As a parent, it might seem logical for you to prefer your child to have a burning ambition which would drive him to garner milestones that he might not have dreamed of initially. After all, a clearer view of the future means greater motivation to do better in studies, sports, extra-curricular activities and everything in between. There’s some truth to the notion that ambition helps to build confidence and success in the long run. But truly, a child is a child and not an adult for a reason. An adult reflects on the Past, considers the Present, and plans for the Future. On the contrary, a child can only think of the Present most of the time. Reflecting on the Past and planning for the Future require some kind of guidance from the adult(s)-in-charge.
Here are some lines I hear parents say:
“My son/daughter has no ambition whatsoever . . .”
“My child flip-flops from one ambition to another . . .”
Does either of the above sounds like you? The good news is, you’re not alone. To be honest, a child who knows exactly who he or she wants to be is a rarity indeed. More often than not, your child isn’t sure who he wants to become, right before he signs up for college.
STEM, STEAM, STREAM or E.STREAM
Perhaps you have heard of either STEM, STEAM, STREAM or E.STREAM:
STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics.
STEAM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts (artistic), Mathematics.
STREAM equals Science, Technology, Religion (ethics/life values), Engineering, Mathematics.
E.STREAM is STREAM with an E for Entrepreneurship.
Your child’s interest could be one of the above or a combination of two or more of the above. Or it could be none listed. Either way, it’s good to remember that the world is changing. Perspectives evolve, so do career opportunities. For example, farming used to be regarded as an obscure and lowly job years ago. Nobody wanted to have anything to do with all that dirt and muck. Today, however, precision farming is a highly respected field, a solution to feeding our world whose inhabitants are increasing in great numbers but running low in food and resources.
Looking back, among my childhood friends, I only knew of one person who was crystal clear who she wanted to be after secondary school.
“I just want to be a good person.”
If your child says, “I just want to be a good person”, recognise that this sincere intention is a noble ambition by and of itself. Do not downplay it. The desire to be a good person is likely to drive him to attempt worthwhile pursuits. Gradually, focus on nurturing his or her confidence to choose at least one area where he or she could excel later, making it easier to succeed. Practically any skill or competency could be learnt. Bear in mind that some kids are entrepreneurial, some are not. Some prefer to work alone; others in teams. Some youth prefer to be away from their parents, others would do anything to live and work within a stone’s throw of their parents’ neighbourhood ten years down the road.
Do not think that one child is any less able just because he or she does not seem to stand out in a crowd. If all of us were born the same, creativity and innovation would not exist. We are all meant to be different. Observe a group of children playing a game. You’ll see some kids jumping right into it, while some others would take a bit of time to see what’s going on before deciding if it’s their cup of tea. A child who hesitates is no less intelligent than another who jumps into action, although adults do tend to think otherwise. Perhaps the child who hesitates isn’t quite sure of the rules of the game. Perhaps he or she has had an unpleasant experience with a similar game.
Experiences Shape Our Likes And Dislikes
Experiences weigh heavily on a human being’s likes and dislikes. This is true especially of children, since they might be too young to see the value of a game or activity. You the parent or teacher might argue that a game or activity will teach them a myriad of life skills e.g. perseverance, friendship, critical thinking and such. But many children, especially the little ones, cannot think that far ahead, although they might have some idea of such abstract concepts. We adults think of Past, Present, Future because of our level of maturity. Children and teens tend to think of the Present. Today. Now.
A child might be talented in a certain area, but if she had negative experiences related to this particular area, it is possible she might not explore it further. Finding the right teacher is equally important. A son of mine struggled for more than a year in Chemistry. Then he found a teacher who used a different technique. Things made sense after just two lessons. Suddenly his grade leapt from C to A. Overnight, he began to walk a little taller.
No matter your child’s age, take the time to explore possibilities with them. Discovering talents and interests could be accidental. Learning something new rewards them with a feeling of achievement and wonder, which are likely to strengthen their confidence. Encourage your child to try new things, even if it means going through some difficult moments. Know when to give a gentle push and when to hold back. Just because you have a child who likes to be thrown in the deep end might not mean it is best her siblings get the same treatment.
Most kids naturally love to try something new. Novelty excites them. Over time, though, when they are not perceived as doing something well, or if they feel something is beyond their reach, they might give up, although they might be interested in the beginning or have a natural talent for it. If they are genuinely uninterested in something, it’s better not to push them into doing it. It is possible that your child might fall out of love in something she seemed to be talented in when she’s younger – a common occurrence.
What if everything else fails? Introduce them to heroes, past and present. Practically every field has someone who has been or is a champion. Getting inspired by today’s heroes does not require a ton of money, unless you want to see these heroes in person for a good reason. Check out your child’s areas of interest or talent, look up for the pioneers in that field, and see how these achievers overcame their life challenges to become who they are today. Chances are, your child will be inspired to at least begin walking a similar path – good enough for a start.
Featured image courtesy of Free-Photos