My children did quite some extra curriculum activities when they were in primary and junior high school. Since they finished school days at 3 pm, they had time to explore other activities, and we encouraged them to do so, too. My daughter did Ballet dancing, swimming and Jiu Jitsu, and my son did Ju Jitsu, swimming, soccer and cricket.
While kids are experiencing these activities and exploring their interests and physical ability, we are often excited on the sideline as parents. On game days, many parents become anxious and sometimes too excited.
I remember discussing with my wife what activities our children should do. We all agreed that we should consult with our kids on this. During the discussion, we only had one principle: “you cannot say you don’t like it until you’ve tried it“. This principle encouraged our kids to explore; they cannot reject something simply by their ‘perception’ or impression.
Have you ever rejected something without trying it first because you didn’t ‘think’ you’d like it?
Exploration is an essential element in our life-long learning journey. Without exploration, one will never know how he/she enjoys something and whether he/she will perform well. Although exploration is encouraged for children’s growth, parents sometimes kill that fun of exploration without noticing that. Why?
When my son was 8, we attended a local ‘competition’ with our Jiu-Jitsu academy. We expected the competition (for primary school kids) to be fun and exciting. However, we were shocked by the intensity of the atmosphere we experienced. It was so intense that some teenagers even cried after competitions. After that, we never returned to those competitions. It’s not because my son feared it; he was fine, but we didn’t like that situation because the competition killed the fun.
Have you ever watched kids’ weekend games on a neighbourhood sports field? I went to my son’s soccer games every weekend during the soccer season. I must admit that most parents expect too much from their children (including me). We want them to perform well and win. While it’s not wrong for that expectation, we forget that they are just kids playing a soccer game for fun. Yes, for fun!
Once, I heard a year-11 boy shouting back at his Mum: “Shut up, Mum. Just let me play!“. Yes, we should all shut up and let them play because it was meant to be fun.
The pressure to perform can kill children’s interest during the exploration stage of learning. This doesn’t matter whether children are learning to play a musical instrument, video games, sports, or even just maths! Young children (even teenagers and adults) see learning as fun. Still, some activities become not ‘fun’ at some stage. Why? Well, it’s usually because parents start asking for results and performance from learning.
Did your child stop playing the piano because they didn’t like practising? Have you ever sat down and asked why? I did ask my son why he didn’t want to continue his swimming class. After two years, he finally concluded that he didn’t enjoy swimming, although he could swim. So, we let him choose to stop swimming and start playing cricket. After doing Ballet for nearly 10 years, my daughter finally said she was sick of it and would switch to contemporary dancing. We supported her fully. After all, they are the persons who are ‘in it’. We are just supporters, cheerleaders and financiers. ^_^
If we let our children (even young adults) explore their abilities and world, they will have a chance and room to grow. Let them enjoy the moment and have fun. Those elite athletes and musicians are all common in one thing: they enjoy doing what they do because it’s fun for them! The great Australian Olympic swimmer Ian Thrope (Thorpedo) retired from swimming at 24. One reporter asked him why he wanted to retire at this young age. He said: “I started competitive swimming at 14. After doing this for 10 years, I’m now sick of it.” Yes, that’s time to stop for you, Ian.
Dr C. Richard Wu @ REEAConsulting.com
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