There is a myth that claims, "You can be anything you want to be." Many adults joining the workforce are quickly discouraged by a reality that doesn't match that childhood imagination. While a college degree might have guaranteed you a job twenty years ago, times have changed.
It is challenging for us as parents and teachers not to get discouraged about the harsh realities awaiting our children when we send them into the world. Naturally, it can be easy to turn into a cynic or try to shield our kids from the disappointment that they might encounter. However, our kids cannot grow or thrive in that environment.
If we want them to grow up and be successful in life, we have to give them the room to cultivate their strengths. When they have a mentor who is guiding them towards educational pursuits that suit them, they will have optimum opportunity to actually fulfill their childhood dreams.
Here are some ways to mentor your children to maximize their potential as they grow towards adulthood.
Start with Broad Exposure to a Variety of Experiences
One common misconception held by parents is that children need to find their life's purpose as soon as possible. If you're hoping to get a soccer scholarship, then you need to give your life to soccer by age four.
This is not as true as it seems. Being sold out to a single a pursuit at four, while good for genuine prodigies, doesn't guarantee that your child will succeed or rise to the top of their class.
Instead of majoring in one activity or experience, expose your kids to many experiences so that their gifting and skills can become evident. Sometimes you may think that they're a brilliant soccer player, but it's only because you haven't seen them paint.
Watch them Work
This exposure to varied activities is just as much for the mentor as for the student. As you watch your children work, you can identify their strengths.
Even with an activity that they are horrible at, you can still gain insight into their strengths.
Maybe they're too uncoordinated for soccer, but they are excellent in leading others in their team, cheering them on, or communicating with their coach.
Maybe they can't paint anything worth saving, but they are great at organizing the supplies, selecting color combinations, or encouraging others in their artistic expression.
Maybe they will never play an instrument for a live audience, but they are disciplined in practice, excellent at identifying notes and intervals, or have an ear for excellent music.
Each activity will draw out strengths and weaknesses in your child. The challenging part is using that information to gently direct your child towards a more fitting dream.
Gently Suggest Suitable Pursuits
When my son was in middle school, he dreamed of becoming an ophthalmologist like his grandfather. While it was a worthy dream, I started to notice that he did not love math or science. If I gave him the option to choose what school work to complete first, he always picked Latin over all others. He loved Latin.
As I started to notice this trend in his work, I began to subtly suggest that maybe a career in the medical field might not be all that he imagined it would be. He ignored me for about a year.
We finally sat down and discussed the reasons why he wanted to become an eye surgeon. As he communicated his interests, I found ways to connect them to an alternate course of study that included his love of languages.
When he realized that he really could make a career out of the suggestions I was making, a fire lit under him that I couldn't stop. He started researching colleges that offered linguistics or classical philology. He asked to learn Greek and Hebrew. He launched his own Latin Learning Community to help others learn with him.
When your students find that thing that makes their heart sing, you won't have to push anymore.
Mentors Have to Mentor
It's easy to get trapped into two common parenting perils:
Micromanaging your student. This error can be anything from planning out every minute of their day to planning out their future.
Hands-off parenting. Sometimes this extreme happens from a belief that you don't have any wisdom to offer them; other times it can happen because you think they don't want to hear from you.
The reality is that you do have a purpose as a parent. As your children grow into adulthood, mentoring them is an excellent way to continue to help them achieve their goals while allowing them to be the owner of their goals.
They say that a goldfish will only grow to the size that its tank allows. Children operate in a similar manner. If you challenge them in appropriate and intentional ways, you can help them reach maximum potential.
Beware of the Big Tank
It's easy to get lured into the bigger and better tank mentality. Comparing how your child progress to what other children are doing can tempt you to push your child harder and faster than they were made to learn.
Bigger and faster are not necessarily better. Throwing a goldfish into the ocean is a sure way to get it gobbled up! It’s easy to be overly excited about great opportunities or a curriculum that doesn’t suit the strengths of your student. Choose your path carefully!
Every time you offer a new experience, watch carefully to see how your unique child responds to the activity. Then suggest modifications to their course of education if needed.
It is such a privilege to have the opportunity to assist a child in their journey towards becoming an adult. You can be a part of helping them grow to their greatest potential.
About the Author
Betsy Strauss is a wife to a deep thinker and a homeschooling mom of three kids. When she stumbled into homeschooling, she thought it would just look like public school at home. Thankfully, she quickly learned that using a one-room schoolhouse model of teaching was a great way to unify the family, and enrich family life without going crazy! She shares her encouragement on Family Style Schooling Blog.