My oldest son wanted to play in the NBA, when he was young-- say from age 5-14. We weren't as positive as we probably should have been. I think we said, "Oh! That would be fun, but it's really hard. Not many people get there. You can do it, but it's not going to be easy." I know... ouch. Life then taught him, beginning with Junior Jazz, then church ball and workouts with the high school teams, that basketball was not his path. He's not very tall, and although he's got great shooting skills, his anxiety and temper got in the way of him becoming a really great player. Which is okay. Luckily, he has been blessed with other interests and opportunities and he doesn't feel remorse over having to set aside his NBA dreams.
My second son wants to be a computer programmer, my third son wants to work in filmmaking and my daughter wants to be an author. Having mentally told myself not to be the bubble deflater again, I haven't said anything about how difficult any of these jobs might be to attain. I have been positive and encouraging, and allowed them to pursue their interests. If they stink at what they want to do, future bosses, critics and co-workers will certainly tell them so.
Maybe just getting out of the way is the best way parents can support their kids? If it doesn't work out, it isn't because we put doubt in their minds, but if it does, we will be able to smile and pat ourselves on the back for supporting their dreams all along.
I want my kids to be able to stand on the podium of achievement one day and say that their mom stood by them the whole way, that I always knew they could do it. And I want that to be the truth.
It's a tricky balancing act, though, like most things parents do. How do you encourage your kids without making the mistake of treating them as though they are a perfect cupcake of talent and can do no wrong? (This is one of my favorite articles on this topic.)
I believe it's by giving them room to explore their interests, while calling them down for behaviors that are out of line. Expect great things, but also give them opportunities to work.
Kids will understand that there will always be someone smarter, prettier, funnier, faster, taller, and better at _________ than them. However, I hope they are also learning that if they are diligent and righteous and dedicated, willing to work hard and start where they are (at the bottom, usually), they can achieve their dreams. Because they can. I really believe that.
And if I'm wrong, I will still be here, ready to stand by them during their next adventure.
So what do you think?