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Doing Things On Purpose



Doing things “on purpose” is serious stuff.  Children who break things or hurt someone, seem to know that if they didn’t do it on purpose – if it was accidental – the consequences for such actions will be much lighter.  And they usually are.  Webster’s dictionary defines the word purpose as “taking direct aim or intention,” and anything begun in this manner is almost always carried through.  It’s human nature. 

To have purpose sparks determination in ways nothing else can, because it comes directly from the individual and not outside influences.  Yet, it is so natural to human growth and development, that parents often overlook opportunities to utilize it in other areas.  We seem to recognize it “in stages” as opposed to individual qualities.  For instance, a child who shows an amazing amount of determination as a toddler will also possess amazing amounts as a teen.  In fact, he will have the same levels available to him throughout his entire life… although what he chooses to do with it, is another subject. 

Purpose brings with it an incredible amount of “staying power.”  It is an attention holder.  There are many things in the course of a day that can “catch” your attention, but few that manage to hold onto it for very long.  To be involved in something of purpose is one of the few instances in life where the human mind and body can actually set time aside.  Eating and sleeping have been known to take a backseat when the mind is intent on accomplishing something.  What’s more, there are few gratifications in life that are as potent as the accomplishment of something one has purposed to do. 

This being the case, it is rather startling how many of us meander through weeks, months, and even years, without dipping into this wonderful well.  And children are no different.  When you detect irritabilities on the rise and enthusiasms beginning to wane, you’ve got fertile ground for doing things on purpose.  A parent who recognizes this and can provide something “worthwhile” during these situations, is doing much more than maintaining a momentary satisfaction: he is teaching his children how to manufacture their own. 

Yet, how does one know – especially when it comes to children’s activities – which ones are truly worthwhile, or not? The secret lies in what things are worthwhile for your particular child.  That’s because what is engrossing for one, could very well be boring for another.  And sometimes the most mundane for most people, can end up being the catalyst for genius in someone else. Such as Bowditch’s uncommon fascination for numbers at a remarkably early age, Disney’s propensity for dreaming and “doodling” as a young boy, and Motzart’s perfect ear for the musical scale at the age of four. 

Keeping a watchful eye on your child’s responses to the world going on around them, can give you a key to unlocking those special interests, within, that they might not even be aware of, yet, themselves.   Here are some things to look for: 

¨      SIGNS OF INTENSITY.  There’s a difference between a child who is completely “caught up” in an activity, and one who is merely enjoying the participation.  Are they blocking out things that are going on at the same time and giving it their full attention?  Do they have the patience to keep at it longer than most? Do they want to do it over and over? That’s intensity. 

¨      A SPECIAL KNACK.  Are you rather surprised at how fast your child caught onto something, or that they have offered a timely suggestion that no one else thought of?  Do certain activities or thought processes seem to “come easy” to them, when most must work a bit harder to achieve the same level of accomplishment?  These things are often an indication of special abilities that a higher level in the same area would offer a more satisfying challenge for.  

¨      OFFER A VARIETY.  Children are often as surprised as we are when they discover a new talent or enjoyable pastime.  Many times, they are the very last ones to know what they really want, or would like to do.  Giving them opportunity to try many different things, not only gives them a wider selection to choose from, it also helps to eliminate those things that they have no interest in, at all. 

¨      PROVIDE MATERIALS.  There are many children who would progress amazingly far in certain areas, if only they had the appropriate stimulating materials to work with.  Do you have a child that’s uncommonly interested in science?  Don’t just praise them for a job well done at school – provide them with things at home that they can continue to explore with.  Microscopes, telescopes, tiny motors and switches, hold much more fascination for children with inquiring minds than toys that look like, but don’t really do the real thing that they are supposed to. 

¨      ENCOURAGE COMMUNICATION.  Ask them to explain their projects and ideas to you.  Sometimes, it is in trying to explain things to others that make them clearer in our own minds.  It’s the same way with children.  Besides that, the more they talk about things, the more enthusiastic they become, and enthusiasm fuels the fires of purpose. 

¨      DON’T BELITTLE SMALL THINGS.  Did your children just spend the entire afternoon digging a hole for who knows why?  Then before you make comments about “what for” or what a mess they made, take note of the fact at how well they worked together, or the size of what they accom plished.  Think of things one could do with such a hole.  You might even go so far as to allow them to dig all the holes they want… as long as they fill each one back in, again, when they are through. 

¨      CHOOSE PURPOSE FIRST.  If you put a priority on things your child finds purpose in, over pastimes that are more conveniently at hand, neither of you will be sorry.  The length of time they will stay at these things will stretch to longer and longer intervals, cutting down on the length of time YOU have to spend coming up with other things for them to do when they are bored. 

Children who have put their whole effort into accomplishing something – and do it – are not afraid to tackle things in other situations, either.  A child who is allowed to stimulate and develop their mental processes, will carry  their advancements into the classroom setting, as well.  And children that spend more time “on purpose” have an easier time figuring out where to go when they become adults. 

Positively speaking, there’s a lot to be said for doing things on purpose






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