Tyler has been playing basketball for six years. He’s become very good, has been MVP on his school team, has made all-tourney, and has the best stats on his club team. The play-offs are coming up and all focus has been on his preparation for the big games: practice, getting enough rest, eating right. But, he also has a major book report due in the midst of play-offs. Do Tyler’s parents let him shirk his academic responsibilities, and turn in a report that Tyler puts little effort into? Or, do they demand he give his project the effort that will give him the A, but maybe at the expense of his game play?
If our children are finding success in areas outside of school, do we let school fall by the wayside a bit so they can fully focus on their passions and strengths? What if this other area can fast-track them to a career, money, or celebrity?
I have an eleven-year old daughter, Grace, who has been running her own very successful business for three years. She makes handmade toy pets that respond to the owner’s touch without batteries, buttons or screens. She’s sold over 1,700 of her products on four different continents. She donates some of her toys to needy families as well as a charity that helps abused children as well as giving a portion of her funds to a local animal shelter. Her toys are sold online and in local stores.
There are times when the demand is high, and stores call up asking her to fill their shelves. Yet, she may have a presentation due, homework to complete, or reading that’s not done. As a parent it would be incredibly easy to tell her to put the schoolwork on the back-burner, and focus on the toys.
This is business, for goodness sake! I could call in sick for her, send a note to the teacher, or she could just finish her schoolwork late. Fortunately for Grace (or maybe, unfortunately), her mother and I are not only her parents, but we are both elementary school teachers. We see the importance of the schoolwork, and we let her know that it’s her first responsibility.
Kids absolutely need an outlet away from school, sports and hobbies, but those come after schoolwork. Children need to learn how to focus on things that they may not always love. Why? Because they may find that knowing European History may be helpful when they least expect it. They also learn to stick with something that may be tough, practice for presentations or assignments they may have in college or their careers, and they also learn responsibility.
But, can’t they learn all of this through what they are succeeding at today (in Tyler’s case, basketball)? Maybe. But, that’s not the point. Having a passion is so crucial for our children’s well-being, their confidence as well as their present and future successes. But, they also need to learn how to live in this world, how to survive with parameters and rules. And, what happens if Tyler tears his ACL? What if Grace’s toys go out of style? It’s the old putting-your-eggs-in-one-basket syndrome.
Kids need to be well-rounded and understand how to prioritize. They also need to distinguish between what they want to do and what they need to do. Sometimes, the “need” comes before the “want” even though the “want” may be more pleasurable.
Let’s give our children the opportunities to explore their passions and strengths, but also show them that their schoolwork is their priority. They may not always be pleased with it today, but they learn scheduling, responsibility and focus that they will thank you for tomorrow.