Many parents want to have their child participate in lessons or activities of some kind to learn a new skill or develop a competence.  These can include lessons in one of the arts (dance, music) or sports (gymnastics, swimming, martial arts).  These activities often represent challenges for parents including selecting which activity, managing transportation, encouraging the child to practice, and of course the costs.

It can be valuable to have your child learn a new area of competence.  In selecting which activities are best for your child, there are a few considerations that may be helpful.

  • Give priority to activities that can be lifelong. For example, developing an interest in a team sport such as baseball may not be lifelong, but physical activity and exercise may develop from that and be lifelong.
  • Make practice fun.  At the end of practicing, join your child and have her teach you what she has learned or play a game that you make up on the spot to help her show you what she has learned.
  • Make practice at a regular time so that it becomes part of a ritual.  Also, be sure to give a day or two off a week.
  • Avoid nagging and expressing frustration to get your child to go to an activity or practice it.  For example, “Why am I paying for these lessons if you are not going to practice?”
  • Emphasize the process (practicing, working on something, trying) and not outcomes (the score of the game, the part they missed).

Building competencies and interests can build self-esteem and confidence, so focus on the long-term and your child trying and slowly building skills.  This is a gift you give your child with long-term benefits.

Common Parent Myths About Extra Curricular Activities

Making a child practice or go to an activity will eventually help them like it. Actually it’s quite the contrary, the more you force it, the more they will dislike it.  Let you child explore different activities to find what they enjoy.

I need to be on my child to get him or her to perform well.  Punishment or criticism or even harsh words meant to motivate child on will not only cause your child to dislike the activity, but could really deteriorate your relationship.  Also, if you are pushing your child each time, you will not develop a willingness to engage in hobbies.

He or she is wasting their natural gift by choosing not to participate. Though your child may show an early competency or talent, unless he or she enjoys it, it will not be maintained.

If I let my child quit, he or she is learning to be a quitter. It is not the end of the world if your child wants to end an activity.  This predict that your child will be a quitter in later life.  If it is important to you that your child participates, remain encouraging, and flexible, without punishment.

My child needs to be busy, the more activities the better.  Built in down time is crucial for a child and parent to decompress from their busy day.  Be sure to incorporate a little veg time every day.

How to Develop Healthy Interests In Your Child

Modeling is key.  One of the best ways to teach is to show.  Do the things that you enjoy.  Maybe it’s book club, running, crafting, cooking classes.  This shows your child the importance of developing healthy hobbies and interests (and is a stress reliever  for you).

  • Include your child (and even your child’s friend) in your activities.  Not only is that time together but you are again modeling.
  • Praise efforts and be positive.  Be sure to cheer your child on and never criticize at games and performances.
  • Emphasize the importance of having fun and enjoying the activity.  Always discuss ways to show good sportsmanship.
  • Only speak positively about team mates’ or peers’ performance.
  • Encourage, support, and show up to important events, concerts, games, recitals whenever you can.
  • Leave activities around your home for easy access.  Place art supplies, musical instruments, or books out for kids to grab and use easily.