Finding Opportunities for Growth for Your Child
Following my own advice from my previous post to reduce stress, I took a couple of weeks off to relax my mind and heart for a week.
I didn’t make many plans, spent my days reading, playing with my daughter, seeing friends and having my favourite Epsom salt baths. I also decided not to kill myself over housework. Let’s just say it shows, but it was totally worth it!
I’m still working on getting to bed earlier, but at least I’m heading in the right direction.
My book of choice to delve into for my week of relaxation was Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers.
What an eye opener. I have spent many days deep in thought, pondering my trajectory in life and that of my children.
The overall theme of this book is success, something which I haven’t really gone out of my way to study but it had good reviews on Amazon so I thought I’d give it a try.
Success has many definitions and components to it, but for this post I wanted to concentrate on opportunities and what exactly is available to our children.
What do you mean by opportunities?
The community we grow up in has such a large bearing on our life opportunities. Those of us who grew up in working class environments or even communities bearing the brunt of poverty often don’t even know what opportunities look like. So let’s break down what the word ‘opportunity’ means according to Cambridge University:
- ‘an occasion (or event) or situation that makes it possible to do something that you want to do, or the possibility of doing something.’
- ‘the chance to get a job.’
That’s a lot of ‘somethings’ but basically it means having something happen that will hopefully lead you to where you want to be.
So when we start to think about our children and helping them to shape their future, one that is possibly happier and more stable than are own, our children need occasions and events to make that a possibility.
Gladwell breaks ‘opportunity’ down into a number of sections, (the 10,000 hour rule being one of them), detailing many individuals rise to super success. One that fascinated me was Bill Gates…
Bill Gates’ Rise
Everyone’s heard of Bill Gates, one of the richest men in the world, the computer programming genius who created Microsoft. The general story I had heard was that it was achieved through sheer hard work, crazy ambition and had a group of really trust worthy friends. Oh and he dropped out of Harvard.
I soon discovered that these factors were just not enough to make him as successful as he is today. He was afforded some very selective opportunities, because on the surface these things seem pretty attainable to a lot of people.
He wasn’t born a billionaire, but he had parents who could afford to send him to private school. And not just any private school, an elite private school (all private schools aren’t created equally) that had access to computer systems that most universities/colleges didn’t have access to!
Two huge advantages by anyones standards. These computer systems consumed him and became his obsession. He spent literally all of his spare time mastering these programmes having discovered a glitch, enabling him to spend more than the allotted one hour slot. It is estimated by the time he dropped out of Harvard, he had spent way over 10,000 hours on programming. He’d been doing it for over seven years, none stop.
But look at all of those opportunities he had been given! To find out about even more things that worked to his advantage I’d recommend you read Outliers as it really is a fascinating read, but most of us don’t have those luxuries, but we can do smaller things to help our children find what they love and are good at. Then reaching that magic number will be that much easier!
So as parents what can we learn from this?
Take a good look at your children’s skills and interests
Allowing our children to explore and see as many activities as possible, allows them to develop hobbies and passions. The more diverse the better. Think of it this way. Developing opportunities for your child in an area that is less popular means they will get more attention.
Encourage them to think outside the box and give things a try with unusual sports such as BMX Biking, Fencing, Hockey or Judo. Or different musical instruments such as the Viola, Bassoon, Baritione or Opera singing? I highly recommend finding a computer course that will teach basic coding skills too (computers aren’t going anywhere)!
I am always falling into the trap of signing my kids up for things and feeling burnt out at the end of it because of the amount of running around I’m doing and the amount of money spent. Only you can judge how much is too much, but it is better to be really good at a few things than okay at lots of things. We want our kids to stand out, but not be overwhelmed.
Regularly look for opportunities
This is probably the most difficult in terms of carving out time, but it could potentially pay off very well in the future. Exposure to new and different crowds at a young age will help your children to feel like they can branch out and try new things with confidence. They won’t be intimidated by new people or different experiences. Some children are naturally shy, so take things slowly with them and maybe only do new things once in a while.
Is there an Art museum nearby, or a new exhibition? Are there tryouts for a new Rugby club forming? Are there any free trials for new clubs that are around, or money off for a theatre experience? Is there are St Johns Ambulance or cadets nearby, who teach discipline and first aid?
I strongly encourage you to look at the variety of things on offer in your area and to take advantage of those opportunities as much as you can. Our children will need to be ambitious, unafraid to do what is necessary to carve out a living and make a great impact on our society. Let us raise resourceful, community leaders. Once your child finds what they like, or love, there will be no stopping them.