As parents, we constantly want to provide the best for our children. We want to make sure they are healthy, physically and mentally, and encourage them in creating meaningful relationships. One of the ways we accomplish this by putting our kids into a hobby or extracurricular activity. You know, the ones that occupy our time for about oh, 2 hours per class, about 2-4 classes a week… you do the math – it’s super time consuming. It can be daunting, but really it’s all for the hope that our little ones will develop a life-long skill, boost their confidence, develop a love for something that inspires them and spark an interest and curiosity.
I’m one of those parents.
My oldest has been in gymnastics and my youngest in dance. For my oldest, we’ve tried everything to get her to like something; piano, soccer, ballet, tap, swim, but none of these were a hit with her until a friend recommended rhythmic gymnastics. Think of it as the kind of gymnastics with the long-legged, lean girls who do flips in the air, adorning hula hoops and lovely ribbons. A beautiful sport indeed, but requiring time and patience on both the parent and the child. We’ve been doing this for about half a year and I swear, the first few minutes of each class is like pulling teeth, “mommy, I don’t want to,” “mommy, I gotta pee,” “mommy, I’m tired,” “mommy, I don’t feel like it.” Each time, after coaxing and sometimes bribing, she finally attends the class, successfully I might add, with smiles and shiny stickers to show for it.
The bribes aren’t working anymore.
Lately, however, these bribes have not been working and she has been screaming bloody murder before gymnastics, so much so that at one point we just sat it out looking at the other girls stretching and learning the routines.
From then on, every time I even mentioned the “G” word (gymnastics), my daughter would say “no means no” and “I’m not going.” I finally decided to have a serious talk with her about it. First, I acknowledged her worries of not wanting to go to the class. Next, I said that I see her having such a great time doing it and lastly, I said that both mommy and daddy know what is best for you and therefore you will continue the class and we will be watching you through it. I even added a sticker chart for good measure.
And voila, like magic, IT WORKED!
Yes, there was crying. Yes, there was “I don’t want to go”, but you know… she did it and loved it. The show must go on!
Here are my tips for helping your kids find a hobby:
- Have your child pick the hobby – yes, I know you know what’s best for him/her, but kids usually pick things that are FUN for them. Fun means play and enjoyment, not work, practice, routines etc. Go with their decision so they feel empowered and that their choice matters – this, by the way, harbors confidence and sense of identity.
- Persistence is key. Go to every class – whenever possible. Even when you are tired or they are tired, etc. Ignore every excuse in the book, just go. You will not regret it.
- Don’t give up – your child will not be the world’s next famous singer/pianist immediately, or maybe ever, but they might! It takes time – did I mention patience? Check yourself first as a parent – If you think learning new things as an adult is a challenge, know that it’s just as challenging for your child.
- If the child really doesn’t seem to enjoy the class, if they are crying or complaining each time, not happy, not wanting to participate then take a break and revisit it later. If your kiddo is still not into the class, it’s time to discuss it; maybe he/she is too young for this hobby or maybe we need to try something else?
- Please, no bribing. Bribing may work the first few times, but, the more you do it, the bigger and more expensive it gets. You have then reached the point where it no longer works. Besides, what are we teaching our kids with bribes? Are we teaching them that if they study well for an exam, mommy will buy them a LOL toy? Not a good idea. Our happiness and sense of accomplishment comes from how we perform in the hobby/sport, not a toy we get.
- Team sports are wonderful to boost confidence, improve social skills, learn how to speak up and helps our kids be prepared for the real world. However, team sports are NOT for everyone. If you are wanting to instill confidence and a sense of responsibility without the team experience, try dance, gymnastics or maybe even ice-skating!
- Check in with your kiddo, talk to him/her, ask questions, what does he/she like and dislike about the hobby/sport, does he/she want to try something different, does he/she feel overwhelmed? (Keep in mind, she won’t come and tell you “I’m overwhelmed,” it’s up to you to see it in their behavior.) Are they too tired? grumpy? moody? After all, kids need to be kids. If we overwhelm our 4 year-old with so many extracurricular activities, he/she will end up being burnt out and that’s counterproductive – stick to one or two things – and please have some down-time.
- Last, but not least – don’t compare your child to others. DON’T COMPARE, YOU WILL DESPAIR. It’s a disease we also have as adults, better known as “comparitis.” It is a self-inflicted illness. Do yourself a favor and focus on yourself, your child’s strengths and not others.
Let’s here your story!
What are some of your extracurricular tips for other parents? What hobbies has your child tried? Any rewarding stories? I’m all ears!