Forcing versus Fostering: Engaging Our Kids

Part of the discussions that David and I have been having lately about the coming Geek Baby is what things to introduce them to and how? Part of what we found from our own experience and our friends is that there seems to be two ways that these things tend to happen. One is that the parent forces the child to participate in an activity with the thought that it will better them as a person. The other is that the parent will encourage and foster them to explore options and then continue to encourage them when they seem to be engaged in a particular activity.

Both seem to have pros and cons, but the question is partly which direction would David and I want to take with our own child?

Forced Merriment

There is some thought that by forcing your kids when they are younger they will appreciate the skill later on, even if it is a chore at the beginning. I know many a kid when I was growing up who was forced to take piano lessons, play a sport, or other such activities. For some of them it did grow into a love of that activity and the ability to really utilize that skill later on. For others if they never had to do said activity another day, all the better.

Some of my issue with this method is I wonder how much we see something in the child to push them in a certain direction, or are we putting our own ideas on what is good for them (which is part of being a parent)? From my own experience I wonder if I would have been grateful for being pushed to learn piano because of how much I love music. Now it is never too late to learn, but it is something I sometimes question.

Encouraged Support

The other school of thought is more of a nebulous area. I look at this as trying to pinpoint where the child seems to have passion and try to support that passion. Part of trying to pinpoint where the child might have passion is introducing them to a variety of activities and thoughts.

One way of doing this is signing them up for camps and activities that takes them through a variety of areas. David has often talked about how is parents gave him lessons in a lot of different sports. He never took to any of them, but he got introduced to all the variety of sports.

A lot of stuff I got exposed to was because my parents took us places or had us help with things such as baking. I love cooking and baking, but some of that is what my mom did with us. I sometimes wonder: if I had been pushed in a direction if I would have found some skill or activity that I have an affinity for?

Reading

David and I are still considering all the things that we might want to introduce our child to and how we want to do it. Although I am pretty sure we are more the encouraged-support versus the forced-merriment, there is one thing that we definitely agree on: reading.

Cover to Amulet Book One

As David said yesterday – we’d like to read things like Amulet with the Geek Baby!

Both of us come from families of avid readers and are each avid readers ourselves. The one thing that we both know we want to encourage is reading. I truly believe in reading to a kid every night and helping them to discover the wonders of reading, but at the same time there is no guarantee that the efforts we put in will produce anything.

I guess it does not matter if they read all the time, but I would hope they would want to read. I am someone who loves movies and TV shows, but I think it would be worse if, for some reason, I could not read anymore. Books and reading can open so many doors, and being able to fall into the world of a book just brings out our imaginations. That is something I know I want for my child – let alone the statistics of what it means for someone to continue reading throughout their life. Books introduce us to moments and ideas that we might never see otherwise.

What do you think? Parenting can be a hot topic, but discussion is always welcome. What activities would you want to lead your child to, or what have you already done? Let us know in the comments below!

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9 responses to “Forcing versus Fostering: Engaging Our Kids

  1. There’s this great book called The Talent Code that talks about how talent is developed. One of the examples that stays with me is a study of talented classical musicians that was done to see if they had any common factors in their musical development. The only thing they had in common: Their first music teacher was nice. That’s it. That teacher wasn’t necessarily the most skilled, or one that specialized in developing prodigies. But the encouragement led to their eventual path as professional musicians.

    I think kids should be introduced to a variety of experiences, and they will find the ones they have a passion for. That being said, the teacher makes a huge difference in whether they discover that passion or give it up.

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    • That is so true because a subject can become really terrible if you do not have the right teacher. It can be hard to have any say in that sometimes, which is sad because if they have a desire to explore this and then get scared off it can be a little frustrating.

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  2. I remember how my parents did it…it was a combination of structure and choice. For example I was send to a special course which taught children the basics of music for two years. All very playful and fun. And during this course we were introduced to different instruments. When it ended most of the children involved wanted to take up some sort of instrument. Me too. And I was allowed to, under one condition: I had to stick to it. I am sure if I had disliked my teacher (which I didn’t), they would have send me to another one, but quitting was not allowed, at least not during the first years.

    Same rules for the sport I eventually wanted to do. I was allowed to, but I had to stick to it. The only sport which was kind of forced on me, at least for the first years, was swimming, because my parents wanted me to learn, though it was my decision to stick to it long as long as I did.

    My parents were also very sneaky in making everything special. For example they took me to a children’s theatre early on and it was always sold as a reward for good behaviour. And then, I think I was seven or so, to a regular theatre, though they paid attention to pick the kid-friendly performances. But hey, I was so proud to be allowed to go to something like this, I was always on my best behaviour.

    And naturally my parents read to me and I had a bunch of radio tapes to listen to, which was, unlike the TV, was not limited. I wonder how they would have dealt with the computer, though. When we got one I was nearly in my teens and considered responsible enough that I got free reign of TV and computer.

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    • I agree with a lot of your points. I think one of the big things is that if you pick something you have to stick with it through the commitment period, whether that is a year or for sports at least one season. I remember there being a natural breaking point with most activities, but you do have to stick it out for that time period.

      I like the idea of making the trips and other stuff special versus something that is just a given.

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      • Oh, my mother was really tricky in this regard. For example, we have the tradition of advent calendar here in Germany. Ours was always self-made. Not only kept this the number of sweets down, there were usually one or two trinkets, and the rest were mostly vouchers. For example for watching the new Disney movies in theatres, going to the Christmas market…basically a lot of stuff our parents would have made with us either way, but with the voucher, it became something special. (There was always one for “mother cleans up the room” because my mother hated chaos over Christmas but was also not in the mood for a fight with us…we naturally used the voucher always for Christmas and she could clean up behind us without loosing face).

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  3. I think the biggest benefit you can give in education is to keep it as diverse as possible while they are young. I showed an affinity for art when I was little, so I was pigeon-holed into artistic pursuits (art, acting). While I loved those things, the “evils” of dichotomous thinking led me to believe that science wasn’t for “me”, before I’d even tried. Turns out I love science, and math, but I feel like I missed out on some really basic “brain training” when I was young. Same with music.

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    • That is some of the fear of trying to go too much one way. The thing that I think about is an affinity for something is not necessarily a passion. Some people have natural abilities that make certain things come easier, but that does not necessarily mean they are passionate about it. So are they missing out on something that maybe is more challenging, but they would light them up in a way. Some of the things that we love to do the most require us to work at them, but if there is a passion then we do not mind the work as much. That is why it is good at first to explore all the areas and to try and let them lead a bit at first with some structured guidance probably.

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  4. Pingback: What Does it Mean to be Smart? | Comparative Geeks

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