Saturday, February 21, 2009

Kids, karate, parents, and interests. Oh my!

I just read a post on BlackBeltMama's blog where she bemoans that you can't always get what you want. Specifically, she's frustrated that her young daughter is "just not that into karate".  Parenting can be full of frustrations.

Efi fogel

Frankly, I feel if we get any positive feedback as we go, we're way above par.

I've always felt that it's an impossible job to find a balance between how much "guidance" to provide the kids and how much to let them follow their own interests. How pleased to be about anything that makes them happy (don't ask me about video game playing and insect dissecting) and how much to pressure for "productive exercises".

My story about kids and sports has a funny twist on it all.

As background, I've been a lifelong soccer player. I lived in England from 2nd through 4th grade and when I got back to the States and tried the American sports, well,  I never caught up with those who had a few years of little league and football experience. But in 8th grade, my junior high launched a soccer team and I decided to try out for it.   There was no sports pressure from my folks or friends at all, I just tried out, made the team, and found my "thing".

I played competitively until my early 40s. These soccer team pictures are my high school team,  my town team from my years in the Peace Corps in West Africa, and the third picture is a team that I played on in my mid 30s in California.

Sangmelima Equippe de football 1981

As soon as my own kids were old enough, I enrolled them in soccer. I'd kicked with them from the time that they could stand and kick, watched world cup games with them on TV, and coached their teams.

Yet, only an occasional flicker of interest from them and no particular aptitude. My college teammates have kids playing at very competitive levels but mine put up with soccer for a few seasons but then, worked their way out of it.  I was a little disappointed.

My interest in karate started while watching my son. I got tired of watching and decided to enroll in the parent program.  I followed him into the martial arts.  I should consider myself very lucky he didn't enroll in gymnastics or diving or swimming. I didn't pressure either of my two daughters and today, all three kids and myself are taking and enjoying karate. It's a great time for us.

Bethesda Chevy Chase soccer team 1976

My point: parental impact is rarely what we expect. Until the two girls showed interest in karate (following me in), I had been thinking about getting some tattoos and piercings since I was pretty sure if Dad had them, the kids wouldn't get them. Or date people with tatoos.

What's my point? 
Sometimes exposure and slight pressure works, sometimes it doesn't. I tend towards flexibility and letting them emerge rather than pushing them into something. Of course, that's only my perception of what's going on.  They probably feel relentless pressure to be one thing or another...


Sue C said...

I often think that pushing kids into hobbies they don't want to do can be counterproductive (they usually give it up) but leaving them to work it out themselves can pay dividends. I knew from when my youngest son was about 5 or 6 that he would be good at drama but he wasn't interested. I didn't push it but now at the age of 13 he's discovered drama himself and excells at it at school and has joined a private drama club out of school as well. With karate, we 'strongly encouraged' him to join with us and he dropped out at red belt. Just shows which approach works best!

Anonymous said...

I loved this post! The insight, the photos . . . all great! I really enjoyed the pic from your Peace Corps years.