What is your passionI am very excited to introduce Angie Dixon, author of The Leonardo Trait: How to Stop Trying to Be “Normal” and Start Being Who You Really Are. This extraordinary Leonardo has wonderful insight on how to engage your kids in… well, just about anything!

As the parent of a 16- and an 18-year-old, I often wonder what super-human parenting skills are involved with kids who are self-motivated to excel at school, sports, and life. While I’m grateful my kids are honest, respectful, and caring I have worried about my daughter, now 16, finding something to get involved in and care about. I mean, of course, besides music, boys and friends, which are all important.

A few years ago my husband, Jim, returned to his old hobby of birding. At first my daughter Sam went along to hang out with her dad, but something snagged her attention. Before long she was learning about birds and asked for a bird guide and binoculars. We gladly got them, with hopes but not expectations.

Birding was the thing for Sam. She gets up early on weekend mornings to go birding, went to ecology camp three years in a row, and is now on the board of the Audubon Society of Central Arkansas.

I don’t think there’s a magic formula to get kids engaged in something. I also don’t think we can make the blanket statement that their generation just “doesn’t engage.”

Kids these days have a lot more options than we did, not only in entertainment and hobbies, but in how and when they spend time with their friends. That doesn’t mean they can’t or won’t get interested in school or a hobby. It does mean they may need more inspiration and encouragement.

Here are three recommendations for engaging your kids beyond their immediate social circle.

  1. Suggestion. I’ll be the first to admit that none of the things I suggested to Sam struck her fancy enough to be permanent hobbies, but because I suggested things she also looked around for ideas. She stayed interested in finding something to spend good time on.
  2. Opportunity. Let your kids try stuff, even if you don’t think they’re going to stick with it. Sam tried didn’t stick with guitar and she’s off-and-on with photography. But after trying birding she’s in love. We let her take choir as an elective and now she wants to join the competition choir next year. Opportunity is key.
  3. Encouragement. I know it can be hard to encourage your child in the tenth hobby in as many months. In terms of money, we let her start with one of our cameras when she tried photography. We bought a new bird book but her dad handed down her first pair of binoculars for birding. Kids need to discover their interests along the way and that’s easier if they know you’re behind them.

Some kids just aren’t going to find something right away, but I’m certain there is something for every kid. The key to helping them find that lies in encouraging and helping, but not pushing.

Learn more about Angie Dixon, take her quiz, and get her free Leonardo Nation creativity toolkit at http://www.LeonardoTrait.com.

Teen image courtesy of StockImages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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