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Let kids discover their own hobbies

Q: I’m a dad with two preteen sons. I want them to enjoy the same sports and hobbies I do; I think that will keep us close as they grow up. Do you have any advice?

Jim: As parents, I think we all want to see our kids follow in our footsteps. But we have to be careful to not take that idea too far.

Some years back, a study from Canada revealed that parents who want their children to discover a passion for music or sports need to take a hands-off approach. Say you’re a fan of golf. There’s nothing wrong with encouraging your son to take up the sport, but don’t push him into it. I’m sure you’d want him to hit the fairway for the joy of the game. But he might just be doing it out of a sense of obligation -- or the fear of disappointing you.

The Canadian study revealed another danger with forcing your kids to pursue only the hobbies that you think they should. Some kids with high-pressure parents will embrace the hobbies Mom and Dad select for them, but they’ll become obsessed. Their hobby will often consume them. Their entire identity can become wrapped up in being a quarterback or a clarinet player. But when they throw an interception or play a wrong note, their self-esteem plummets.

Certainly, as parents, we need to be persistent about impressing morals and values -- the difference between right and wrong -- on our kids. But when it comes to hobbies, sports and other pastimes, we need to grant them some autonomy. I still want each of my boys to be a chip off the old block, but I remind myself to let (and help) Trent and Troy develop the specific gifts and talents God gave them. It’s not about me.

Q: I know my husband isn’t a mind reader. But after 10 years of marriage, I think he at least ought to know when I have a need. Having to tell him I want to spend time together or I need affection kills the romance. It’s frustrating!

Greg Smalley, Vice President, Family Ministries: Most of us know our spouses can’t read our minds, but we often act like we expect them to anyway. It’s a source of conflict for many couples.

Hey, I get it. It feels good when my wife picks up on my body language and comes alongside me in the way I’d hoped. But that’s not the kind of thing that can sustain a relationship long-term.

Successful couples work hard to learn each other’s needs. But they also understand that marriages are dynamic -- and that husbands and wives are, themselves, constantly changing. That means, at any given moment, your spouse may not be aware of what you’re feeling. And if he does sense you have a need, he may not know exactly how to respond. Expecting your mate to read your mind sets up them -- and your relationship -- for failure.

One of the most enlightening things any of us can do is to occasionally reverse the roles, so to speak. In my case, that’s asking myself: “How would I feel if Erin expected of me what I’m expecting of her right now?”

So tell your spouse when you need their attention, a hug or an opportunity to share your feelings. No one is in a better position to understand -- and communicate -- your needs than you. Mind readers may exist in romance novels and traveling carnivals, but you won’t find one in marriage.

If this continues to be a source of tension in your marriage, I invite you to call our staff counselors at 1-855-771-HELP (4357) or visit

Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.comor at