In my post reviewing It’s a Big World, Little Pig I asked for suggestions about how to balance teaching your children to practice and work hard at a new task with allowing them to try new things.
I find this a tough question in parenting. Some families thrive on having each kid in several different activities, but I don’t think that will ever be us, and so the question of how much exploration to support looms larger.
Since music is important to us as a family, we currently have Hannah in piano lessons. Jack has been clamoring to learn the cello (and sometimes also the violin) for nearly a year now, but the only cello teacher we found for young kids teaches about 45 minutes away from our house, so we decided to wait on that. We’ve taken a stab at soccer, the girls have taken ballet, and now I’m pondering swimming lessons. But how hard should I make the kids work at their sport, music, or other lesson? How long should they take it before they decide it’s not for them?
On one hand, I think Amy Chua (the Tiger Mom) is correct that you can’t really enjoy something until you’re good at it, and I’ve wrestled with my own Tiger Mom tendencies. But on the other hand, chances are my kid is not going to be the next Mia Hamm or the next Peyton Manning or the next Yo-Yo Ma. Of course if you sense that your child is a prodigy you should foster that, but for most of us that won’t be the case. What then?
I suppose my conclusion, at least at this point, is that I should be clear about my goals and expectations when we sign the child up for whatever sport or lesson we’re choosing. We learn music because it’s a valuable discipline and it’s a lifelong source of enjoyment. We learn sports to foster good habits of fitness and teamwork. We try ballet to develop grace and poise. Making these goals clear to myself helps me know when to muzzle my inner tiger and when to encourage the child to practice rather than giving up. Making the goals clear to the child at least theoretically might help perfectionist tendencies, fear of failure, or cast a vision for why they are working hard.
I say theoretically because the oldest kid in question just turned six and therefore we have no results to show for ourselves. This is just what I’m thinking at the moment and, as always, it’s liable to change!
Those are my conclusions at the moment, but I’m interested to hear about yours. Do you handle practicing and exploring activities differently at your house?