How To Raise Healthy Multipotentialite Kids
Photo courtesy of woodlywonderworks.

How To Raise Healthy Multipotentialite Kids

Written by Emilie

Topics: Life

Yesterday was Mother’s Day, and so I’ve been reflecting a lot on multipotentiality and motherhood– well, parenthood really.

In the Puttytribe, there’s a group that has formed for multipotentialite parents. It’s a space where the puttypeep can discuss the challenges of raising healthy multipotentialite children, and also find ways of fitting their own interests in with their family responsibilities.

As a parent (which I am not), how do you encourage your child to embrace their multipotentiality? Is there a way to preempt them from feeling stifled and broken by the ubiquitous Question?

How do you teach a child that they can be, not only anything they want to be, but everything?

The Next Generation of Multipotentialites

I’m not going to get into the whole nature vs nurture debate, but my general belief is that most kids are inclined towards exploring many subjects, having endless curiosity, they’re incredibly creative, etc. In other words, most kids start off as little multipotentialites. The key is encouraging them to stay that way as they grow up in the face of tremendous pressure to conform and fit themselves into a box.

Three Ways that You can Support and Encourage Your Multipotentialite Child

Like I said, I’m not yet a parent (unless you count this little one). However, through reflecting on my own upbringing, I’ve found that there are three big things you can do to help your kid embrace their many passions.

1. Expose them to a Wide-Range of Cultural Activities

How’s a kid to know that they enjoy frogs and Fimo, if nobody brings them to the swamp (or at least the library), and shows them how much fun it is to mold stuff out of florescent clay?

As a parent, it’s your responsibility to introduce your kid to some of the brilliance that this world has to offer. I remember apple picking, watercolours, and The Magic Flute. Do you think being exposed to these things shaped me? You betcha.

But it’s more than that. You don’t need to introduce your kid to every idea in human history. Simply exposing them to a few, will teach them something greater– that it’s okay to learn for the sake of learning. You’ll also be showing them that there’s a wide world out there for them to explore.

Once they start to learn about the world through school and from their friends, you won’t need to do much in the way of exposing them to new ideas. Kids are just naturally curious. They’ll come up with new fascinations on their own. At this point, you simply encourage and support those interests (within reason of course).

2. Embrace Your Own Multipotentiality

The absolute best thing you can do for your children, is show them through example, that you are not ashamed of being a multipotentialite. Let them see you having a blast engaging in your various passions, learning, expanding your mind, and being creative.

My mom played the violin when I was little, and that absolutely influenced my decision to pick up the violin myself. My dad played the piano, went to tennis once a week, and competed in Scrabble competitions around the world. While I didn’t pick up any of those specific interests, just seeing both of my parents having fun with their diverse interests, taught me that it’s ok for me to do the same.

3. Invite Your Kid to Participate in Your Projects with You

Introducing your child to your own interests is a great way to both expose them to new activities, and show them that you’re proud of being a multipotentialite.

A friend of mine once told me that growing up, her mom always seemed to enjoy their trips to the museum more than the kids did. Sometimes I think that being a parent is an excuse to do all kinds of fun stuff that would otherwise seem “inappropriate,” like finger painting, jumping on giant inflatable castles, and turning the living room into a giant tent.

So have fun, use your kids as an excuse to explore your own emerging interests, and show them by example, that they never need to feel ashamed for being who they are… All that they are.

Your Turn

Do you have any tips for raising healthy multipotentialite children? Or if you don’t have kids yourself, what were some things that your parents did to help encourage your multipotentiality?

Finally, on this post-Mother’s Day day, I’d just like to say thanks mom (and dad) for helping me become the multipotentialite that I am. Also, thanks to all of you wonderful multipotentialite parents in the Puttylike community. Your kids don’t know how lucky they are!

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If you would like to connect with awesome multipotentialites (parents, or otherwise) on a daily basis, be sure to check out the Puttytribe. We’re opening up the doors again to 50 new Puttypeep on Tuesday May 22.

18 Comments

  1. linda says:

    Varied interests can sometimes throw the usual “supportive parenting” attitude out the window… simply because parents are trying to manage the household on a budget.

    It can become costly to keep up with a multipotentialite kid, who jumps from hobby to hobby. I think it’s important for parents to think about how they can support their kids as they change, without necessarily breaking the bank. Always start small and don’t buy the most expensive option possible – because they might change interests! You don’t want guilt to be the motivation for them to continue doing something. Or perhaps they need to work up to getting the latest gadget… step by step.

    I think it teaches kids both to embrace their passions and explore whatever excites them, but with the lesson that they have to build up to it. You don’t get a pony or the latest, most expensive tools on day one! This probably applies to all of us :)

    • Emilie says:

      You’re absolutely right. I didn’t get into this issue, but it’s something my mom mentioned too. Help your kid explore their interests, but within reason. Balance it with your budget and schedule, opt for free or inexpensive hobbies or activities first, and maybe just one or two new activities at a time.

      When I wanted to play the guitar, my parents didn’t just buy me a fancy guitar. We started by renting a cheap one for a couple months to see if I stuck with it. Also, libraries are great when it comes to free learning.

  2. Excellent post Emilie. As a PuttyParent (lol), I am keen to show my daughter she can do WHATEVER she wants in life, even if/when teachers want her to specialise when she reaches secondary school, I will back her up with her choices. She loves science, and art, reading, and acting. IMO she is highly intelligent. In fact its not just IMO, people who know kids, tell me she is highly intelligent. So I will be doing my best to encourage her and make sure teachers etc. don’t see her as flighty with so many interests, but a well rounded Renaissance girl.
    Hurrah! (punches air)

    • Emilie says:

      Ouu Puttyparent. I like.

      I’m sure your daughter is amazingly enthusiastic and creative in addition to being intelligent! She’s lucky to have you as a mom. Keep being awesome, Catherine. :)

      • Thanks, I’ve got tears in my eyes Emilie. My daughter is so often very poorly, she’s just got over an illness. But mentally she’s strong as anything. I think parenting makes me in a constant state of worry :/

  3. Holli says:

    I agree with the comments already! And, I think the key for me growing up was having the support from my Mom to try anything within reason. As a single mother, she didn’t have a budget to ever let me try learning an instrument, but when it came to crafting or art, I had limitless options to use whatever supplies we had around.

    For my kids being so young (both under 5), I let their interests shift whenever they desire and just let them explore. We’ve only had them take classes at the Community Center level – meaning they are cheaper than say a dance school, and only a 2-3 month commitment. My son decided he didn’t like Karate, and my daughter didn’t like the formality of Ballet – she’s a free style dancer:)

    I’m excited to see what others share on this topic!

    • Emilie says:

      Ah I’m so happy you weighed in on this, Holli. I was hoping you would. (Actually, I’d be happy to publish any guest post you’d like to write on the topic.. Just fyi. :)

      You’re right, there’s a lot that can be done with a small budget. In a way, limitations sometimes force you to be more creative.

      Thanks for sharing. I love hearing about your kids.

  4. Nancy Nunn says:

    As a multipotentialite myself and a parent of multipotentialites, I found the library and thrift stores a huge help in providing what we needed to explore interests without breaking the bank. I always want to encourage them in their interests and we explore our interests, and often each others’ interests as a family. You never know when you’ll find something you like that you never thought about on your own.

    • Emilie says:

      So true, Nancy. I love libraries and thrift stores as an adult. Way more fun to browse. And yeah, you just never know what gem you might find.

  5. Am new here and very excited about finding so much to enlighten my puttyheart. I was raised to find A single profession, A single man, A single hobby, and never adapted to that expectation. Now I see my son grown up from a math specialist in early childhood on to a multipotentialist (MMA professional fighter, piano player, passionate traveler and studying psychology). Always thought he had had a hard time with his single mom dragging him from one adventure to another – took him nearly everywhere I went. But he keeps saying he enjoyed his childhood very much and especially appreciates my multifaceted views on life. Now its my turn to explore my early burried passions!
    Thanks, Emilie, for your tremendous input!

    • Emilie says:

      Oh Jacqueline, what a wonderful story. It’s so nice to hear that kids can influence their parents too. I sometimes forget that. :)

      Have fun embracing your multipotentiality! Better late than never.

  6. Nadira Jamal says:

    “Or if you don’t have kids yourself, what were some things that your parents did to help encourage your multipotentiality?”

    I can think of two things my mom did:

    1) Frequently praised me for being “multi-talented”

    Nothing makes you feel good about having multiple interests like hearing your mom talk about it with approval and admiration.

    2) Sent me to a Montessori school

    One of the core tenets of the Montessori method is that you should let the child’s interests direct their learning.

    We were really lucky to have a public Montessori magnet school in our city (and that I got a spot in the lottery). In a more traditional school, I think I would have been “the bad kid”.

  7. Emilie says:

    Ou great tips! I too flourished in a small alternative school (but hated every conventional school I tried before finding it). I’ve heard wonderful things about the Montessori approach. One person even suggested that I speak at one of those schools. Could happen.. :)

    Thanks for sharing, Nadira.

  8. Cherilyn says:

    Hey, Emilie!
    I really like the fact that you kept the list small. Most advice to parents can be too specific and overwhelming. It’s not like there’s a formula to raising the perfect child.

    One thing I would add is allowing them to have lots of free time. If they aren’t locked in classes of one kind or another all day, they’ll develop their natural curiosity. They’ll also have a better chance become self-referential, which means they’ll look to their own standards rather then their peers or perceived expectations from a teacher or the powers that be.

    Great article!

  9. Don’t Compartmentalize!
    Art is science is math is theater….
    Don’t draw lines for your children across disciplines. Let them experience a healthy crisscross path amongst different interests, skills and techniques. I love how my three year old daughters love of plants, dogs and insects can bleed into art, cooking, dance and music. Children often ventures on these paths naturally by themselves until we as parents sometimes stop them without thinking.

    Don’t teach your children, follow them.
    Have you ever tried to “teach your child how to solve a puzzle? I have. Then I tried sitting back and watching my daughter organically teach herself. I almost killed her puzzle passion by trying to “teach” her to find all the corner pieces first. I strongly believe our role as parents is to get out of the way, yet be there actively on the sidelines ready to step in at a healthy point of frustration.

    How many TED talk speakers, artists, scientists or design genius’s have talked about the influences of their parents who shared their passions and curiosities. A mother who’s bead shop and love of shapes, and texture inspired her son to become an architect.(Thomas Heatherwick)
    A boat builder who inspired his son to build puppets with cane armatures modeled after canoes.(Handspring puppets)
    The list goes on.

    The most riveting ingenuity today comes from this kind of cross pollination that multipotentialites embrace in themselves.

    Don’t let your own preconceived ideas about something deter your child’s passion!
    Face your own fears. As a teacher and parent I think it’s very important to keep our children’s hearts and minds open to everything that they are curious about. Sometimes our own fears and dislikes can color our children’s ideas about whether it’s OK to be interested in something.

    “But it was my mother… you know, when I was a child I always loved animals, little worms and anything. When I was one-and-a-half years old, she came into my room one day and found I’d taken a whole handful of wriggly earth worms to bed with me. And instead of getting mad and saying, “Ugh! Throw these dirty things into the garden,” she said, “Jane, they’ll die.” So we gathered them up and took them back ourselves. ” -Jane Goodall http://www.achievement.org/autodoc/page/goo1int-5

    How many young would-be female scientist have we lost?

  10. As a homeschooling mom, living creatively on a daily basis and play are a big part of our lives. We are constantly exploring new things and making connections. As a multipotentialite, and knowing how hard it can be to focus, I have been teaching her the importance of making those connections in order to funnel all of her talents and skills into projects that can utilize them all. She sees my example and knows that being uniquely her own person like her nonconformist mother is ok.

    My daughter is involved in just about everything I do, my number one collaborator, so if you would like a mother-child column on this topic let me know!

    PS – Incidentally, my daughter and I are both looking into taking violin too.

  11. Christina says:

    Just found this and thought it would be cool to share. Shows a lot about how we learn and what an awesome parent can do for their kids!

    http://www.playwithlife.org/education-is-key-school-not/

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