A few weekends ago “The New York Times” re ran a great column in their “Motherlode” feature. In Lisa Hefferman’s column “Our Push for ‘Passion’, and Why It Harms Kids,” Hefferman discusses one of today’s parenting trends, finding your child’s passion. While best intentions may drive this and it may seem innocent, this modern parenting quest has many potential negative consequences.
Are parents charged with finding their child’s passion? The best intentioned parent wants their child to find things they are good at and enjoy. From cheer and hockey, to soccer and dance, we all like seeing our kids do things they enjoy. We feel pride over their routines, goals, recitals, etc. This is all so very good and normal. Yet like many things in childhood and society today, this normal event has become supercharged. While childhood is a time of exploration, many of today’s parents are looking for a hobby, an instrument, a sport to define their child and give both their child and them purpose, status, etc. It seems this goes right with the adult sense of being overly busy, as the definition of normal, purposeful, and routine.
As adults, it seem like our “crazy busy” is lamentable, but a crutch that makes us okay in our peers eyes. If our children aren’t into 25 activities and are allowed to enjoy a slow childhood at home, they are more the exception and sadly the oddball for many. It also seems like we are often hoping to help our children through their childhood, by defining a piece of who they are early in life. There’s no doubt that a sense of self, talent, efficacy helps one thrive, but are we the ones who should define this or should it be our children? While society at large may drive this force, there’s no doubt that visions of college applications years down the road are also part of this phenomenon. We are told colleges accept students with “passion”. If they begin at four years-old, we may think we are helping them and ourselves with their collegiate future.
The columnist’s stance and mine are that this is harmful more than helpful for several reasons. When children work at their “passion” six days a week after school, what about other interests that go undiscovered? If we have decide soccer is it for them, what about their natural curiosity in bugs, guitar, designing costumes, doing art, etc. etc? Their time is spoken for because of their “passion,” leaving little room or time for what may be other interests and life’s truer passions. This drive for passion is expensive and consumes time. Children naturally have interest in many different things. If we are to get all the equipment, pay for all the lessons, send them to all the camps for their “passion,” we spend whole lot money on things that can be better spent. How about saving for college, their future, and our future with some of this money?
There is the other side of the time piece. Not only are they losing time to find out what truly interests them, they may be losing their childhood. Children today are overscheduled, overcommitted, and over involved. There are so many great things that come from unstructured play and more peaceful family time. As parents, let’s help our children explore their interests. Yes, passion may come from some of these interests. But let’s let it be defined by them, instead of us. Money, time, and childhood are at stake……