It’s tough being a parent and it’s getting more difficult every single year.
The biggest challenge right now is trying to identify the numerous interests that both of our girls have and being able to match those with activities that will engage and challenge them without imposing the dreaded your-parents-love-this-and-you-should-do-it-too syndrome.
Like all parents we want to give our children everything that we can to provide a solid foundation of learning that consistency feeds their curiosity that may eventually become part of their long-term vocation. At times it seems impossible to know which interests are worth pursuing and which ones are worth investing in (financially) for camps, after-school programs, and such.
The pressure, on a bad day, feels like we’re trying to help create life-plans for them and if we fail then our childs’ life is ruined!
If you’re a parent you know where I’m coming from.
Although I don’t have any answers or suggestions for other parents in terms of solving this tension I’ll share one thing we’re doing with our oldest now that’s neat and very different than what my own parents did with me. This isn’t to say my parents did anything wrong; on the contrary, they did many things right! But it is different.
I believe that there are many things that are just given to us, natural skills and talents that are obvious to all, that help that individual achieve great success in their particular field. We see this in every field of sports, academics, and business.
But I also believe that there are things that can be taught and acquired over time and through significant investment of time and resources success can also be achieved as well. To many this is the 10,000 HR rule proposed by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers. Studies suggest that the key to success in any field has nothing to do with talent. It’s simply practice, 10,000 hours of it — 20 hours a week for 10 years.
Whether Malcom is right or I’m wrong or vice versa (or whether we’re both wrong at the same time) doesn’t really matter – there’s probably a bit of both models happening at the exact same time.
But the important thing to remember is that the latter scenario is within our relative control – that is, I can’t gift my children talents and natural abilities outside of what God has already ordained through the combination of my DNA with my wife’s DNA, but I can guide and cultivate a work ethic that will transcend any particular field or practice.
So that’s what my wife and I committed to, after a very long discussion over the last few months, to start doing with our children. We’re going to teach them how to invest their most precious resource (their time) into their activities with intentionality and wisdom. This isn’t something that they could just “catch” – again, we have to teach them this.
Generally, we call this discipline; we call this training.
For example, I’m now spending time with my oldest every single day outside with a soccer ball, training her beyond what she’s received from her coaches and through just simple play. I spent more of my life participating in soccer than almost any other activity, the first being writing and computer programming. At one point I was playing internationally and training for the Olympics.
At Gladwell’s rate, if we train 20 hours a week for 10 years she’ll be a “success” – we all know that’s just not how life works and there’s so much more involved, but the point of our engagement with our oldest is to help her understand that consistent investment in a particular activity creates discipline which she’ll be able to apply to any other interest in the future. Again, at age 6 she can’t come up with this and it’s our responsibility as her parents to teach her this model and concept.
And besides, it’s good exercise for me since I’m out of shape like whoa.