Nowadays parenting has become incredibly competitive. Most parents feel that their kids are an extension of themselves and so they work hard to herd those children towards their vision of success. Driven by a fear that failure to make it to certain colleges or careers spells certain doom, parents are now more determined than ever to have their kids excel.

Often this includes pointing kids in one direction or another, pushing them to specialize in something from an early age and to keep at it until success comes calling. This often leads parents to make the mistake of overstuffing their kids’ schedules, especially with activities they aren’t interested in. Kids these days are likely to spend their time being shuffled from one organized sport or enrichment class to another.

Although the reasoning behind it might be sound, this kind of push-parenting often backfires.

As a parent, it’s understandable that you want the best for your kid and you want to share some of your hobbies and interests with them. However, pushing your kids into these activities even when it’s clear that they couldn’t be less interested won’t produce the results you want.

Taking this tactic will only inspire your child to rebel. What’s more, it squashes their passion and doesn’t make room for their own self-exploration. It also ensures that your child won’t have time to discover and work on their own unique interests.

A Better Way

Instead of pushing, why not try supporting your child’s interests, even if they’re not your preferred ones? This way you’ll be working with, not against, your child ensuring a better outcome for both of you.

Here are a few ideas on how to support your kids’ self-exploration and encourage them to pursue their own interests.

Discover your child’s interests.

You can’t support your child’s interests if you don’t know what they are in the first place. Instead of signing your kid up for activities they’re uninterested in, take time to get to know and understand their passions. Take an interest in their hobbies, ask-open ended questions to stimulate conversation and listen to them when they share their dreams. Also pay attention to the activities, games, movies, books, etc., that they like as this could clue you in to their interests.

Foster their natural talents.

Once you have an idea where your kids’ passions and interests lay, find ways to foster them. Remember it might take time for their natural talents to come to light and these can also shift and change as your child grows up. So don’t worry if their interests are all over the place. Just do your best to celebrate, support and nurture their innate gifts.

Help them explore a wide range of interests.

One of the keys to raising your kids for success is to expose them to a wide range of interests. Most parents think that having their kids play organized sports or enrolling them for classes is the sure path to success. But your kid doesn’t really need these structured classes to discover their passion. Knitting, drawing, writing, cooking and many other activities can bloom right in your own home.

Challenge your kids.

Challenge and gently nudge your kid to try out new activities even if they already know what they’re good at. Encouraging them to explore things they’re not proficient at gives them a chance to learn new skills and expand their knowledge.

Make optimism a way of life.

Your child is sure to encounter failure as they pursue their interests. This is a normal part of life. An optimistic mindset coupled with a can-do attitude is an asset at times like these.  Encouraging them to view setbacks as temporary, to quiet their inner critic and keep trying even when the going gets rough ensures that your kid becomes more resilient and ends up more confident of his abilities.

Finally keep in mind that this is your kid’s life, not yours. Refrain from imposing your passions and interests on your child and let them find their own way. It’s imperative that you remain supportive even if you don’t agree with the interests and passions they choose to pursue. Your love and support will give your kids the freedom and courage they need to blaze their own paths.

Tyler Jacobson is a proud father, husband, writer and outreach specialist with experience helping parents and organizations that help troubled teen boys. Tyler has focused on helping through honest advice and humor on: modern day parenting, struggles in school, the impact of social media, addiction, mental disorders, and issues facing teenagers now. Follow Tyler on Twitter and Linkedin.