Should you force your kids into new activities?
When Christine and I launched Minimalist Parenting, interviewers inevitably asked us:
But aren't you afraid "minimalist parenting" will lead to lazy, unmotivated kids?
It's not a bad question. How can kids come to know their capabilities without a push (sometimes a firm one) out of their comfort zones?
Kristen Howerton wrote a fantastic piece about why she forces her kids into new activities. In it she describes the trial-and-error results of signing her kids up for classes and sports they don't initially want to try. In some cases it was a bust, but in others, it opened doors to new interests and friendships.
Which brings me to Christine's and my response to interviewers:
"Minimalist" is not the same as "minimal."
Minimalist parenting begins with connecting with your own priorities and values and then developing the confidence to lead with those values no matter what other neighborhood families or "parenting experts" are saying. Or (in this case) what your kids are saying.
In the book, Christine shares the story of how her mom wouldn't let her quit violin lessons. It was maddening for Christine at the time, but she's grateful that her mother forced her to challenge herself. Not only did she go on to become an accomplished musician, she learned something important about pushing through "the dip."
Another crucial minimalist parenting mindset is the notion of flexible decision making. As we like to say:
Course correction beats perfection.
At any given time, we make the best parenting decisions we can based on the information we've got. If, later on, new information emerges that changes our thinking, we make adjustments. It's not wishy-washy -- it's smart.
From Kristen's post:
I feel like this is one of those tricky aspects of parenting. I want my kids to naturally fall into their passions, but I also know that sometimes they need a gentle nudge. If I was totally hands-off my kids would probably choose video games and candy as their passion. And while those things can be fun, I want them to dig a little deeper.
...It’s trial and error, and if it’s clear to me that something really isn’t a fit, I’m not above changing course. But I also think that sometimes, kids benefit from adults who are willing to make them stretch outside of their comfort zone.
What do you think? Are you pushing your kids to try new things this summer?