A few weeks ago, our eldest daughter came home from school with the news that her first ever school cross-country race was coming up soon. She had a note explaining that weekly coaching and training would be provided for the students one morning before school each week, and every student was encouraged to attend. Our daughter said she didn't want to do the training at school, because she wanted to train with me at home. Since I do go running regularly myself, I was very happy with her choice, and enjoyed the few runs we had together to 'train' for her race. (which she did do very well in and enjoyed lots which was more important!)
It got me thinking about how parents interests can influence their children's activities. Both Euan and I enjoy running and hiking and we do take the girls out hiking quite often, and sometimes running when they show and interest. But are they only interested in running because we do it?
What other interests have we encouraged them to do, because we ourselves like them? We both love reading and words, and are qualified teachers of English as a foreign language. Words are a big part of our lives, and as such we spend a lot of time sharing that with our girls, who now both love reading themselves and can escape into their own books! We have certainly fostered this love, but would it have developed without our strong interest?
Another example is supporting particular sports teams. Do your kids support the same team you do? If they do, is part of the reason because they get to spend more time with you watching that team play? or perhaps to be 'just like Dad/Mum'? We watch and follow AFL (Australian Rules Football) We both support different teams, and have taken the girls to see a couple of matches. They aren't that interested in the sport, but we do have matches on TV every week in the footy season so it is a part of their lives, and as such the girls have both picked their own teams to support - completely different to both of ours!
And, does all this change with age? I was speaking to one of our daughter's swim coaches recently. Her kids have recently given up swimming after doing it for several years, telling her, "Just because you like swimming doesn't mean we have to!"
So is it just that kids often want to emulate their parents when they are younger, but once they begin to mature and develop more of their own individual personality, that's when their own interests become clearer, and perhaps they realise they only played this particular sport, or supported that team because Mum or Dad did or encouraged them too?
I think it's great to encourage your kids to take an interest in what you like, and to share that with them. Showing an interest in other peoples' lives, even if they are very different to your own, is an important social skill to have. It helps us broaden our horizons, and may spark a new interest for ourselves. Your own interests should not be enouraged at the expense of all else - nor forced, although sometimes a little prodding so kids actually try new things is acceptable, and even necessary.
We have the attitude with our kids that they should try things. It doesn't matter if they are good or bad at it, or if they find they enjoy it or not. What is important is that they do at least try, then they can have a basis upon which to form their own opinion about it.
What sports - or other hobbies do you have that you share with your children, or encourage them to take part in? Are there things you remember being encouraged or even forced to do by your own parents when you were younger - and do you still do or enjoy them today?
We'd love to hear your opinions and stories, so please do leave a comment!