Encouraging Your Child's Interests When They Don't Align with Your Own
Updated: Dec 9, 2018
Every parent is guilty of hoping that their child will fall into the same hobbies and interests as themselves. Whether it is being technologically savvy or wanting your child to follow the same career paths as their parents. It is natural to want your offspring to be compelled by the same things you are, and every parent wants to share their wealth of knowledge, even if that knowledge is in sports stats. However, every generation is developing in a new world with fresh ideas. What was everything to our parents was lost with the advancement of television, the internet, and all those colorful toys of the 80's and 90's. Today things move even faster, and parents are struggling to keep up with the latest fads and trends. Yet, to harbor a healthy development it may be essential to promote your child's interests even when they do not align with your own.
I am guilty of investing in a slew of action figures when my son was born believing that the rise in comic book movies would translate into him developing the same fascination with superheroes as I did… do. Now, seven-years-old, at the peak of developing lifelong interests, my son couldn't care less about all the toys I purchased and would have cherished in my own childhood. Those comic book films I thought would capture him in my favorite fandoms are nothing more than temporary distractions from things like video games, soccer, and YouTube.
Technology has developed at an unprecedented pace through the last few generations. While our parents pawned over a new radio or a remote-control airplane, today's parents grew up on cartoons, dial-up internet, and a new entertainment system called Nintendo. We have watched all of these things develop into the technology we could never have imagined, and our children are in the thick of it, soaking up as much as they can. For the most part, it is simple to harbor these current interests; they can even make parenting a little bit easier. The new struggle is getting them off of their tablets and consoles, but it may be equally important to encourage using their technology to learn and advance themselves.
I for one, am on the side of allowing my children to take in as much technology as they can- to a reasonable degree. I think that there is a need to develop skills on the computer or in video games that will translate into opportunities in the future. It reminds me of my father who forced me to take computers classes as an elective in high school. When I wanted to do fun classes like art or drama, my father foresaw the importance of computers in the coming times. So, while a teenage me rebelled against being forced into what was supposed to be my elective, I have to admit that he was right- I mean, I am writing this very article using many of the skills I developed in those classes.
My father was able to help me prepare for a future that carried no relevance to him by predicting technological trends. By doing that, he taught me an even more valuable lesson about being a parent and a guiding force for a new generation. Fact: computers are not going anywhere, they are here to stay and will continue to develop into a fantastic future. If I discouraged my children from learning how to use a computer, I would be sending them into the world without the necessary skills to thrive. But, at the same time, there is a healthy balance required so as not to reach the point of the proverbial brain-melting.
I mentioned my sons three main hobbies: video games, soccer, and YouTube. Three things that I typically would not care about. However, for each topic, I believe I have found a way to promote skill growth for healthy development. Video games are easy; most anyone can find a game to play with their child. Personally, I am an old-school Mario fan. Taking him back to visit what is considered retro games helps him to see how video games have evolved. I often direct him into learning about the process of designing games, and he has taken that onto himself- most recently opting to take a coding program in place of other recreational activities. Additionally, to avoid the dreaded brain rot, I think it invaluable to change up the games he is playing so as not to get stagnant and continue to test his levels and abilities.
Soccer is also an easy hobby to encourage. Although I myself am a hockey fanatic- and, I still hold out hope that it will become his preferred sport in time- any sport is important for development. So, because of my lack of knowledge and interest, I gained an opportunity to learn about soccer with him. During practices and games, I am the dad standing behind the coach listening intently. I will spend afternoons going over the lessons that he learned and remind him to focus on the pointers his coach has offered him. And, while I would much rather go to a hockey game, taking my son to see professional soccer games gives him the same experience but garnered towards something he loves.
And then there's YouTube. I know from talking with other parents and teachers that YouTube is probably the biggest thing in the world of youth today. They will spend entire days watching videos if they could, much like I could spend a Saturday watching Ninja Turtles as a kid. But, there is something exciting about YouTube that makes it unique. Anyone can post their own videos. There are even children younger than my own who make a full-time income with their own monetized channels. Therefore, I will often remind my son that he can very easily create his own videos. And there is a lot to learn from videography, editing, writing, and a bunch of other skills that would develop. The idea is still fresh for him and maybe a little intimidating, but we still spend some afternoons discussing ideas, watching tutorials and one day he may gain the courage to post something- though admittedly his sister has the better makings of a star.
Which brings me to my daughter, and an entirely different playing field. There are many hurdles to get through when it comes to the interests of a child of the opposite sex, and most dads will know precisely what I mean. Thankfully, I have not been dragged into too many tea parties or Barbie dress-ups, but still, there are many differences. Actually, though my daughter and I can be similar in many character traits, in other ways, she could not be more my opposite. For one, I am by all definitions of the word an introvert, she on the other hand is so extroverted it hurts. Like when we are at the park and she ropes me into conversations with people and then scampers away to talk to the next person, leaving me in situations that maximizes un-comfortability. Sometimes I think she does it on purpose.
My daughter has her interests in technology like my son, but not to the same level. Her shortened attention span does not condone long periods of YouTube or video games- and by long periods I mean more than a few minutes. She is much more of a livewire, a firework, the makings of a star. Much to her mother and my own dismay, she loves to sing, dance, and generally be on stage 24-hours a day. Every. Day. Though this does get old when she should be sleeping at eleven o'clock at night, of course, we want to encourage her interests.
Microphones, dance classes, dresses, and karaoke machines have helped my daughter to develop a love for being the brightest star in the room. She will happily perform for anyone who will listen, and guests at our home are usually treated to a song or twelve. It often boggles my mind how she can soak up being the center of attention, but even at significant events in the city, my daughter has been known to find a working microphone or stage and make audiences pawn at her cuteness. And even though it makes me profoundly uncomfortable, and it is the last thing I want to do, I will join her upon request, and I will always be happy to be her first dance at the party.
Before I wrap this up, I want to mention that it is essential that your children have different interests and hobbies from your own. As I often remind my partner, when two people are too similar it can get dull and uninteresting. Relationships thrive when we learn new things from one another, or when we make compromises and try different things. There is a lot of world out there to explore, and it is important to leave our comfort zones once and awhile.
Now and then interests will collide, and we can share in a valuable experience together. The best example I have of this is when I recently brought the kids with me to the local comic book expo. Usually, my children would moan at the idea of watching their father flip through box after box of comic books. So, I had to make it attractive. When I explained to my daughter that she could wear any costume she liked to the expo and that other people will be dressed up like it is Halloween all over again, she could not get her Harley Quinn dress on fast enough. And, allowing my son to bring his camera to take pictures and videos of all the cool things he would find got him to the show, but quickly the technology went away as he discovered his own interests peaked. He was much more happy meeting Pokémon and sampling the latest video games than hiding behind a screen.
From the moment a baby is born parents are always trying to predict the type of person their child will be. It is important to remember that your child is their own person already, they have likes and dislikes, and they will develop their own hobbies that will differ from your own. The most important thing is that they gain confidence in who they are. We should continuously be encouraging our children to voice their own opinions and never shoot something down because it carries no weight in your own life. Whether you are dragging a karaoke machine out of the basement so your daughter can put on the performance of her life, or letting you son explore worlds outside of reality, it is essential that they know that you love them for the individual they are.