Kid Connection Tip: Follow Their Interests. Not Yours.

Posted June 8, 2015 by jimhigley

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If you’re the parent of younger children, I hope you’re sitting down because I have some very bad news.

Those cute little kids who love hanging out with you are some day going to run in the opposite direction when you suggest that you do something together. I know this to be true. Three children over.

When my two sons and daughter were young, I could count on them to do just about anything I put in front of then. Run Saturday morning errands? No problem. Go out to the back yard to throw a ball. Sure! Spend an afternoon pulling weeds? Fun! The list of things they would gladly do with me was endless. Movies. Mall trips. Going to the barber (I did have hair back then). Even heading to the car wash.

They were built-in shadows. And for many years I’d have all three of them in tow.

Good memories.

But just like those weeds, kids grow. And they grow away from many of the things we cherish as a parent.

At the top of the list is hanging out together.

So that’s the bad news. And I know it hurts.

But fear not. All hope is not lost.

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We all enjoy introducing our children to things we love. If we like cooking, we can’t wait until the day where our little chef-in-training stands by our side – helping measure ingredients and partake in the preparation of a family feast. If we love sports, then we dream of sitting behind home plate – watching a Major League game with a child by our side – munching on peanuts.

And sometimes, the stars align and our own children actually enjoy the very things we do.

But many times it doesn’t work that way. And the older the children get, the more apparent those differences in interests appear. When they do, they can become like a wedge between parent and child.

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Alternatively, those differences can become the very thing that pull us together. But we have to make the first step.

Several years ago when one of my sons was in high school – he started telling me about the rock-climbing they were doing in his gym class. As he shared his stories, all I could think about was how much I fear heights. It’s one of my phobias. Right up there with snakes.

And my son knew it. In fact he not only knew it – he enjoyed trying to make me feel uncomfortable with his climbing stories.

So I turned the table on him.

“I have an idea,” I blurted out. “Let’s take climbing classes together!”

What possessed me to say that, I’m not sure. Perhaps the preservation of pride. Or maybe I wanted to prove something to him.

And my son said “yes.”

That yes led to months of regular Wednesday night classes the two of us took together. One hour of our week. Such a small investment in time. But a huge investment in our relationship – largely because I embraced something he cared about.

I never made it to the top of the rock-climbing wall. Ever. I came close – and relished in hearing my son cheer me on from the ground below.

But that’s okay because reaching the top wasn’t the point.

It was the journey along the way – with my son – that mattered.

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This memory is part of a series of stories I’m sharing during the months of May and June – highlighting the importance of connecting with our children. These memories are brought to you by the wonderful folks at Kimberly-Clark who have compensated me for my writing. All opinions are my own. 

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