An excellent book “The Path to Purpose” by William Damon is subtitled “How Young People Find Their Calling in Life.” After years of teaching, I personally believe that students’ lack of purpose, or passion, is one of the huge problems in the educational system and the excessive use of electronic entertainment media contributes largely to this lack of purpose. The holidays offer an opportunity for families to break their regular routines and try something new.
The first way you can help your child is to model creative passion yourself. This can often be done with some aspect of your job that you can share with your child. A recent article in Inc. Magazine talked about the traits of employees who improve a business. They are constantly thinking about how to expand what they do for the company. Show your child what you are doing to make things better at your job. Are you learning a new skill that will help what you do? Have you improved the process?
Another way to model your passion is to share a hobby with your child. There are thousands of hobbies but some can be very simple. In today’s world digital photography comes to mind. For anything that you do, think of how you might share this with your child. Steve Job’s dad was interested in electronics and passed that on to his son. The Wyeth family produced three generations of well-known artists. (N.C. Wyeth, Andrew Wyeth and Jamie Wyeth). While Norman Rockwell’s children did not become famous artists, they all entered creative careers. Thomas Rockwell became an author (“How to Eat Fried Worms”), one sister painted portraits, another sister was a musician and his brother was an inventor. Both of these families valued creative production.
Also, you can introduce your child to potential mentors. Among your family and friends there is probably somebody who has a hobby or passion. Try to get your child to connect with that person. If a spark flies from the introduction, then encourage both the child and the mentor to continue the relationship until the child outgrows the mentor. This will happen sooner or later. The mentor can often connect your child with someone else who is more of an expert.
Introduce children to new environments and subjects. Vacations are a great way to introduce them to something new and need not be all that expensive. I remember a mother of two young boys telling me of the impact camping at Stone Mountain Georgia had on her boys, who had lived their entire life at the beach. Places can be historic sites, natural sites, manmade sites or a combination of the three. I remember when we stopped at the Rebel Field Airport at Harlingen, Texas. The experience really stimulated my son’s interest in World War II airplanes. It was only about a three hour visit, but he read and inquired about planes for months afterward. A quick search of the Internet can help you find places to visit where ever you plan to travel during the holidays. One such site for those with children interested in dinosaurs is: http://www.rd.com/family/the-best-dinosaur-museums-in-the-u-s/
Another approach to stir intellectual passions is to read biographies of famous people. Take a subject that your child might be interested in and find autobiographies or biographies that support that subject. My quick search on Google for children’s biographies turned up 37,000,000 entries. The local library, bookstores, or e-books are readily available. Begin by reading the books aloud as a family and then progress to letting the child read alone. But be sure to ask what was the individual passionate about and how did the author explain it. There are some outstanding children’s picture book biographies, too.
For a more comprehensive reading about this subject, I would recommend Mr. Damon’s “The Path to Purpose.” He devotes a whole chapter to “Parenting for Purpose.” Prior to this chapter, he lays the ground work about why it is important to parent with goal oriented purposes in mind. Sparking and fanning a passion can make your child a producer in life and not just a consumer.
Tommy Fairweather is a retired Walton County teacher, who lives in Destin and works at Smarts & Arts on Airport Road in Destin.