When your child’s ambition is greater than you ever imagined

Some children tend to be especially driven, passionate, and intense from the start. They seem to have an endless amount of energy and are willing to give 110 percent each time they do what they love. It is a blessing and quite mind-blowing to see them in action, because no matter how young they are, they seem to have unlimited potential to achieve the extraordinary. As a parent, however, you are always walking the fine line between being encouraging and being pushy. Having a child that is so motivated at a young age is a joy — but it also presents some unique challenges.

I know this well because my 8-year-old daughter has discovered a passion for gymnastics that I never thought would be more than a hobby. In less than a year, what I thought was just another after-school activity has taken over weeknights, weekends, and even summer break. Fortunately for her, all the hard work has paid off. She was the top gymnast on her team and even received a special award. This was an accomplishment she achieved all on her own. She’s finally found a way to channel all her energy and perfectionism.

But it’s a constant battle, too. As with any competitive sport, there are good days, and there are horrible days. At my daughter’s first competition, she slipped on the uneven bars and bumped her stomach. She’s such a perfectionist that aside from being in pain, she was angry. I stared helplessly and mouthed to her, “It’s okay.” But to her, it wasn’t. It’s easy to become frustrated and sometimes you wonder (especially as a parent) whether it’s all worth it. Whether it’s worth all the early mornings, the money, the injuries, and the potential heartbreak your child may suffer.

Then you see kids like those featured in our Citizen Kid campaign. My eyes actually filled up with tears when I watched Hailey’s video below. She is only 9 years old and dreams of being an Olympic ice skater. Her trainer (a former Olympic team member herself) says she believes she will get there. And as if commuting for hours every day to train didn’t take up enough of Hailey’s time, she also finds time to help underprivileged children in her community. She wants other kids to love the ice as much as she does, so she’s found a way for people to donate their old ice skates and hockey equipment so other children can use it.

Hailey is doing extraordinary things and learning important lessons every single day. I love how she mentions that everybody falls when they skate but that she just gets up and does it all over again. This is something I repeat to my daughter before every single practice and competition. It’s a great message for both kids and adults to remember.

Are you raising a particularly ambitious child?

Here are my five tips for helping them to channel their passions:

  1. Support your child unconditionally.
  2. Have them focus on trying your best instead of being your best.
  3. Teach your child coping skills, so their perfectionism doesn’t consume them.
  4. Balance things out. Make time for playdates and birthday parties. Don’t let your entire lives be consumed by your child’s passion.
  5. Encourage giving back. It will reward your child in different ways and offer a great sense of purpose.

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