What stamp are you using on your kids?
As the ultimate figure in your children’s lives, you have the power to stamp “Valid” or “Invalid” on their interests. My friend recently reminded me of this fact. He remembered how it felt for his dad to dismiss his childhood interests as dumb and a waste of time. To a boy, this makes a big difference. It struck me as an example of a simple way that we can show our kids that we think they are valuable and we accept them how they are. We of course will be helping them to grow and improve, but we want to make it clear that our love and acceptance is offered without strings attached.
Inevitably, your child is going to have an interest that does not interest you. Just recently, Luke won a prize for good behavior at Kindergarten – a baseball card! For some reason, this baseball card was an amazing treasure to him. He told me about it when I got home, slowly revealing it to me like a masterpiece. (He ended up carrying it around in his pocket for 48 hours straight!) I’ve never been particularly interested in baseball cards, so my natural reaction was to shrug and move on. But I could see that this was really meaningful for him, so I spent some time admiring it and asking him questions about it. He is still learning to read, so he asked me to read every word, and number, on both sides of the card. So, I read about Emil Brown’s MLB career, and I told Luke about Emil’s Hits, RBIs, and Home Runs. Although I still am not much for baseball cards, those moments with him were priceless.
So what should you do if your child has an interest that does not interest you?
1) Ask them about it.
Let them be the teacher and expert for a while.
2) Don’t jump to judgment.
Fads come and go, and it won’t be the end of the world if they are infatuated with something goofy for a month. (Of course there are limits, but don’t freak out about something minor. It will probably naturally get left behind soon anyway.)
3) Connect them with someone else who shares their interest.
Perhaps they have a talent that you don’t have, but you have a trusted friend who is an expert in that area. This is a perfect chance to connect your son or daughter with them so that they can enjoy it together.
Validating interests tie in with our deepest longing – a desire to be accepted how we are. As the earthly representatives of God, we have the responsibility to love our kids as they are, not as we wish they could be. This starts with showing interest in the little things that interest them.
What challenges have you faced with trying to connect with your child’s interests or emotions? What have you done to validate them?