Jill of all trades


We all want our children to excel not only at academics but also at various extra curricular activities as well. So much so that as soon as the kids are a little old enough, we enroll them in various classes, Summer Camps, institutes which specialize in imparting special skills to children and the like.

That being said, do we even pause for a moment and think about what the right way of identifying and encouraging our childrens’ talent is.

Every once in a while, my wife and me get around to talking about some of the hobbies that we have developed and how our parents were not particularly enthusiastic about our extra-curricular pursuits. Not to say that they discouraged it, but they didn’t put in any special efforts to try and identify the hobbies that we were good at or did not go the extra mile to encourage us to pursue a hobby to enjoy it completely.

While my wife at least had the luxury of learning the violin and later on learn the basics of Carnatic music, for me it was more of my parents trying to generate an interest in music, which due to the ignorance and innocence of childhood, I completely ignored. They did not push me enough to get exposed to any new hobby or creative pursuit at all and were content to let me be, just playing gully cricket with other boys my age.

Based on our childhood experiences, both my wife and me have decided to let our daughter (who is all of 2 years old now) have an exposure to as many extra-curricular activities as possible at an early age itself. And then, based on her interest levels and relative skills in comparison to her peer group, pursue one or maybe two hobbies seriously. Rather than put her through the grind of enrolling into various summer camps and talent workshops, we would rather that she gets the basic exposure required to figure out what activities she really likes and enjoys doing and then letting her pursue the same.

While, this approach brings with it the risk of her taking up an activity seriously initially, and then gradually losing interest in the same. It also allows her the freedom of being independent at a very young age itself and doing things which she is genuinely interested in rather than something her parents want her to do. After all, we are not anticipating another Saina Nehwal or Shreya Ghosal in the family (although that would be kind of nice, given the amount of adulation, adoration and appreciation that the parents of such superstars get in India, today :D ).

During our walks in the neighborhood during May and June, both my wife and me noticed the proliferation of summer camps which offered training in things as diverse as craft making to sports coaching. And, we also noticed that quite a few kids were enrolled in these and the classes went on for a good part of the day for a substantial portion of the summer vacations of kids. And this phenomenon is among one of the many things that completely turned both of us off of the summer coaching camps.

Per our reasoning, one of the main reasons for so many summer camps cropping up and loads of kids lining up to enroll for the same is due to the fact that most families today are double income families, i.e. both the parents are working and they have no other choice but to enroll their kids in these camps in the summer, so that they don’t trouble their grandparents too much for a large portion of the day. That being said, our personal opinion is that this will end up with the kids being “Jacks of all trades, but master of none” and that is something which is good in the short run, ends up being somewhat detrimental in the long run. Kids are better off pursuing one or maybe two hobbies which they enjoy and take up seriously and excel at, aren’t they?

I would really love to hear other parents’ viewpoints on this topic, as this is something that both my wife and me continuously grapple with almost once every fortnight.


Image courtesy : likethedew.com

6 thoughts on “Jill of all trades

  1. Jairam, I must tell you that our opinions match to a very large extent. I must also tell you that it is true that parents like us (both working) need a safe, better, richer space for the kids to spend time at. I have never enrolled my kids for any summer camps till now. But they end up spending their vacations at home with the domestic help and watch television, read books, do painting or fight with each other. So I believe summer camps, even though just make them Jill of all trades, at least keep them engaged in a productive manner. Phew!!! I wonder if our parents ever thought so much about our hobbies. Ney, they didn’t or rather there weren’t so many options back then. 🙂

    • @Reks, while I am not against the concept of summer camps, the only point that I was trying to make was that it is better that we enroll them in activities in which they are interested in rather than put them in camps which try to teach them everything. It works better if the kids are really interested in the activity rather than being forced to do it, as is the case with many camps today.

      Of course, I don’t advocate mindless television watching any day…

    • @Vishal, yes, parental egos are the main reason that most children are forced to do more than a few stupid things in their childhood

    • @Proactive Indian, such a true comment and that was one of the points that I was trying to drive home through this post. This is a phenomenon that I have mostly noticed in Indian parents, not that I know too many non Indian parents…. Most Indian kids end up living their parents’ dreams and unfulfilled ambitions, don’t they?

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