Thursday, August 26, 2010

Refocusing On Your Child's Gifts

Several years ago, after a disappointing baseball season, my son David, then ten, was thinking of giving up the sport he loved. We took a family trip to the Louisville Slugger Museum in Louisville, Kentucky, and spent an afternoon touring the bat factory and adjoining museum filled with memorabilia from Major League Baseball. Freshly inspired, David spent the off season that year training for the coming spring. He created a personal workout program and designed his own weight-training routine. After seeing what he could do and be, David recognized the losing season as a learning experience and resolved to practice more. His hard work paid off the following spring when he helped his team have a winning season and earn the championship.

So, how does a parent know when to allow a child to quit or back off, and when to step in and help a child to simply refocus his efforts? After all, for many children, music and dance lessons, along with participation in sports, have not been merely perceived as activities but as investments.

Joyce Pelletier, a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor (LCPC) from Portland, Maine, encourages parents to take a good look at their parenting goals and the goals of their child by asking themselves these questions:

  • How is this activity going to impact my child’s career in the future?

  • Does he really have the makings of a professional musician/athlete/performer?

  • Do his teachers or coaches believe there is a gift?

  • Why does he want to drop out?

  • Does he love the activity but hate the instructor?

  • Does he feel bullied by the team?

  • “If you are certain there’s an important reason to continue, then make the necessary changes which will inspire the child to hang in there, by changing teams or instructors,” Joyce says. “Have a good talk about the long-range benefits, and use rewards and consequences to maintain practice routines.” This is a season to challenge your child. Give him a glimpse of the future, and a chance to refocus, by showing him professionals hard at work on their craft, whether it is sports, dance, music, or art.

    (This post adapted from my book, Season of Change: Parenting Your Middle Schooler with Passion and Purpose. If you're parenting a child 8-14, you'll want to take a look at it!)

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