It has never been easy to be a parent. Even though there are thousands of books about it, there is no real great formula that works well each and every time. We all try to be the best parents as we can be. Things we know and believe change over time too. Thanks to advancements in psychology and the new fields like neuroscience, we understand more of human behavior.
One of my observations around me is the fact that parents want their children to enjoy and like things they love as adults. We may all have that desire. If we love books, we want them to be avid readers. If we love art, we may want them to spend time doing artistic stuff. If we are into sports, we may dream of them being great athletes. This list can go on and on. From what I have learned from my experience being a child, raising a child, and all I have read and learned in psychology, the best thing we can do is to expose them to as variety of activities as possible. Some of us have more limited circumstances than others. It is OK. Whatever we can expose them at a young age is great. Also we can observe their natural inclinations. Do they show interest in music, math, art, technology, helping others? We all have likes and interests that we bring to this world.
As a child, I have been very lucky to be exposed to art, culture, traveling, reading, writing by my parents. Sports was not part of their life so I did not experience that so much until I went to school and loved my gymnastics classes. I always loved ballet. I had it as part of my life for years until my parents thought it would keep me from doing my best academically at middle and high school. So I had to stop my ballet classes and recitals. Instead my dad wanted me to play the piano. I got lessons from one of the best pianists at the time. She was very demanding and it was no fun for me. I never liked playing the piano, so I quit after 2 years trying to make my dad happy. I still cry when I watch ballet though. I feel so bad that I could not do it for many more years. That was what I loved. Not the piano. (When we go to classical music concerts, my dad still looks at the orchestra and tells me he would have loved my brother and I to be up there. He never gave up on his dream!)
I am grateful to being exposed to art. I met people in my adult life who told me how lucky I was to be exposed to so many things. They wished their parents showed them an appreciation of art, reading, culture, etc. So I do not blame them and I appreciate all the things I love because of them. But forcing your child to be someone else or want them to do something they are not interested does not work. If you want to be a “tiger mom” and be a totally authoritarian parent, yes that might be a choice you have. You may need to think of the consequences though. I never wanted to take the responsibility of making my child do something he did not like. I would have hated for him to come back to me years later saying he did all of it only to make me happy. He had to find what he loved and he did.
So we can help our children have experiences with the things they are interested in. Taking them to swimming classes, ballet, music, sports, art, math, coding whatever that might be. Use summer camps to get exposed to variety of things they can try out.
The worst we can do to disappoint them and ourselves is to impose what we love on them. Unfortunately, I witness this too much around me. Even among very educated parents. Forcing their children to love what they love. Making the children feel like there is something wrong with them if they don’t have the same level of interest as their parents do. Also this creates many disappointed parents because their children did not like what they cared about.
We have to remind ourselves, our children are not us. They come to this world to find themselves, their purpose of being here and living their life. They are not here to make our dreams come true. Best thing we can do is to let them find their own passion and purpose in life. Let them be themselves and be proud of who they are. Yes, you can force them to do something for a while when they are young but as soon as they find their voice and stop doing things only to get your approval, they will quit. And do not forget people are happier and become more successful if they work on their wants, desires, passion instead of things that are imposed upon them.