Has your child ever gone through a stage where they were obsessed with something? I remember my brother loved toy cars. He must have had a bizillion of them and race tracks covered most of our living area. He was probably about three, but I still remember my dad trying to convince him it wasn’t necessary to sleep with all of his cars. My brother insisted though, and there were nights when there was barely room in the bed for him!
I am sure there were times when my parents probably wanted to toss the entire lot of those cars in the trash. My dad encouraged him, though. He would race cars with my brother, help him shop for new models, and even found some kits for my brother and him to make their own model cars.
If you have read much about parenting and relationships, this is called entering your child’s world. The problem is, many parents have created a world they expect their child to enter and inhabit instead. They have decided (often before the child is born) what sport she will play or what instrument he will practice. I’ve even known parents who chose their child’s college and major for them, often in fields totally opposite of their child’s talents and interests.
You see, the difference with my dad and brother is that my dad was not a huge car buff. He didn’t try to “hook” my brother on tiny cars or insist he play with them on a regular basis. Toy cars were something my brother discovered a love for on his own.
And those model car kits my dad purchased? They weren’t an effort to turn my brother’s hobby into a lucrative college scholarship (Although I am sure my dad would have been thrilled!), but rather a way my father had found to do something with my brother that my brother loved to do.
We can tell children a million times that we love them. Most children want some sort of physical evidence. Hugs and kisses are obvious ways we show our love to our children. What our children really crave though, is for us to really get to know them on a deeper level. They want us to understand what is important to them. Our children want us to validate their talents and love them through their weaknesses.
The only way to truly get to know your child is to enter his world. What does she love to do more than anything else? What makes his eyes light up? What is something your child loves which you know little or nothing about? Once you discover the answers to those questions, the rest is easy and actually a lot of fun.
With your child’s help, find a way to encourage your child’s passion. The goal is to find something you can do with your child and share the experience. My daughter loves service learning and non-profit management. She has found several conferences she wanted to attend. Instead of dropping her off and leaving her to have fun on her own, I bought a ticket for me too. Not only did attending the conferences together give us a lot of things to discuss, but I learned a lot of things I might never have been exposed to otherwise. We also have some rich memories of meaningful time spent together, where I was totally focused on her and her interests.
So take some cooking lessons with your child or build a model together. Check out an exhibit or attend a conference. Just make sure it is something your child chooses to do. And when you are in your child’s world, please turn off all electronic devices! Just like cell phones can disrupt a flight in take-off, paying constant attention to your electronic devices when you are with your child can erase any good you might have done to your relationship. Remember, businesses survived off of land lines for many years and sports teams can win or lose without you watching, but you and your child’s relationship may not survive your constantly distracted attention.
What interesting things have you done to enter your child’s world? Does your child have a unique interest you can’t find a way to share? What other successes or issues do you have with entering your child’s world? Please share your thoughts in a comment below. You may find the answers you need or provide a great idea to another parent!