Guiding Our Children to Live a Purposeful Life

By Tina Boljevac, Director of Infant/Toddler Programs

As parents, we hear all the time that the quality of time spent with our children is crucial, sometimes even trumping quantity. There is a lot of scientific research out there that provides reasons as to why this may be the case, but I am going to try to approach it from a different angle.

As adults, it would be safe to say that from time to time, many of us ask ourselves if we had found our true purpose in life. Or perhaps we feel that we have already achieved one purpose, and are now looking for a new calling and a renewed drive to help fuel our daily pursuits. Maybe some of us are lucky enough to have the awareness that what we are doing is truly what we are supposed to be doing. Yet some of us feel lost, wondering if there even is such a thing as a purpose for one’s life.

I believe that each person is born with certain gifts and talents that, if tapped into, drive the individual to invest him/herself in developing those talents and in this way find his/her passions. In this process of pursuing one’s passions, once acts in the society and achieves a certain purpose, since we are all intricately connected. In other words, when you discover your talents and put them to use, it is likely that the act of doing so will be a passionate one. When you find yourself in a passionate pursuit, you inadvertently, at minimum, inspire others; even more likely, you are achieving significant and meaningful results. This whole continuum – from inspiring others to producing tangible results – could be thought of as fulfilling a purpose. Lucky are the ones who recognize that; some people go through their whole lives unaware…searching for that purpose. So we may ask ourselves: is it possible to get a head start and begin to discover one’s gifts and talents early on, so that one’s pursuits in life as one gets older are recognized by the individual as purposeful? I wholeheartedly believe that it is.

What could we do to guide our children to live a purposeful life? We could assure that regardless of the amount of time we spend with them, the time spent is quality time. We can help them discover their innate gifts and talents. But how do we discover what those are, and what should we do to nurture them?

There is tremendous potential in intentional observation of children at play. When we give children the right tools (and by this I mean developmentally appropriate toys, materials and equipment), we spark their curiosity. This natural curiosity motivates them to engage in exploration, which unfailingly leads to discovery. Discovering a connection, a solution to a problem, or a new concept leads to pleasure. The joy and pleasure of discovery results in repetition (of the activity that led to pleasure), which increases children’s skills and competence. Feeling competent boosts children’s confidence and self-esteem, which  perpetuates the natural curiosity and leads to more exploration. So if we pay close attention to the kinds of things and activities our little ones are drawn to, we will not only be better equipped to nurture their natural curiosity and facilitate their learning but will in the process discover our children’s gifts and talents. By encouraging them to develop their talents we will likely help them discover their passions and find their own place in life, their own purpose(s).

This whole essay boils down to a pretty simple idea: in order to be great facilitators of children’s learning and growth, we need to allow children to inspire us – and the most effective way to be inspired is to observe. If we are intentional in our observations, our children will give us all of the inspiration we need to help them reach their potential and lead a purposeful life. And, as far as we (parents and caregivers) are concerned, is there a greater purpose than that?

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