Reluctant participation

What happens when your child's hobbies are not your cup of tea?

Practical Parenting / July 18 2018

When I first had my babies, I assumed they would be little extensions of me. They would love reading, dislike sport, dance badly and hate cooking shows with a passion.

I was wrong. Two love reading, the other doesn’t. One likes sport, the others don’t. Two love cooking shows, they all dance well, and one of them is passionate about Pokémon, which I didn’t know existed till he told me. Oh, and the little one is deeply interested in toothbrushes. I didn’t even realise that could be a hobby.

Clearly, kids develop their own interest and tastes. And as parents, it’s our job to help encourage their individuality, and help them to follow their passions and dreams.

This is why I drive my son around to Pokémon tournaments. And this is why I take my daughter to singing classes, and sit, bored, in the waiting area, whilst she practices her tunes.

Grin and bear it

But what happens when your child has an interest you dislike? Do we have the right to intervene, or should we let them chart their own course? It’s a tough one, and it depends on the reasons for your disapproval.

Both my daughters, for example, asked to do ballet when they were little. I disliked ballet classes myself, and wasn’t keen on them attending. I hated the rigidity of the tuition, the ‘good and bad’ toes, the make-up required for concerts, and focus on technique instead of fun.

Still, these weren’t strong enough reasons to say no to my daughters, and so I enrolled them in classes and let them make up their own minds. Eventually, they both decided to transfer to hip hop, which suited all of us better. But had either of them wanted to pursue ballet as a career, I feel it would have been my duty to support them in that goal. 

Having said that, I will not allow any activity to which I hold a strong ethical objection. My son is not permitted to play video games like Call of Duty or Halo, because I am passionate about the dangers of simulated violence. And none of my kids are allowed to bring toy guns into the house, because I feel strongly that all weapons are inappropriate.

Parental guidance

And of course there are certain TV shows that are outlawed in my family. My kids can watch cartoons I dislike, and even reality shows I find boring, but shows that exploit people or promote disharmony are absolutely banned. My children have never watched an episode of The Biggest Loser, for example, despite pleading every season. I don’t mind being Bad Mummy or setting boundaries. I feel that that is part of my job role, too.

As a mother, I have to regularly extend myself for my children’s benefit. The hours in the car are a testament, as is the money I spend on extra-curricular activities. But I am still the parent, and I make the rules, not them. And so if they want to shoot water pistols whilst playing Halo while The Biggest Loser airs in the background, they are going to have to wait till they are grown-ups themselves.

Kerri Sackville is a columnist, social commentator and author. Her latest book, Out There - A Survival Guide for Dating in Midlife, is available now.