If I’m really honest, I have a hard time accepting some aspects of my children. My oldest, Minster 1, is similar yet different from me. We both are sensitive and stubborn in what we want to do. But he likes technology, video games, all the things that I kind of despise. I guess I should be glad that he already knows what he wants to do in life at age 12: be a product designer in Silicon Valley. Minster 2 and Minster 3 have charming and happy-go-lucky dispositions. Everyone wants to be their friends at school. Minster 1 doesn’t have that, as his personality is more like mine. Although he has many friends, he is picky and won’t share himself unless he is sure that they will reciprocate. Also, Minster 1 hates it if we go anywhere cultural or educational like historical museums or art galleries–all the things I love. He also hates going to the park and the beach. He would rather stay home and play video games. Sometimes I get very frustrated as he complains the whole time we are at the beach and sits on the sand and won’t do anything.
How does a mom encourage her child in his chosen niche yet also broaden him to other pursuits? In short, how do we parents get our kids to do something other than video games and social media? This is particularly important for our kids to have a chance at getting into college, as “activities” are very critical vehicles to show our kids’ excellence, character and leadership. How do we craft a good “hook”, as they say in the college admissions lingo? Sometimes a “hook” is nowhere to be found. But we have to start somewhere:
a) Identify the hook that is natural to your child
It sounds a little cynical but it is very strategic to foster your child’s natural interests into something that will be his or her unique “hook” that will stand out among the crowd of applicants. For Minster 1, video game playing is not going to be the right activity to get him into a competitive college. So I have to develop something else that he is interested in. He loves technology and likes video editing. I have to find a camp for him on video editing this summer, help him find a professional video editor to shadow, and maybe get an internship eventually. Is this really all necessary? You bet.
But what I realized is foundational is:
Accept your child for who they are.
This is a lesson that I learned recently–to love all their strengths and weaknesses, all that they like and dislike. Yes, I can tiger mom the boys and force them to do violin or something that they don’t want to do, but without their own internal motivation, it may lead to conflict and damaged relationships. We need to work with their God-given talents and proclivities.
But ultimately, what our children crave is to be loved and accepted for who they are right now. And to be able to securely rest in that love. Without that foundation, no matter what college they get into, they will not be happy. So I am embracing and supporting all their interests and strategically picking a few for an extra push. Hopefully their genuine interests will shine like real pearls in the midst of engineered and polished resumes during the college applications process.