My youngest's long-delayed (for snow) school music program was last night. The program's theme was "I Wanna Be." The kids were all dressed in costumes of what they wanted to be when they grew up. As I looked at the stage filled with aspiring artists, zookeepers, veterinarians, athletes, rock stars, astronauts, software engineers, businessmen and teachers, I thought, "Look at the potential on that stage."
Most of those kids won't grow up to be the things that they are dreaming about right now, but at 7 and 8 years old, they are filled with the potential to be and do just about anything. They will spend the next 10 to 15 years figuring out where their particular talents lie and how to use them. It's our job to guide them on that path.
What a daunting task. It would be so easy to mold our kids to be just like us -- and in some ways it's inevitable that our kids will imitate us. But, it's important for us to support our kids when they want to explore things that aren't within our sphere of influence. If your child wants to learn to build robots or join a dance troupe or join the chess club, encourage those interests. Some of them will stick, and some will fall by the wayside, but all will teach your child something either about herself or about dealing with others.
1 Corinthians 12:12 says "Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ." All Christ-followers form the body of Christ. Each one of us has special gifts and talents to use for God. Discovering those gifts and talents is easy for some and takes a long time for others. As a parent, we need to guide our children as they are discovering those gifts.
- Evaluate your kids' interests. If they want to do something that's outside what society considers the norm, don't dismiss it out of hand. Look into the situation and see if there's some way you can satisfy your child's interests within the constraints of the programs offered. Sometimes we have to think outside the box to keep up with our child's interests.
- Don't let your child's interests bankrupt you or drive you crazy trying to get them places. Encourage exploration of talents, but keep in mind that your sanity is important as well. If something is too expensive or too far away, look for other options.
- Remember that trying something is not a lifelong committment. Give your kids an opportunity to explore, but don't commit them to anything for more than a season. Kids have a short attention span. After a season is over, they may want to try something else.
- Be supportive of whatever you and your child decide to try. My parents used to come watch me manage the girls' softball team in high school. I can't imagine how boring that must have been. I mean, I kept score and told the girls the batting lineup, but it made a difference knowing that my parents were interested in what I was doing. Make the effort to be a part of their activities, even if it means watching your child write on a clipboard.
- Talk with your child about their activities. Find out if there's something else that they would like to do than what they are currently doing. I'm not advocating constantly changing activities, but it takes some kids a while to find the place where their gifts and talents are being used.
When you look at your kids today, look at them with an eye for potential. Your kids are bursting with it, and they need your help to discover how to use it for God. Be willing to walk along the journey of finding that potential. I promise you won't regret it.