Raising passionate kids

How to nuture your child's latest obsession into a lifelong passion

You know it’s around somewhere: that forgotten musical instrument, some wadded-up dance clothes … any discarded leftover from a child’s previous obsession. But that doesn’t mean their next obsession won’t turn into a lifelong passion. And that’s exactly what you want.

“Whenever kids explore a passion, they’re honing the ability to learn, which is possibly the most important life skill any of us can possess,” says education expert Katherine Reynolds Lewis, author of The Good News About Bad Behavior: Why Kids are Less Disciplined Than Ever—And What to Do About It. “And that’s really their fundamental job, to figure out what they’re good at.” Here are her tips on helping children find their passion.

Keep the Ideas Coming

Just like food, new ideas might seem strange at first. But the more you expose your children to activities, the more likely they are to turn into multifaceted adults. “Take them to dance performances, go to museums—whatever is available,” Lewis says. “Then follow their lead if they express a particular interest in something.”

Think Creatively

If your child seems interested in only making slime and watching how-to videos, he might be craving something more tactile, like woodworking or gardening. “Be open-minded about what an interest looks like,” Lewis says. “Look for ways to turn it from consuming to creating.”

Let the Child Become the Teacher

Going overboard in your enthusiasm is a great way to kill a child’s passion. Kids want their “thing” to be, well, theirs. So let them show off their original artwork to grandparents, and ditch the every-gift-must-relate-to-art birthdays. “You should be listening more than you’re talking,” Lewis says. “Let children have a sense of mastery.”