Invest in Your Kids
March 27, 2015
Filed In: Fatherhood
Although Benedict is recently beginning to prefer walking to crawling, I've already begun to plan out all of the activities and hobbies that I want to introduce him to. He should learn Spanish and hey, maybe I'll learn with him. He should learn to play the piano or saxophone... I'll do it too! His grandfather and I are both pilots, so was his great grandfather, so he definitely needs to learn how to fly. There are literally endless possibilities and each of them is equally exciting.
I had a priest friend who's father was an OB/GYN with an extremely successful medical practice. He had 8 kids and drove a 15 passenger van. One day, as a child, the priest friend went with his dad somewhere and they ended up parking next to a corvette. The son said to his father, "Dad, I can't believe you drive around this 15 passenger van when you could be driving that corvette." His father replied, simply, "Son, I'd rather have you than a car."
In those eight words are perfectly encapsulated the mystery of parenting. Adults, with their own hopes, wants, needs, and desires are more interested in spending their hard earned money and resources on the needs of their children than on their own wants.
The world is a wide open place and introducing your children to new things is a healthy pursuit. In the hobbies or activities that they participate in, they may find a life-long hobby or even their life's work. They may only participate for a year, a few months, or even a few measly weeks, however, they'll forever carry with them the lessons and memories from that time. Hobbies, museums, books, classes, sports, theater, and the thousands of opportunities open to kids provide endless outlets for creativity, energy, and exploration.
A big struggle that I faced when I was working with a youth organization was parents struggling to get their children to commit. Elementary school kids are well known for their ability to change their minds in an instant and many parents seemed to be frustrated with what they saw as wasted money that could have been put to better use. Activities are teachable moments in a child's life and letting your child take up and quit activities at the drop of a hat isn't good stewardship of your family's finances. A better approach is to use activities to teach your children about commitment. When they want to try something beyond the first free session, they need to agree to very clear terms. They need to know how long they're committing to and that they may not be able to get out of their obligations. They also need to understand that if they do activity A, they won’t be able to do activity B. This life lesson can help them to not be flaky in their adult life. It certainly will be a battle when they inevitably want to quit, but giving in to them will be extremely damaging to the development of good moral character.
After trying many different activities, perhaps over the course of several years, the time will come when you need to guide them to committing to a few that they'll pursue long-term. This evolving discussion should focus on their passions and natural strengths and encourage structured decision making. We know that when you put focus and resources on a few things, you'll make far more progress than if you had put your energy into many things. By helping your kids determine which activities to edit out of their schedule, you'll again be teaching them an important life lesson. Taking on too many things is unwise and you'll do much better if you focus on a few things.
Your kids will have endless opportunities to pursue new things. Be prepared to inspire them, cheer for them, and help them to learn the inherent life lessons that come with choosing one's activities.