I have mentioned in previous blogs that curiosity is the driving force of child development. Their keen interest gives them the push to plunge in explorations of the world around them. Childhood is a time to get a taste of the world; to try many different things. Unfortunately, many adults fall into this loop of frantically trying to get their children to settle and to specialise. I do not wish to say that it is a bad thing to settle your children. I agree with children being safe and benefitting from a lifestyle which is not chaotic and offers predictability. This is not what I mean. What I mean is that by investing too much time on one activity inevitably removes the opportunity to try other things. I refer to moments where we force our children to attend formal instruction in sports, music or whatever, until they are excellent at it. This is not settling them in an activity. It is simply driving them for specialisation. It is my view that it does very little to help the child reach individuation. I think that this attitude actually leads children away from the opportunity of becoming complete individuals, due to the fact that they are unable to get a taste of many things. Sometimes, the instruction is so formal and intense that it removes the pleasure of that activity for the child! For instance, my parents had this idea that we had to participate in one sports and learn one instrument. I remember I disliked football and I hated attending piano lessons even more. As a child I remember asking my mother to stop attending as I preferred to accompany my cousin in tennis.

Obviously, being quite an eloquent woman, my mother came up with an exquisite argument why I could not. She told me that in order for me to learn commitment I must first finish what I started. In hindsight, she was probably right. I probably owe my level of commitment to whatever I do to my parents’ teachings.  But the point is that I could not have both. There was no opportunity for me to simply participate in other activities in a much less instructive (formal) environment and in a more playful (informal) way. Today there are more opportunities, although the attitude is still inclined towards specialisations. I am particularly fond of the foundational courses in sports where children can simply play different sports, without having to specialise in anything

Steve Libreri is a social worker and parent coach within Willingness. He offers parent coaching and social work sessions. He can be contacted on steve@willingness.com.mt.