My kids are bored, begging for TV or computer time. After saying no, and pointing out their screen time is done for the day, they each go play.
Big A usually goes in her room and plays with her dolls or draws. She’s always had an artsy flare. Little D will usually stay in the living room playing some type of ball game of his own making. I’ll hear things like “that’s incredible,” “Going, going, gone,” or “touchdown.”
They think I’m not watching or noticing but nothing could be further from the truth.
What Children Show us If We Notice
Last summer, I read Mastery by Robert Greene. This book details how famous people in history (Benjamin Franklin, Charles Darwin to name a few) became masters in their profession. While they all chose different crafts, their processes to achieve success share similarities. It’s a fascinating read and one that got me thinking about my own kids. Greene says that when people choose what he calls a “life task,” they should think back to what they were drawn to as children:
You possess a kind of inner force that seeks to guide you towards your life’s task — what you are meant to accomplish in the time that you have to live. In childhood, this force was clear to you. It directed you toward activities and subjects that fit your natural inclinations, that sparked a curiosity that was deep and primal. In the intervening years, the force tends to fade in and out as you listen more to parents and peers, to the daily anxieties that wear away at you.
I believe parents can give kids a huge running start by noticing what creates that spark in their children. While classes and lessons have a place, I believe this force is more likely found in children-led daily activities and interests. So later, when my kids ask about what they should do, I will remind them of what they once did when no one was watching.
Doing it for the A or becoming a lifelong learner
I’m not a huge “you have to get good grades” parent. If my daughter comes home with 100%, I make sure to acknowledge the work that went into it. I also reinforce that understanding and learning are by far more important than any grade. The same way I don’t want my child to eat her veggies to get a reward, I don’t want my kids studying only to get an A.
Greene states that picking your life’s task is only the first step to mastery. It takes a lot of hard work and learning to cultivate one’s potential.
…you must value learning above anything else. This will lead you to all the right choices. You will opt for the situation that will give you the most opportunities to learn, particularly with hands-on work. You will choose a place that has people and mentors who can inspire and teach you. A job with mediocre pay has the added benefit of training you to get by with less — a valuable life skill.
Health is Not Just About Nutrition and Exercise
I used to have a very closed-minded view of optimal health which included eating right and exercising. Now I know personal happiness and satisfaction are important keys to longevity, and research backs me up on this. In fact, flow, doing enjoyable activities where the time passes quickly, plays an important role. If my children grow into adults feeling unfulfilled they may be more likely to reach for something else — food, material goods, you name it — to fill the void.
So I notice what gets my kids excited, encourage them to work hard, and help them make the connection between learning and all the things they enjoy.
What do you notice when your kids play?
Such a great thing to start thinking about with kids – and the concept of “flow” makes so much sense. Thanks for the insightful post!