Multipotentialites, What Do You Wish Your Parents had Done Differently?
Photo courtesy of 'woodleywonderworks'.

Multipotentialites, What Do You Wish Your Parents had Done Differently?

Written by Emilie

Topics: Confidence

“I know exactly what I want to do. My parents just aren’t really cool with it…”

One of the teenagers who attended a presentation I gave at a high school last year raised her hand and started with this.

In fact, several of the students at the talk had questions related to pleasing their parents or worrying about their parents’ disapproval.

Clearly this is a big issue. I used to struggle with it myself, and have always wanted my parents to be proud of me (which thankfully they are, but I definitely used to worry about it a lot).

At the same time, I frequently get questions from parents who are amazing multipotentialites themselves and want to know how they can best support and encourage their multipotentialite children.

I think parents of multipotentialites can actively expose their kids to new subjects and ideas. They can get involved with their kids’ interests, share their own projects and passions with their kids and be a good role model. They can maybe even share some biographies of famous multipods like Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Maya Angelou, or historical figures like Leonardo Da Vinci, Ben Franklin and Galileo Galilei to give them a sense that they are not alone.

I think that the worst thing a parent can do is pressure their multipotentialite child to choose one career and commit to it. Instead, they should expose them to as many options as possible (without micromanaging and letting the kid take the lead as much as possible to encourage self-directedness), making it clear that it’s okay to change paths several times and demonstrating that they value exploration, curiosity and creativity.

My parents did quite a bit of this, and I still grew up with lot of anxiety around my multipotentiality. There’s just so much specialist glorification in our society. Kids don’t need to be getting it at home too.

I’m preparing for a presentation that I’ll be giving in Colorado at the end of January. Unlike most of my speaking engagements, where I speak directly to multipotentialites themselves, this talk is for parents. It’s being organized by an organization that works with the school district and it’s going to be an incredible opportunity to connect with 300 parents and potentially have a real impact on the lives of young multipotentialites.

I would love to get your take on this as I put together my talk.

Your Turn

What do parents need to know about raising multipotentialite children, and how can they best support their kids? What do you wish your parents had done differently?

Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below. Thanks!


  1. Beth says:

    The talk sounds like a great opportunity to reach out and connect to parents! I think parents need to realize that the economy their children will graduate into is one in which multiples will thrive. They’re not just encouraging their kids for the sake of it, but that those kids who have a multipod take on work will fare much better than those who don’t.

  2. Christen says:

    I think I was lucky that I had a mom who was able to tune in to my strengths and understand what kind of work would be good for me. She always encouraged me to somehow go into doing research for a writer or something like that. She knew that I would have trouble specializing, but that I loved to research and learn new things and I could find some level of interest in almost any research assignment.

    My problem was taht I had no idea how to make a career out of that, and my parents really couldn’t help. All they knew was the traditional way of going to college, applying for posted jobs, etc.

    • Emilie says:

      Sounds like your mom was really great and supportive. I had the same problem, career-wise with my parents (they’re both academics, so that’s all they know). I’m not sure parents are really the best one to be giving career advice though, since the job market changes so fast. It’s not the same world it was when they were younger. But knowing where to direct your kid or helping them explore options and brainstorming with them might be a good alternative.

  3. The one thing I would change about my upbringing is to have more opportunities for experiential learning, a la David A. Kolb. Some children just don’t “get it” within the book and PowerPoint environment of the classroom, and need hands-on activities immersed in the environment of the activity.

    I relish the hands-on experiences I see children nowadays with 4-H, specifically within the programme Adventures in Science at NIST, for which I develop some activities. Seeing the expressions as the kids see one of their own hairs under a scanning electron microscope is priceless, the click of their mind being turned on to the nano world almost audible with the sound of their jaw dropping.

    Programmes like these existed when I was young, even in the building where my Father worked (not as a scientist), but poor advertising caused he and I to have no guidance toward these, hence my stuttering start in the sciences. I wholeheartedly believe if I was exposed earlier I would be more comfortable within the laboratory environment, and had a much more fulfilling career in research.

    • Emilie says:


      I’m not very familiar with Kolb’s work, so thanks for mentioning it. I’ll add it to my “to research” list!

      That Science program sounds quite amazing. I’m jealous myself.

  4. I think parents should encourage their kids to take their curiosity as far as they possibly can, by that I mean not to be satisfied with what is considered appropriate for their age, but to continue on to becoming an expert at what ever it is they are really into right then.

    Once they have that skill they can apply it to whatever they like later on.

    I noticed that my friends who had got to grade 8 at any instrument while at school were also the ones who were serial multipotentialites and also did things like, run marathons or triathlons, started serveral businesses, campaigned and much more. I always marveled at these people who were able to take their interests so far without any anxiety about it being “too much” they really just enjoyed their lives however full. They also had little anxiety about just stopping something they were no longer interested in and moving on to something else.

    I’m just learning this now!

    • Emilie says:

      Thanks for your thoughts, Aleasha. How do you think parents should balance pushing their kids to keep going with letting their kids change direction? I know that’s something that multipotentialites struggle with all their lives– knowing when to move on and when to stick it out for a bit longer (maybe they just need to get over some resistance/a hump). But I’m curious if you think parents should just push, or let their kids quit an activity and move onto something else at a certain point?

  5. Jenn says:

    The one thing I wish my parents had done differently, which has recently become very clear to me, is I wish they pushed me to play a sport and stick with it. I’ve never played organized sports as a kid, and I think that affects my lack of “stick-to-it” and “teamwork” mentality.

    They supported me in every other way, fostering my multiple interests, but I think encouraging a healthy dose of organized sports would’ve helped where I struggle today.

    • Emilie says:

      Interesting. Another comment about parents pushing more. Is it the pushing part or just the exposing you to new activities part that you would have liked?

  6. Christina says:

    I think it’s fantastic that you’re doing this, congrats! And I literally just got done talking to a friend last night about how I wish my parents would have pushed me to try more activities as a kid-to get involved in as many school clubs as possible! I don’t blame but I feel that it would have been beneficial to learn about my interests as a kid (when you have more time and less responsibilities). I’m only 19 but I still feel pressure now to just CHOOSE so ethnic and focus on it… But my brain gets distracted pretty easily with all the things I wanna do (which sucks for my business; I’ll start working hard for a month then get bored the next…). However I wish parents would encourage your business/professional model of combining all our interests… That way life stays exciting and you’re still making money once you switch to something new!

  7. Em says:

    I love my parents, obviously, but when puberty came in and I hit the journey of discovering myself, they weren’t really helpful. I was probably very difficult as I couldn’t fit and couldn’t even imagine what shall I do with my life. The only thing I knew was that going to university was something I simply can’t do. While all of my schoolmates pretty much knew, since elementary school, what they want to do or at least in which sphere, I never had an idea. That’s why I went to the gymnasium/high school which is not specialized and teaches pretty much about everything, while my friends went to more specialized high schools like business schools, technicaly related etc.

    After graduation, when I was still undecided, they made me feel like there was something wrong with me. There was going to work (but what work? I didn’t know anything about anything and nothing felt even remotely right) and staying there for the rest of my life (’cause of course, that’s what they did and what’s “normal”), or there was going to university and aiming higher – as if having the university studied meant you will definitely have higher income and better life. But what university?? I had no idea what really interests me, apart from things that didn’t seem profitable. I liked writing, I was interested into psychology, philosophy and these things so I applied for Psychology Uni and for Journalistic – both really tough choices where they don’t really give a damn about applicants who are not really decided and know nothing about the toppic, just have a bit of interest in it. So what a surprise, I didn’t get to any of these schools and I was failure again.

    Then I’ve spent few years trying to figure out what I can do, I took some shitty jobs which I probably shouldn’t have taken but then again, what was I supposed to do? The only good thing I ever did was going in UK as an au-pair after graduation. It was to give me time to think because I had no idea what to do that year. I wanted to explore and learn and gain some time as well.

    I could go on and on but just simply: my parents always made me feel like anything I do is wrong and irresponsible and time waste and really riddiculous behaving unless it is taking a job that pays well, or going to university. Living my live, exploring and doing whatever I wanted to do, it all was just mooching to them, not doing what I should do.

    I’m 25 now and I’m still pretty sure that they think the same way. We don’t talk about it anymore and I know they are always like happy when I’m happy. But they make sure to point out I have to be doing something that brings in good money and that secures me for my pension as if it was the only thing that matters in life. But I don’t wanna fucking work for my pension, I don’t give a damn about it! I live now and then and if I spend the whole life searching and working on my little projects that mean to me in the spare time, so be it. Maybe some day something bigger will happen and I’ll no longer be in need of any regular job. Maybe I’ll manage to create a business around my blog, even though I’m not a business person. Ha, that would be something, considering how much time-wasting they consider my blogging.

    It’s just really, really difficult to live your life the way you feel about it when you came from a world of people who are 100% decided that whatever you do is slacking and they make sure to remind you how “funny” and not serious they find your way of living anytime they can.

    I wish for myself to be stronger than that and to not care but they are my mom and dad. Judge me for wishing they were really, really proud of what I do, whatever that is.

    • Em says:

      – oops, I wanted to say “I live now and here”. :)

      • Emilie says:

        Hey Em,

        I hear you. That’s really too bad that your parents weren’t/aren’t more supportive. But you’re not alone. I’ve listened to a lot of interviews with famous entrepreneurs and many of them went through the same thing.

        My parents are pretty good, but when I was starting Puttylike (and for like the first year), they didn’t get it at all.

        I guess that’s why it’s so important to surround yourself with people who do believe in you, your “chosen family” if you will. :)

  8. Sharon Rose says:

    Unschooling with my family and working through my own de-schooling process(es) makes, and has made, a tremendous difference in accepting my own relationship to multi-potency (if you’ll excuse my personal refinement of the term). I still hit pockets of resentment and uncertainty. It would be weird not to have residual affects from so many years of being directed to pick one thing and do it. But there are lots of different tools to work with, and many paths to explore in resolving impasses from the past.

  9. My folks were really great about supporting my intellectual activities, and always made sure I was taking at least one physical class outside of school (gymnastics, dressage, swimming, etc.). But they never talked like work in anything but an intellectual field was a good aim. Physical activities are for hobbies, was the message I got. Go get a good degree and get a good (meaning intellectual — technical, engineering, writing, teaching) job.

    But physical stuff — especially around bookbinding and book repair — is what really makes me feel fulfilled. If I’d gone to one of the few colleges that teach old-school craftsmanship instead of going to get my MA in Communication so I could become a writer, I think I’d be happier now.

    Thankfully my multipotentiality lets me do both my tech writing day job and work on building my bookbinding (and my movie reviewing freelance gig, and studying Aikido, and and and).

    • Emilie says:

      The intellectual vs physical distinction your parents made is interesting. One of the things I’m writing about in my book is getting rid of that distinction between “vocation” and “hobbies” in your mind and how that can give you more freedom to explore and pursue your interests. Glad you managed to find ways of fitting both types of activities into your life!

  10. Livia says:

    I believe the best thing your parents can do is to listen with open minds when their kids talk about any career idea or any thing they are interested in. They could try to find out the “Why” there is this interest. In my experience many parents tend to reply things like “Oh, but you won’t earn enough for a living…” or “Oh, but it is too late for you to start a musical career…” you know. All these things that make your heart go down. If the kids still talkt to their ´parents it is because they value their opinion. The parents should therfore value this and listen with their hearts. They could advise their children as to how to make first steps in the direction they’d like to go. I think support is what is needed – when in many cases you earn some frowns…

  11. Alexis says:

    I was at a friend’s house this weekend in a fairly remote section of the country. Their teenage son set up some paper targets for shooting practice. A family friend’s daughter, who was fresh from ballet class, had never held a rifle before and watched with interest. The teenage son offered to teach all of the children to shoot, but the ballerina hesitated. I told her that she could be a ballerina and learn how to shoot a gun. So she ran off with the other kids, thinking nothing of it. I hope she never does again.

  12. Belinda says:

    When you talk to these parents, I think it’s really important to call attention to the mixed messages that we send and receive every day. Have them participate with things like raising their hands to certain questions like “When you were growing up, did anyone ever ask you what you wanted to be when you grew up?” I would expect everyone would raise their hands, and that they all probably changed their answers to the question a lot when they were younger and less so as they got older. Now ask them how that might have changed if they were instead asked “What do you like to do?” Now don’t you wish THAT was the question grown ups always asked, rather than a pointless question about some job you couldn’t possibly know enough about to know for sure that’s what you wanted to spend your life doing?
    I would also ask the parents how many of them are afraid their kids would not be able to financially take care of themselves once they leave home. I think this fear is where the negativity and controlling behavior come in to play- this is where things like “It’s great to have dreams, but make sure you have something to fall back on” get said and those kinds of phrases can totally kill a child’s motivation. Sure, we mean well when we say it to a kid, and our parents and teachers meant well when they said it to us, but it’s not helpful. You might have them write down all the things similar to that that was said to them throughout their lifetimes- especially the things they know that deflated their excitement and made them back out of things they wanted to do or to try. Tell them to go home and have a discussion with their kids about how those things hurt them or irritated them, etc., and turn it into a “I will not say these things to my child” list that they can post on their fridge.
    Bring up the issue of sexism and gender roles. Might they unconsciously be pushing their kids toward roles in life that they think are gender appropriate? I wasn’t allowed to play drums because it wasn’t “feminine.” I didn’t care about femininity or masculinity when I was in middle school- I just liked things that made noises and I could keep a beat but I was not very good at playing instruments because I was a little tone-deaf so I couldn’t tune an instrument or necessarily tell you what note you were playing unless I looked at your hands. I absolutely loved electronic music, but I mistakenly thought I would have to learn how to read key signatures and sheet music to get anywhere with it. I was so wrong, but had nobody to mentor me or guide me into other ways of doing what I wanted to learn how to do. I still love electronic music and making noises, and now my son plays an instrument and wants to play many more, and even have his own studio setup so he can sing and maybe make podcasts. I think that is so awesome, even though I know he is too young to be putting himself online like that, I definitely don’t want to discourage that imagination and sense of excitement he gets just from thinking about it.
    Now here is the next part I think is important, which is where I think a lot of parents really screw up. They say they want their kids to dream, but they don’t teach them how to do the work to get there. If the kid wants to learn something the parent knows how to teach, then it’s fine. Too many parents leave things up to their kids to deal with, and depending on the child’s environment and access to teachers, mentors, equipment, supplies, etc., they may never get to where they could have been if only parent stepped it up and took some kind of action to help them. I’ll use myself as an example again. After one of my summer jobs I had some money burning a hole in my pocket (because I was never taught to invest money or to save and NOT spend). I had wanted a unicycle since I was in elementary school because some neighborhood boys had them and they just looked so cool riding them around (they also had gocarts which I also wanted and still to this day haven’t gotten one yet). So I find out the local bike shop had one and I could afford it, so my mom took me there and I bought one. But now what? I had never been on one, didn’t know anyone who could ride one, and my parents had no idea what to tell me to do other than find something to hold on to and don’t break any bones if you fall. We didn’t have Google back then and surely the library wasn’t going to have any how-to books on proper unicycle riding. No mentor, no teacher, no encouragement, so no more motivation. What may have been a little impulsive and daring for me to try (I was very shy), and which could have given me gobs of self confidence if I had even sort of learned how to ride it, ended up as another I-told-you-so. I only tried it outside a few times, because I became mortified that one of the neighbors might see me looking like a dork, and trying to ride it in the hall in the house by holding on to the walls didn’t help either. I had no follow-up steps. I had nobody willing to spend the time to help me get there. It was yet another one of those “do it yourself” things that I never had enough tools for to figure out how to actually do it myself. So the unicycle went into the closet along with the electric guitar, synthesizer, and everything else I gave up on because nobody else was interested enough to help me get there. I still experience things like this today, and I’m 43. It can be very difficult to find the people we need to be surrounded with to help us learn the things we need to learn. Yes there is the internet now, and other ways of finding a like-minded community to gain support from, but without face to face mentoring and encouragement (and someone else to teach!), it can be a very lonely and de motivating experience.

    So tell the parents to get out of their comfort zones and be willing to take on one of their child’s dreams WITH their child. Build a robot, go skiing, try rock climbing, travel to another country, learn to play an instrument. It’s NEVER too late to change careers or pick up a new hobby or to learn something new. If your kid sees you doing it, they will incorporate it into themselves and will be more likely to try new things or to take chances and go for new opportunities.
    Take the money out of the equation, take the social status out of the equation, take gender expectations out of the equation. Put engagement in. Put learning in. Put teaching in. Put PURPOSE in. Don’t push a kid (or yourself) to aim for the bucket of water when they are going to have to swim in a pool. They won’t know what part of the pool they may prefer until they swim through the whole thing. Then who knows- they may decide they want to build pools instead of swim in them!

    Help your kid find their way to THEIR ballpark, and do everything you can to help them learn as many aspects of that ballpark experience as they can (positions, coaching, spectator, maintenance, game commentary, etc.), and then let it be them who decides if they want to narrow their focus. Help them learn a fat sack of skills they can put on their fat resumes, not just a couple crummy jobs that paid them but that they learned nothing from. Employment history should not be the same thing as work history or a list of achievements.

    Teach kids how to be their own boss- to be self employed if that is what it will take to get them where they want to be. That’s not easy, and there are many things kids can learn to help them get on that path sooner rather than later. I wish someone had taught me, but I never even knew that might be something I should learn how to do.

    And finally (phew!), I highly recommend some TED talks, and telling the parents to watch as many as they can and encourage their kids to watch them too. One I really recommend is Dan Pink’s talk on Motivation:

    And also encourage everyone to watch Brene Brown’s talks on Shame and Vulnerability. She is freaking awesome and I think should be required for all high schoolers and college kids alike (and of course, all parents).

    Hope this helps! Good luck with your talk.

  13. Ann-Sofi says:

    Julia Cameron just wrote a book about fostering creative children, might give you some ideas? (haven´t read it, but from the article she seems to have good ideas also on this subject)

    Even though I have quite a few things i wish my parents would have done differently, when it comes to my multipotentionality, I think they did a pretty good job. I had access to a lot of material for creative work and could have music lessons, do sport, carry home tons of books from the library etc. Let alone the range of activities was a bit limited in the small place where i grew up, they never had any opinions about my interest. I was allowed to do as many things as i wanted (in midschool that meant I had 1-2 out-of-school activities a day (all different, like going direct from swim training to theater group)and I could change as often as i wanted to. (I just realized, these activities where all for free, if I would have wanted a racing bike one day, then after one week switching to ice hockey they might have had second thoughts…or if it had become a problem for my school work. And I never got a horse or a pottery workshop, which was the two things i most whished for…)

    BUT,as I remember it, just about the only question ANY adult ever would ask, ever since I was 3 or so, was “what do you want to be when you grow up?” And my parents never questioned that in any way. It was clear that it was OK to have many interests and hobbies (my parents have that as well) but in our family and surounding everybody had a “proper job”, and my siblings and I have struggeled even choosing a “path less known” like being an artist OR musician OR…

    So, advice for parents? I think the most important is that they are aware about that it is possible to make a living and be happy and even successful also without choosing ONE speciality.. So they don´t worry too much if their child turns out to be a multipod. Except from that, I think normal sound parenting is the most important: being interested in their children, listening to them, respecting them. Trying to give them a feeling of self worth not depending on how they perform etc.
    And concerning if they switch interests often, they have to find a way to balance the costs. Some families decide that the child have to stick to an activity for one semester, then they can switch. Or that they have to try somethings three times before they buy the equipment. Or, like when my brother wanted to quit playing the saxophone and start with airbrush: he had to sell the sax to get the money for the new equipment.

    • Emilie says:

      Interesting! Having parents actively discuss The Question with their kids, talk about the fact that you can be many things, and just get them thinking critically about it could be really helpful. Thanks for the thoughts!

  14. Emilie, totally with you on this one. I agree that parents should encourage their children to pursue multiple interests, especially if they are multipotentialites. For me, it’s funny, I think my parents kind of influenced me further to become multi-potential- whether I was born with it or not, I don’t know.

    We were never “well-off” we were struggling quite a lot, and yet they still exposed me to tae-kwon-do classes all the way to black belt in high school (which led me to a lifelong love of martial arts), piano lessons since I was 5 (which led me to playing Carnegie Hall when I was 15, and appreciating classical music), math tutors, English tutors, jazz music lessons, Korean language lessons, bible studies, ART school on saturdays…. so all in all, same as you- my parents embraced me having multiple interest!

    AND YET…! I still struggled with it, growing up and in adulthood!

    I think the big irony of it is, parents seem to be OK with little kids being “well-rounded” and even into high school- that these “extra-curricular” activities looked good for college applications and all, but all with the sneaky purpose of getting you into a GOOD COLLEGE with a decent MAJOR! What a contradiction… .you see, after exposing me to all these wonderful things, they were adamant about me pursuing a steady one-course career. Huh?

    Yes, I was confused, but I think my parents were confused too. On one hand, they understand the benefits of well-rounded kids but on the other, they don’t see it as a valid way to spend your “career” or professional life… and they want you to eventually pick one. I think the key here is, they need to be consistent in their upbringing- if they support or contribute to the child’s multi-potentiality when they are young, don’t diminish it when the child is an adult and looking to turn MANY interests into a thriving business.

    • Emilie says:

      Wow, that’s a great point. Thanks Jesicka! I’ll definitely try to impart to the parents just how possible it is to make a living/thrive this way. I’ll use lots of examples and such.

      I’m getting a sense from the comments here that parents mostly end up discouraging their kids out of worry that they won’t be financial self-sufficient. It’s a little ironic, since they might be stifling innovation and major success with that attitude, but it makes sense. There’s a big knowledge gap here.

      Thanks for sharing!

  15. Jimena says:

    My father never quite understands all that is going on with my interests but is endlessly supportive anyway. He might not get me and even jokes about me a bit, but in public (extended family, etc) he will always defend me from criticism and even boast about all the latest things I am doing. I think that is the key: SUPPORT. When my interests have aligned with his, he has always been very helpful in pointing me out to authors and ideas.

    My mother, on the other hand, always encouraged everything I was doing and will be most informed. I think she is a repressed multipotentialite herself, so she would always talk to me about interesting things, we would discover things together and in general she always exposes me to ideas that I might not have encountered myself. She helps me think out of the box.

    Both my parents always encouraged me to educate myself and to be responsible and consistent in whatever I was doing, even if I knew an interest was temporary. They have an amazing work ethic, and teaching me that was very helpful for multipotentiality too. Do whatever you want, but do it well.

  16. Teresa says:

    Realizing one of my biggest gifts/purposes in this world is how much I care for others. Doesn’t seem like much of a “go to college” subject, but I can see now where my interests in event planning, organizing, fundraising, volunteering could have been helped along had my parents not squished my dreams and unique gifts. So, just saying that any ANY ANY ANY talent a child shows is worthwhile. Please parents, please do not kill your child’s dreams.

  17. Andrea says:

    My personal experience growing up with parents raising a Multipotentialite child was difficult during that period, having knowledge of Multipotentialite personalities did not exist. I took a lot of things personally that was not approving by my parents. I do not blame them they had no idea what they were raising. There disproving comments made me become depressed and withdrawn when they were around. Luckily for me my parent were overtime professionals and did not spend a lot of time at home but when they were home they compared me with other people children that was considered “normal” and would say comments like;” why can’t you be more focused like little Kim or get your head out of the clouds and come back to earth”. Once again feeling belittled and betrayed, I felt like no one was on my side.

    Picking one topic is for this article is tough because it all works together, however I feel the best support from parents raising Multipotentialite children should be “List Making”. List making would be one of my top 5 topics. Why….. because, list making is a way for Multipotentialite children to stay on course without feeling odd or displaced and it also helps with organization skills. Having a master list hanging someplace that can be seen every day for the child to edit will help remind them of their dreams and goals in life and add to it. This takes the micromanagement hat off the parent and redirects responsibility back to the child. Seeing things being check off and added on the list gives me a sense of accomplishment and passion to continue moving forward, and helps with anxiety when things don’t work out; I can tweak the list as I go. Parent can stay supportive by helping the Multipotentialite child figure out timelines and organizing projects. I recommend a large poster board flip paper and not a white board; this way it’s easier to revisit past ideas. I also like vision boards but at times vision boards can get out of hand with too many details. The biggest take away from list making is knowing that you have your parents support even if they don’t understand your Multipotentialite personality…… parents can safely fake it until they understand that you’re not weird or a freak. If I had my parent’s approval with my Multipotentialite personality I would be a different person today even if some of my ideas did not work out. I wouldn’t be a reminded of all my failures, now I see my failures as adventures…. Nothing is fool proof.

    I wished my parents would have paid attention to my needs and took the time to listen to my dreams of out of the box thinking instead of comparing me to other children, and constantly trying to find ways to fix me…… I was never broken there was nothing wrong with me.

    On a different note I have two kids of my own at times I feel like I’m raising my parents, with my Multipotentialite personality, sometimes motivating them feels like running with led balloons. I am learning to slow down and be the biggest cheerleader I can be for them. =D

    • Emilie says:

      Oy. I’m sorry your parents weren’t more supportive. It sounds like you’ve learned a lot though and are doing a great job with your kids! Thanks for the white board/list making idea.

  18. Kenda Alexander says:


    If you really want to avoid wounding kids with cultural stereotypes, whether they are specialists or multipotentialites, school them at home. Today with “tracks” and whatever else they call them in our public school system, children are forced to choose earlier and earlier.

    I have a house full of multipotentialites all with varied interests and talents (7 of us in all). Did we somehow hit the MP jackpot? I wonder if more people would find freedom to explore a wider variety of interests and talents if given the opportunity. Perhaps nurture contributes to multipotentialism as much as natural bent? At the very least every person, no matter their age, deserves the opportunity to explore the full range of possibilities in their life. Homeschooling provides a great environment for kids to explore who they can be. I don’t believe people were designed to be cogs in an industrial wheel. We were all meant to live lives of purpose, adventure, and variety whether our natural bent is to specialize or move from interest to interest.

    I’m still discovering how to make a living within the framework of multipotentialism in a world that loves specialists, so I really appreciate Puttylike and the encouragement I find here.


    • Emilie says:

      Hey Kenda,

      I hear you and I think homeschooling is great. It sounds like you have a wonderfully creative and interesting home! Unfortunately the talk is being organized by a school board, so suggesting home schooling as the answer wouldn’t be received too well… However, all of the parents who will be there are obviously interested in this subject and are a bit open-minded. Maybe they can work in a bit of that home unschooling after school or on weekends.

  19. Mientje says:

    I wish my parents had been a bit more strict when it comes to practicing for school or music classes or sports. They were always supportive of my new ideas, but I didn’t really like practicing, which is of course the key to becoming good at something. I think as a parent you should encourage your kids to do what they want, but also be strict and say that if they do something they should do it well and practice every day.

  20. Annie says:

    I have parents, who although they have never heard about multipotentialty or your blog, have always supported me and my changing interests and done all of the things you recomended. In fact my dad is a content multiotnentialite through and through (even though he has never heard the word before) who has started a typical renassisance business. They have helped me a lot through out my life and I will be forever gratefull for wha they have done for me. The main thing they have said to me so far when choosing my education was to do what made me happy, yet still keep my options open. They have always told me that just cause I choose a course that is quite focused on one subject, doesn’t mean I have to do that for life. And that they would surport me with any untraditional extracuricular actives that caught my eye.

    At the same time I was never really at peace with my self untill I discovered that there was a name for what I was. That it was something bigger than myself. Labels get a lot of negative comments, but till i found out that I was introverted and that this was something that was okay, I felt alone and miss understood. Everything that you have mentioned is very important but I believe that just like parents should be able to talk about being homosexual or introverted and give it a name, without telling the child that they fit under that label, is beyond important. All children should know what it means to be a multipotentialite, whether they are or not.

    Thank you for this fantastic and necessary article!

    • Emilie says:

      Hi Annie,

      Thank you for sharing your story. I love what you said about discussing this stuff with your kids and talking about what it means to be a multipotentialite, even if they aren’t one. And also telling them straight up that they can be focused on one thing for now and it doesn’t have to be for life. That’s huge.

  21. Mateus says:

    Thinking about multipotentiality myself, I found it difficult to identify multipotentiality in people. I am quite certain that I am, myself, a multipotentialite. But how can I differ a specialist with lots of different hobbies from a multipotentialite? I think that identifying multipotentiality in others is quite tough. And that may be one of the difficulties of multipods’s parents.

    • Emilie says:

      I would call a specialist with a lots of different hobbies a multipotentialite. They just haven’t monetized all of their passions, but that’s ok. They’re still living a life with a ton of variety.

  22. Jan Koch says:

    My parents don’t understand at all what I’m doing, but thankfully they support me in any possible way.

    I think what should be most important to parents is that their children are happy and that they spend their time well. At least in my family it’s not about following a specific path, but finding a way to be happy and to ensure that the future will work out well.
    My sister quit her first training program and now studies something completely different. I’m quitting my job to start an internet business.

    Thankfully my parents do trust me and my sister enough to support us whatever we do.

    The changes between generations also play a big role in this game in our family. Whereas my mother is somewhat conservative (but still supportive) and wants me to have a “secure” job, my father understood the chances technology brings when we use it wisely. Connecting to people all over the world has never been possible before and now it’s as easy as drinking a glas of water.

    There are lots of changes going on which some parents might not be as aware of as they should be. And which some children use as playgrounds instead of real chance to change their life for the better.

    That’s my thought on this interesting topic :-)

    Best regards,

  23. Zen Dexter says:

    In my perspective, the best thing a parent can do for their child is to always be supportive and curious about what their child is up to – even if they don’t quite understand what is going on, or why the child would want to do this or that, or why their interests tend to change all the time.

    When we get that trust and encouragement from loved ones, it gives us motivation, we feel more comfortable and natural in whatever we attepmt, and it gives us confidence in who we are. Everybody’s happy.

    Without it, it’s much easier to get stuck and give up, that sense of self-doubt inevitably creeps up on us more quickly, and we feel the need to hide ourselves and conceal our nature. It’s a no-win situation.

    So Emilie, good on you for taking on this challenge and jumping onto this opportunity! I think it’s so important for parents everywhere to understand the concept of multipotentiality. When they approach it right, parents of a multipod can work wonders in building up their child’s character, their sense of self-esteem, and ultimately their success.

  24. Jon says:

    I don’t know if you’ll cover racial groups in your talk, Emilie, but this might be something to consider. Because in some groups, honoring cultural prestige is expected and is seen as of higher worth than individual expression.

    In my case, I grew up in a Chinese household (but in England), which is bad enough, all the honor/duty stuff they impose on you out of the womb and expectations that you’ll become a doctor or a lawyer or something with high prestige that families can brag to each other about. You literally couldn’t breathe. As someone who was anti-all-that, I had a hard time (still do).

    I doubt my folks would’ve been open to a “your kid doesn’t have to be a specialist” speech. It would’ve smacked of “typical selfish Westerners”.

    Anyway, race might be an area to think about and be sensitive towards. A blanket talk, aimed at “everyone”, might not register for those in such households.

    • Emilie says:

      I hear you, Jon. It’s a similar point as the “privilege” one. Some people have to do many things simply to survive, forget doing them for fun or to fulfill their potential(s).

      I think I just need to be sensitive to this issue but also speak my truth, because I’ve seen people thrive as multipotentialites, artists and in unconventional careers. If a parent isn’t going to be open to it, there isn’t much I can do beyond sharing my perspective. Also, I have a feeling that the parents that come to a talk called “Supporting Multipotentialites” are going to naturally be more open. It sounds like your parents might not have attended such a talk in the first place.

      • Jon says:

        I think they might’ve come, Emilie, if the talk was phrased to match their outlook. “Multipotentialite” as a word or selling point won’t have worked – it’s too jargon’y. It kinda keeps people out.

        But if the meaning of the word was phrased/tailored in a way that said what it actually was – yeah, I think my parents might’ve come to a talk like that. For example… “understand how to develop your daughter’s many riches”. Or “your son is a treasure chest of many gems. Find out how you can help him.”

        You know.. when in Rome, speak like the Romans do. :)

    • Margaux says:

      Ditto. My mother spent most of my youth trying to get me to say “Doctor” or “Lawyer” whenever someone asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up. I remember arguing with her about it in middle school. Her incentive was, “don’t you want to be able to have a big house and a nice car and hire a cook and maid?” My reply was that even if I became a doctor, I would be poor because I wouldn’t be Chief Of Thoracic Surgery at the largest hospital in the city, but working in the Arctic in a small community, having to travel long distances via 4-wheel drive to get to people in remote places, who would pay me in food and firewood. You can imagine how purple her face would get.

      Over the years, though, my parents have figured out that I’m different and can’t be changed. They realize that my having morals and a strong inner compass is actually not something that should be frowned upon. But with that compass comes a will to seek inward satisfaction through non-capital means rather than outward-facing satisfaction and prestige through capital gains.

      It also helped that both my parents have artistic streaks in them, despite not being fully realised. (I realised my father is a multipod only after he retired 10 years ago, but he’s been suppressing a lot of it.)

      The main problem for my parents was seeing that I was interested in so many things, and actually quite good at everything, but not that interested in being *superior* at anything. I was satisfied being in the top 10-15%. I never tried to be in the top 2%. I think that was frustrating for them. They could see that with minimum effort I could get really good results, so why didn’t I actually put real effort into pushing onto the podium? I just looked lazy to them all the time, lacked discipline, lacked ability to follow a schedule or follow through to the end of something I started.

      One way to tackle that is to talk about people’s natural drives and instincts, such as through taking the Kolbe A test or other metric. But I’m not sure my parents would’ve believed anything like that when I was young. Now, maybe—*maybe*— but certainly not then.

      The more I think about my parents, the less I’m sure what would’ve convinced them that I would be okay if I just went with my instincts. So I’ll agree with Jon that some people are just not going to be convinced that a multipod child can’t be “fixed.”

  25. Doris says:

    I think the most valuable thing parents can do for their multi potential child is not to worry.
    Picking up the feeling, that your parents are afraid that you won’t be able to cope, because you are different can cause a lot of shame and you may easily come to fear yourself, that you’re just not quite good enough.
    Trust on the other hand builds confidence. Even if your parents don’t quite understand, it they’ re just able to say: ” We don’t understand, but we do see, that your talented, and we trust, that you’ll find your way” something radically different happens.

    • Emilie says:

      ”We don’t understand, but we do see, that your talented, and we trust, that you’ll find your way”

      My parents have said almost this exact sentence to me before! Thanks Doris.

Leave a Comment