many activities: the arts, cooking, martial arts, swimming, sports, instruments, dance, camps, etc and see which ones your child likes.
Whenever you find a niche that your child fits well in, get them entirely involved in it. If your son likes dancing, wants to learn an instrument, or wants to help in the kitchen, let him do those things and encourage him! If your daughter wants to do sports, martial arts, math or space camp, or wood shop, let her! Don’t discourage your child based on gender-biased activities, either. Boys may become fathers one day and girls will become independent one day so the earlier you can eliminate these “gender lines” the better! Get your child involved in everything.
When I was younger, some of my favorite things were: rocks and minerals, horses, animal figurines/stuffed animals, sports (soccer and basketball), dance, playing outdoors, riding my bike, playing with animals, and playing in the snow. My mom bought me books on rocks and minerals, on horses, and one year gave me a Rock Tumbler as a gift. I used that thing SO much and it was so much fun to polish my own rocks! I was a happy kid because I felt like my mom knew me as a person and gave me gifts specific to my interests, which made me feel loved and understood. That’s a basic, primal need of all humans!
If your child likes a same sex partner for a boyfriend/girlfriend, likes to do a-typical things based on their gender, wants to go to “smart camps” or “jock camps”, etc, please let them be themselves! Nothing can change a person’s interests- they only get suppressed and then the person becomes depressed, unhappy, and misunderstood. Learn to love your child for who they ARE versus who you’d like them to BE. Learn to sit back and let your child’s personality shine and observe them to see what they enjoy doing. Expand on those interests with them. Teach them new skills that will help them develop themselves as individuals and that will benefit them long-term in life. Cooking isn’t a skill that only women need- guys need to feed themselves, too! Nurturing is a skill boys need to learn as well as girls because if they have pets, get married one day, or have kids, these life skills will serve them well- and in friendships too!
Don’t limit yourself or your child to certain interests. Try everything thoroughly and see if there are any new activities you like- you may be surprised!