I love writing posts like this one.
Patrick (he said he was “cool” with me using his name on the blog) won not only ONE award, but TWO awards during this year’s high school mock trial county-wide awards ceremony.
What Is Mock Trial? I’ve NEVER Even Heard Of That Before!
According to the National Mock Trial Website, a mock trial team provides many different opportunities for high school students to learn about and experience the judicial system from a variety of different perspectives.
“Every fall, thousands of teenagers from across the country get ready to go to court, not because they have to, but because they want to. From September to January, these young people immerse themselves in the inner-workings of the justice system — after school, in the evenings, and on weekends.
All across the country, before real judges, high school students try the cases they have been preparing. From opening statements to direct and cross examination of witnesses and closing arguments, they present each part of a legal case. Each team has its own “attorneys” and “witnesses” and must be ready to present either side of the case before “juries” that score their performance. Trial by trial, the teams compete for the championship of their jurisdiction.”
This is the third year that Patrick has participated on the Mock Trial team and each year he has been chosen to be an attorney for the team. At the end of the season, Patrick’s team as a whole received second place in the county championship and Patrick won Best Defense Attorney as well as Best Support Role “Unofficial Timer” Defense.
How To Encourage Your Child To Follow Their Passion
Needless to say, Jeff and I are so proud of our Awesome Son! Being a part of the Mock Trial team has been a great experience for him. It has provided a natural opportunity for Jeff and Patrick to spend time together over something they both enjoy (Jeff is an attorney so he helped Patrick prepare) and I have enjoyed simply being on the sidelines watching my kid do something that he enjoys AND BE REALLY GOOD AT IT.
I wasn’t always the kind of parent that was so laid-back about her children’s activities. I used to think that I had to micro-manage their interests and their education or they would never be good at anything.
Do you see the flaw in that line of thinking? It assumes that my kids cannot find their own passion. IT COMMUNICATES TO THEM THAT THEIR PARENT DOES NOT TRUST THEM TO LIVE A WORTHWHILE LIFE. This was NOT the message that I wanted to communicate to my kids! So I decided to change the message by changing MY behavior.
I decided to back off and let both of my kids decide for themselves how they wanted to spend their extracurricular time. I wanted to communicate to them that I TRUSTED them to figure this out for themselves – because I knew they could do this. And you know what? They did a great job ON THEIR OWN in finding a passion and developing that passion into (hopefully) a life-long interest.
And the best part of this plan is that the kids not only found an activity that “looks good” on a college application, but it’s obvious that they really enjoy their activities and will probably participate in these activities as adults as well. My Awesome Daughter chose to play music (she started out with the piano, then the violin, and now has moved on the playing the cello) and I never have to remind her to practice – she has found the discipline to figure out her own practice schedule and enjoys playing music outside of her assigned songs. And Patrick has developed the same discipline – I never had to remind him to work on his Mock Trial briefs, openings, etc. – he worked on these assignments because it brought him personal enjoyment and fulfillment.
So if your child is struggling to find a passion or hobby that they truly enjoy, here is my advice:
- Let them know that they need to be involved in 1 extracurricular activity and you can help give them ideas, but it is up to them to choose.
- If the activity has meetings, events, or practice times, make sure that this fits into the family schedule.
- Don’t put pressure on them that they need to be the best, or the captain of the team, or to win an award – communicate to them that you simply want them to enjoy their time in the activity.
- If they ask for advice or help, give them that help – otherwise, stay out of it.
- Don’t give them vague, general complements such as “you did a good job today.” Instead, provide them with effort-based praise such as “I really enjoyed hearing you practice today” and “You looked really happy when you finally figured out that new song.”
- If they want to quit the activity, that’s ok if they have given it a good try – we need to try things to see if we will like them, right? Just make sure they have a plan for something they want to try next.
Take Home Message
Encouraging your child to develop their own passions, values, and beliefs while they are young is so important. As a parent, you can help guide them in researching and exploring new interests, which can provide an opportunity for some bonding time (just like Mock Trial has provided for Jeff and Patrick). In addition, this time of exploration and self-discovery can also be a time when you can share how you developed your own passions, values, and beliefs with your child.
If you found this blog post helpful, feel free to email it to another parent who might be struggling with helping their child find a passion. You could also re-post it on Facebook or Twitter as a resource for other parents.
Finally, I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic – what has worked for you and what hasn’t. Feel free to leave a comment below, email me, or you can start a conversation with me on Facebook. I love to hear all of your thoughts, stories, and successes!