Parents, Make Your Kids Do Things They Don’t Want To.
As I walk around the rock-climbing gym I see the usual crowd. People on dates trying to scale a wall for the first time. The typical dirtbag climbers who live half of their lives on the rock, the other half in vans.
Then there are the kids. Not just the little monsters who are running around swinging on ropes with seemingly little supervision; thank goodness there’s not too much of that here. Rather, the kids that hold full conversations about climbing, the ones that make you think “Wow, they’re just smaller sized adults.”
These kids take climbing seriously because they’re good. They’re good because their loving parents probably suggested some sort of extracurricular activity, saw that the kid enjoyed it, and made them stick with it.
I’m incredibly jealous of these kids.
They swing around ever so lightly, with no fear, and make the hardest routes look embarrassingly easy.
They play multiple sports with ease and grace. They play guitar AND piano. They pick up on new things quickly and are better at them then I’ll ever be. They are probably fluent in several languages as well.
Years of rock climbing 3–4 times a week, and these kids make me look like it’s my first day.
I was never one of these kids.
There were a few extracurricular activities I begged my parents to put me in, like synchronized diving, but they just wouldn’t. Why, I have no idea. Considering they spent more than most people spend on college for me to go to Christian private schools, they could’ve afforded the fee for me to join a measly swim team.
Once you get told “NO” so many times, you stop asking.
Not every kid loves the sports and activities they’re shoved into, I get that. There is a difference between a kid preferring to play video games than practice, and the child actually hating the activity though.
By no means am I encouraging people to sign up their kids for 13 different after-school activities and not let them enjoy the simplicity of childhood. Damn, give the girl some time to build a blanket fort. However, there is also a line between encouraging your kid to find a hobby and being a psycho that shoves your kid into ballet, flute, swim team, soccer, singing lessons, archery, and figure skating.
Take my friend Kristin for example. We’ve been friends since we were five years old, and growing up her parents would make her practice piano for an hour a day, five days a week. She hated it, but she hated pretty much everything.
Well, guess what? She is damn good at the piano now. Not just win the talent show good, but absolutely freakin’-phenomenal.
Not only does she play the piano like she invented it, but that musical talent carried over. There is nothing she can’t master. I have literally seen her pick up a random instrument like the piccolo — that she knew nothing about — and teach it to herself in under an hour.
I could go buy a keyboard at 30 years old, and somehow find the time to teach myself piano. In fact, I tried. I realized it just wasn’t on my list of priorities that get my free time. Would it have been if I had been playing my whole life? Maybe, maybe not.
Children don’t just seem to pick up things faster, they do. Abdul Malik Muftau, a teacher at Columbia University explains it’s because of the child’s prefrontal cortex not being developed. This means they have a greater capacity of working memory and soak things up like a sponge.
Children’s brains are built for learning, adults brains are built for performance.
I could easily blame not being good at anything on my parents not giving me a leg up when I was young and at an age where learning is much, much easier. It’s definitely an easy way to refuse the responsibility for my own failures.
I’ll stop using them as the scapegoat though. Ultimately, if I want to excel at something I’m just going to have to put in the work.
I was blessed enough to have a childhood that was filled with warm meals and love. I'm among the luckiest in the world to even be able to complain that I wasn’t in enough stimulating after-school activities.
That’s a first world problem if I’ve ever heard one.
It is important to realize we have more privilege than most, but with that comes responsibility.
The way I see it, that means making sure to not take the resources that are available to us for granted. Similar to voting, we should do it because we CAN. We also shouldn’t leave the water running just because it won’t dry up on our end of the faucet. Not everyone has these luxuries, and not everyone is gifted the freedom of learning.
If I ever have kids, I plan on supporting them through learning something that interests them from a young age. Whether that be learning a language, or learning magic tricks, it will be easier for them because their brain will be built for it.
I’m not going to push them into so many activities that they don’t have time to live, but I am going to make them practice. When they tell me they want to quit the basketball team, I will ask why, instead of just saying okay.
Not only will this give them a head start into finding the passion that they will end up following into their adult lives, but it will also teach them the value of hard work and dedication.