"Never let your pie crust know you're afraid of it. It will fail you every time." Carol Rickman, my mother.
"If you only do what you know you can do - you never do very much." Tom Krause, Motivational Speaker and contributor to the Chicken Soup book series.
These statements are true. As adults, we know how hard it is to try new things for fear of failure or ridicule. But we also know that if we don't try, we will never know whether it is something we'll be good at or love doing.
The fear to try is a characteristic that worsens as we age, so children don't always suffer from it until they get older. Anyone who's had to pull a toddler away from an electrical outlet with a butter knife in his hand knows that they are completely uninhibited to trying new things.
It's probably about the time they become more socialized in school and become aware of people ridiculing them that they are less likely to venture into new endeavors.
Encouraging our children to continue to be open to new possibilities, then, is a wonderful gift to give them. Along with that little pearl of wisdom goes this one. If it doesn't work out, there are two options - quit and chalk it up to experience and try, try again until they get it right. I was always nudged to try new things without fear. As a result, I've tried a lot of things. I'm good at some, not so good at others, but still get a kick out of my adventures into unknown waters.
In contrast, I have known people who would not dare try something new in front of anyone for fear they will look stupid. I can't imagine how that affects their lives and how much they are missing out on.
Here are some tips on encouraging your children to be open to new things:
Provide a variety of foods for them to try, toys for them to play with, and activities for them to do. Take walks with them and talk about the different things you see people doing - skating, raking leaves, delivering mail, driving buses, jumping on trampolines, walking dogs or planting flowers. Talk to them about the variety of things that make people happy. At home, talk about the work you do and the activities you enjoy. Allow them to help in some small way.
Limit television. Provide lots of books and read to them. Always have creative outlets for them like crayons, finger paints, paper and puzzles. Ask them about the things that they like to do and what makes them happy. Then, ask them about dreams they have and what they want to be when they grow up. Ask them to give you a list of goals and follow-through with them (like learn to play an instrument, learn another language or learn to decorate a cake). Let them know that it is fun to try new things and that you don't have to be great at them. Give them raw materials (like egg cartons, cardboard boxes, plastic silverware or aluminum foil) and have them create and build things from them. Consider kits for wood burning, mosaic tiles, art, electronics, chemistry or a microscope as birthday and Christmas gifts.
Continue talking about different talents, crafts, and career ideas. Allow them to experiment in the kitchen with culinary skills, science projects or herb-gardening. Have fun in the yard building rockets with vinegar and baking soda, growing gardens, landscaping or playing outdoor sports. Let them try crafts like decorating, painting, sewing or interior design. Upgrade to more difficult kits as gifts, sign them up to attend or audit classes they are interested in. Let them mentor younger sibling in things they enjoy doing to teach them leadership and training skills. Encourage them to always be engaged in a book for pleasure. Books expose them to a large world of possibilities.
Follow their lead. You have done a great job of exposing them to lots of different things, now let them begin to choose new things to try and encourage them. Encourage good grades which open up doors to so many more possibilities. Don't panic if the activities they choose or careers they are thinking about don't follow your dreams for them. Remember, they are just experimenting. Have them start their bucket list.
Yes, even our adult children need to try new things and get out of their ruts. Offer to babysit (if you are fortunate enough to live close) and encourage your married adult children to have fun and adventurous date nights, take classes and try new things. It will make them better parents.
Remember these ground rules:
Encourage attempts but don't expect perfection.
Cheer your child on, regardless of outcome, for the mere fact that he tried something new.
Have your kids write down their experiences in a journal so they can later look back and remember.
Don't push a child through real fears. If she doesn't like heights, encourage her to try indoor rock climbing, but never force it. Respect her concerns.
If a child doesn't do well, always ask, "But did you have fun trying?" Talk it out.
Once your kids are through with an adventure, let it go. If they are really passionate about it, they will pick it up again later.
Through all of the cheering you do, make certain you are also trying new things so your kids are witnessing that they are never too old to learn. Many careers, and I know this to be true, begin later in life. Mine did. The point is to encourage your children to always be trying new things.