We love and adore our children. As parents, we soon realize that their personal success is more important to us than our own. We naturally want that will live happy and fulfilling lives, and often we think that they will achieve this by excelling in an activity they themselves are passionate about.
But are passions something we instill or are they already there?
If there are hobbies, interests, or activities that have enriched our own lives, then it's natural for us to want to pass this on to our children. Perhaps these will bring joy, meaning, or even professional success to their lives too. There are also opportunities and experiences that we never had but wish we did. We may want our children to have the chance that we never did.
But how can we do this? And should we even try?
Some parents opt to enroll their kids in classes as soon possible in order to 'grow' a passion and get ahead of the competition? Others expose their children to lots of 'preferable' activities in the hope that something will stick.
Whatever your parenting approach, here is the thing: Your child's love for an activity is at least as important as the teaching or training they receive.
To flourish at anything, children need to connect with an inner feeling that makes them want to love it, do it, and own it. This can't be forced. Just like making a fire, you can provide the kindling and gently blow, but if you blow too hard, the flame will go out.
As a professional musician, I wanted to pass on a love for music to my kids; and yet, I'd seen far too many people forced into it. They just got burnt. Either grew to dislike it or they simply never felt it was theirs. In both cases, it didn't nourish or enrich their lives.
Passion has to come from within, it's not something that can be manufactured. Yes, we can expose our kids to the right experiences and find a great teacher, but we must accept that we'll never be able to make a child love something.
At home I play music, I listen to it, I enjoy it. It's there for my children if they want to explore it. Similarly, I try to expose them to a diversity of life experiences. What's important is coming at it with a mood of wonder and joy, never with an agenda of "manufacturing passion".
These external inputs can be enriching, but learning happens both from outside in and inside out. So while we can gently provide experiential inputs, it is just as important that we listen intently to our children. What is true for them? What moves and drives them? What is inside them? If we can identify this, then both they and us can learn from it and give it space and nourishment to grow.
My daughter seems to have a natural desire and affinity for music, she sings to herself almost constantly. My son, well, at the moment he doesn't express a particular interest, and that's fine. I can't wait to learn (from him) what kindles his fire of inspiration.
I don't believe there is a formula for getting kids to love something. And so, let's not focus too hard on feeding things into our children, such that we miss the precious qualities, drives, and passions that are already there.
Go ahead, provide your children with a variety of physical, cultural, educational experiences, but just remember: their enjoyment of the activity is every bit as important as honing their skill. Nurture the joy and the wonder, and trust that everything else will fall into place.
Neve Spicer blogs together with husband, Keane, at WeTheParents.org. There she seeks to empower parents, while he gets nerdy researching and reviewing the gear that moms and dads (apparently) need. You can also catch them on Facebook and Twitter.