Your friend rushes to your table and apologizes for being late to your monthly lunch date. “I’m so sorry.” She says. “I just got back from Max’s private cello lesson. He’s headed to Nationals next week.”
“Oh, wow. I didn’t even know he played cello.” You reply. “Isn’t soccer more his thing?”
Your friend nods and laughs in response to your question.
“Yeah, that’s his thing too. And football. Well, and I guess robotics.” Then she pauses to reflect.
“I guess it’s kind of funny to say aloud, but it’s almost like whatever he tries, he excels in. Sort of like, everything is kind of his thing.” Then she goes about ordering her drink.
You slide back in your chair with a smile on your face, but you can’t help but wonder how one kid can be so, so talented. Then your mind flashes to your seemingly ordinary kid who has quit the last three activities they have tried due to lack of talent or interest.
As the rest of your lunch continues, you begin to worry, “What happens if my child is never great at anything? I mean, when is my child going to find their thing?”
That thought lingers in your head for the rest of lunch and into your afternoon.
When is my child going to find their thing?
If we’re honest, I think it’s a question most parents have asked themselves at one time or another. I know I have. And if I’m even more honest, I’ve asked it about my children before they were even old enough to know what sports or a musical instrument was.
Yes, that’s right. I began pondering what their future talent would be before they were even old enough to know what talent was. Because we all assume that our child will be talented at something. And it’s our job to help them find it, right?
So the cycle begins.
We ask them to pick an activity they are interested in and they do. We begin to see their interest growing so we happily invest our time and money in the direction of this new hobby. As we begin to see them improving, we wonder if this is going to be the thing that lands them on the next season of America’s Got Talent or if nothing less, the thing that gets them a full-ride to the college of their dreams? Of course we don’t realize we’ve had these thoughts until we hear our child telling us they’re no longer interested in playing piano. And then we’re crushed.
So we move on to the next activity and the cycle begins again. Except this time we find that they really DO love Karate, but it just so happens that they have absolutely NO natural talent in it. So we invest our time and energy to watch other kids around our child excel while our kid falls over every time they try and do a front kick. But they’re happy. So we continue.
But while we know it really shouldn’t matter if they are good, we can’t help but feel both external and internal pressure that they need to find something they excel at. I mean, “Is being happy enough?” We know the answer should be yes, but this worry isn’t diminished when we see other children rising to the supercharged expectations that come with kids’ extracurricular activities nowadays.
I mean, let’s be honest. Swimming by age 5 no longer stands out, it’s getting a child to know breast stroke, backstroke and butterfly too. Competitive cheerleading is not about a cartwheel or simple cheer routine, it’s about standing back tucks and tumbling before you even know how to read. And music, it’s no longer enough to learn piano and perform a song, but are you dynamic enough to have your own YouTube Channel with 100k followers by the age of 10?
Okay, yes. I may be exaggerating slightly. But sadly, some of these realities are not as farfetched as I would like to believe. And the worst part about this is, when we see the rare kids that are able to rise to this level of ability, we begin to question what is keeping our poor child from doing so also. And then of course, we begin to doubt ourselves as parents too.
But here’s what we have to remember when we find ourselves wondering, “Is my kid just ordinary at everything?”
Most of us are ordinary. And that’s an extraordinary thing.
Most of us reading this were not the ‘United States Chess Champion of 1996.’ Or the ‘Little Miss Cello Prodigy of Bonner Springs Music Festival.’ Or the recipient of a full ride to play football at Alabama in 2000. Or offered the ‘Computer Programming Genius Award’ from Computers of America in blah, blah, blah.
And for those of us who were, most of the time no one can tell the difference in us now. I didn’t know my neighbor got drafted to the minor leagues until I saw him playing baseball with my son. Nor do I know if one of my other friends who is the owner of a mega successful start-up company was the outcast nerd at school that wasn’t good at anything until she blossomed in college.
Personally, I don’t recollect being a superstar at anything when I was young; instead I remember being mildly good at a few things. I guess you could call me ordinary. Because I was the girl that bounced from girl scouts to gymnastics to piano to dance to softball to tennis to track to student council…and my childhood did not leave me feeling unfulfilled or lacking.
Instead, I have the BEST memories of a childhood that lacked undue pressure and was full of happiness and play. Not playing piano every day to be a piano prodigy or playing softball incessantly so I would be a superstar athlete, no I just mean, I remember playing for fun.
And I am grateful my parents let me do so. (And seriously, I am forever grateful my parents let me quit piano because I was T E R R I B L E.) And I don’t think not being good at those things has held me back from being successful in my life now.
So I guess I write all of this to ask you,
“So what happens if your kid isn’t good at anything?
What if your worries are true and they are JUST average or ordinary at many different things?”
I guess my answer for you would be the same as it is for me.
Good for them. And good for you.
Because extraordinary moments are found in the most ordinary of people.
Quinn is a wife, mother, blogger and marriage and family therapist. 99% of her time is spent keeping her four boys alive and the other 1% is spent writing about their crazy times in her blog Sanctification and Spitup which is also found on Facebook and Instagram.
93 thoughts on “Help! My Kid is Not Good at Anything.”
Great post. It caught my attention because I have asked myself the same thing.
That’s very true, we are all different in ways others just can’t see, and we don’t need others recognition to prove how good we are :)
I have two sons. Neither is following in my footsteps, but I see their unique possibilities. Our job as parents is to see, advocate and encourage. Everyone can be great at something, In my opinion, believing in our children’s possibilities and continuing to encourage is good parenting.
These are wise thoughts. Although I remember when at school I was last to be picked onto anyone’s team, and I still remember the humiliation of this, I also know that the same thing happened to another kid long ago…and he was Bobby Moore and captained England to World Cup success in 1966.
I have one child that excels in everything that she tries and another that has tried everything and quit. As long as they are both happy, that is my main concern! Currently they are both in cadets and Love it, so we just encourage that!
Love the post!!!
Since this is published under a religious heading I will dare to claim that after reading the 40-Days of Purpose I found that I don’t have one. Or at least not a specific passion. And I’m just fine with that. But enough about me. I think that the biggest part of the problem is that many parents, like the one you mentioned, are over exuberant about their kids’ accomplishments. Maybe it’s at least partially due to it being a reflection on them. In any case, they just don’t understand that they may be bruising another parent’s feelings. All we can do with our kids is to encourage them, help them to experience a variety of things in life, and teach them to be good people.
You’ve managed to write this one so well. I’m not a mom yet but I know what you mean…I see kids around me these days and the kind of pressure they’re under is crazy. Almost like they’re living the adult life themselves. And more often than not, the parents are the ones who tend to push them. It’s quite sad really. I totally agree with what you’ve written. I think it’s best to just let them be live a childhood with making some great memories :).
“Because extraordinary moments are found in the most ordinary of people. ” – That is a great quote. Reassuring the masses to quit pressuring and hoping your child has a hidden natural talent. We all have strengths but not all of us can have an individual talent. Hard to accept at first, but your post makes is all the more acceptable. Well done
I’ve often wondered the same about my son. He’s been playing football for 2 years and before that, I just knew football would be his thing just from how passionate he was about playing with me when he was younger. Though this year he said he wanted to sit out for the year and focus on karate. The dad in me told him to do whatever his heart desires and that I would be behind him no matter what he did. Though the competitive spirit in me wanted to tell him to tough it out with football and keep going because that’s his thing and he shouldn’t miss an opportunity that may arrive in the near future, lol.
In the end, we all just want our children to be the best that they can be. I mean, that’s certainly what I want for my son as I know that’s what you want for your children as well. We just have to be patient in them finding their way in life that makes them happy, regardless of if it’s a “thing” or not. Thank you for this though-provoking read, you definitely made my morning with this. :-)
Your gifts will find you.
It is funny how you mentioned this. I cannot help you directly as I do not know you son. My son is a self-made perfectionist. He will not try unless he knows he can win. But he forgets that if he does not try how can he learn the game, so he never gives himself a chance to overcome and to learn to win.
I was never passionate about much. I can play soccer, football, cricket, table tennis, basketball. Am i good enough to play for a team and be a champ. Actually no. I can write but i am no novelist, i can count, but no mathematician, I am good with my hands, but not a mechanic. I took me many many years to realise that I was a man of balance. I knew enough to teach, to support, to guide to help start others on their journey.
My Motto “Win or lose does not matter, it’s about giving it your best and being in the game. Challenge yourself to improve, let other wary about themselves and their own challenges”
The star quarterback, the lead point scorer in basketball may be the same guy flunking math, English, and the game is all he has.
If you truly stuck, then just focus on what you enjoy the most. Will or lose does it matter if you truly love what you do.
A really good commentary on parenting that sums up what a lot of us think.
The story of Millia Davenport might be of interest here.
Born in 1895 to Charles and Gertrude Davenport. They were biologists who were really interested in this new “evolution” thing, and what implications it had for upper class people like themselves who came from a long line of prominent people (like themselves). Lawyers, scholars, writers, political figures, etc. So when a young Millia decided to move out of their fine Brooklyn mansion and go live in – *gasp* GREENWICH VILLAGE! – they were none to pleased! Then she started hanging around with THEATER PEOPLE!!!!! OH NO! (“I HAVE NO DAUGHTER!!!”)
Well, Mr. and Mrs. Davenport pretty much cut their ties with Millia.
In hanging around with THEATER PEOPLE, Millia started offering to help with their costuming. She got pretty good at it, and her costumes started getting noticed by the critics. She got good enough so she could actually TURN DOWN an offer from Orson Welles to design the costumes for his film version of _Macbeth_.
She was actually too busy doing research for a book on fashion history. _The Book of Costume_ came out in 1948, and was instantly praised for its comprehensiveness. Not only did Davenport talk about clothing, she put things in their historical context – *why* people wore the things they did.
Accolades continued to pile up. In 1981 Davenport received the highest honor given by the United States Institute for Theatre Technology, for a lifetime of distinguished contribution to the performing arts. The Costume Society of America named one of its highest honors after her.
Not bad for the “black sheep” of the family.
Oh, by the way, her father Charles got some awards, too. From the Nazis for his work on eugenics….
No matter what they do, they gain experience. It’s in those moments that they crate their outlook on life. Adolescence is about trying out the world, and in that if they don’t find their passion then they will gradually shift toward it in the future. In that, it’s important to support what they find they are gravitating towards at that time. And then in that, as they pursue it, they will grow into something extraordinary and immense.
Loved this post, we have all been there. Heck: we are still there!
Great article, very relatable!
Reblogged this on Education: Essays and Articles and commented:
It’s true. Your kid can’t be good at everything. But there’s nothing to worry about. Why?
Even the ordinary children turn out just fine. But it has become so important to help your kid know what they are good at and embrace it. For their own self-confidence.
As a high school teacher, I couldn’t agree more. I see many parents pressuring their kids to excel and participate in excessive extra-curriculars. My husband who sets up Registered Education Savings Plans sees potential clients who refuse to save for their child’s post-secondary education because they actually believe their child who has yet to even put on ice skates is going to be the next Sidney Crosby. Children’s time is more structured than ever, and study after study shows that the best thing for a child’s development is play- free play- using their imaginations- climbing trees, playing make-believe. And as for these parents who brag about their talented children, wait for it. I was always the “ordinary” kid that dropped out of every activity and sport they put me in (with the exception of theatre workshop) and whose grades were average. And by university, I graduated from my Education degree at the top of my class with a leadership award and got a teaching job immediately. The daughter of their friends who bragged about her extraordinary talents also took a teaching degree and had to sub for years, then move to a remote location to get a job. So AMEN!
Let the children play, people!
While reading this, it’s almost i’m crying. While growing up it feels like i need to be good in something .. like, you need to the best and it’s exhausting. Now, i’m all grown up and still searching.
I think that nowadays parents put too much pressure and expectations on kids.
Are we trying to live our lives again through their success?
Loved this! I think Every mom has this issue. As long as they are happy we should be proud of ourselves.
I’m 26 and still searching! So relatable!
I love your candor. If I am to be honest, I have this concern too. My oldest is a pro with video games but I struggle to limit his time because that talent isn’t acceptable to the masses. I’m judged more for the fact that he plays than he’s applauded for being so talented. It really bothers me. I’ve found myself wishing he would use that coordination in other things.
Love it, it’s these types of moments like you have written about that pressure mums to follow societies rules. We are all awesome in our own ways any creative person will tell you their magic happens when they have room to relax with no stress so for me kids are very much the same give kids space to find out what they enjoy and they’ll show you their magic. Good read awesome.
I’m one of those ordinary kids your blog post is talking about, and I myself have jumped on and off a hobby, and it bothered my parents because they feel like It was a wast of time and money, and I have always been average at school and things in general really. I enjoy things until I don’t and I think the one thing ” extraordinary people” have in common is that they either have a strict environment, a natural talent for it or both. But reading a post about this subject makes me feel less guilty for not excelling at anything, because it seems like that is what is rewarded the most, which is understandable. But sometimes It’s nice to know that there are many “average” people out there. I actually have post on my blog that’s kind of familier in theme called “Graduation.” Where I talk about what it’s like from my perspective to graduate when you don’t have that passion or extraordinary skllls at anything. Yet again good post you made.
Our boys are now married – and no they were never cello or chess champions.
Both are very courteous, and bringing up children to respect others.
Neither will be wealthy.
It would be nice of they could each afford their own home, but I’m not sure they’ll manage that.
2017 is so different to 1982 (when I got married).
Hopefully they’ll carry on being good husbands, and parents.
Perhaps that’s all we should want from our kids?
This is an extraordinary article, and every parent should read this, but right now I’m 22 , in college, with little stress on my head, and interest in music, so I feel like I’m in middle of nowhere, trying to work out in all directions, and I’m exhausted, not feeling like doing anything, and it’s starting to bother me
I think a lot of the time we as people think that way. But children don’t have the time when they are young to worry about things like that and why should they? Some blossom later in life than others and might find out then that they are good at something, society now has become a problem where you are so expected of things and its sad. Great post though!
This was fantastic. I’m forever trying to embrace my amateur nature – even if I’m not good at something, at least I love it and at least I’m interested. I have an attention span of three months, and that’s me being generous. But it’s fun to explore many different facets of life, trying on activities and hobbies like clothes and accepting that it won’t be forever, but I’m glad I tried.
I’m kind of stuck between agreeing with you and also believing that as parents we do need to teach our kids how to pursue things even when they are challenging. If you want to be good at something it’s going to take practice and sometimes it’s not fun but it is worth it. I think society is too concerned with making sure kids are always feeling happy.
This is a great post. Very relatable for all parents. I would highly recommend reading “Grit” by Angela Duckworth. She talks about how she makes her kids and her husband do 1 hard thing. Because it is ok if they fail or they have many interests. But unless they try, they will never know what they are passionate about. If they try a lot of things they will fond it. And when they do, you just need to focus on the effort they are putting in. Its not about winning or losing. Its about giving all you got. Life is simple. We are all human. We all have a purpose. Hopefully this makes sense!
My wife and I had a kid in our youth department back in Ohio a long time ago. He was a really sweet and quiet kid. He had two older brothers both about a foot taller than him and he was a sophomore with no interests outside of video games. We needed a bass player in our youth band and we asked him to try it out. Not only did he excel, he was a music major in college, has played in multiple bands, and now leads worship now at a church in Springfield Missouri!
I love everything about this post btw. The photo is a total win and it asks a very thought provoking question. Great work – I’ll be back!
Thank you for this post. Some of the most extraordinary encounters I have had in life have been in the most ordinary settings with people some might call ordinary. It’s worth teaching our children that these settings frequently teach us more about life than any classroom, accomplishment or award.
Totally agree with your thoughts. I believe as long as they are good, kind human beings, they already surpass some people in this world :)
They don’t have to like sports or music or any other activity, as long as a fog appears when you stick a mirror under their noses, it’s all good.
Reading your post and comments pretty well sums up that there is a lot of ordinary people out there and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. If you are content with that, awesome. If you are not content with average lives and experiences, then it is up to the individual to address that. Parents often tie their happiness to their children, but that pressure to excel in something is also tied to their self esteem and unrealized dreams. We all want our children to do better, but in the end, if they are relatively happy and content, you have hit the jackpot already! Great post.
my worry with my ‘ordinary’ child is that watching everyone around him excel is hurting his self confidence and their opinion of him. It’s like he has to have a strength and that cannot be being a good person or being funny and kind or clever. To his peers it has to be music or sport and i feel his self confidence has taken a beating for it. Blames me some since I don’t lay on the pressure!