As a parent, you want only the best for your children. You see them as full of talent and potential, and the last thing you want is for them to squander their gifts. It’s exciting when your children show interest in new sports and hobbies, and it’s tempting to jump all-in with them. But your vision of your children’s future may not match what they see for themselves, so knowing how to support them without pushing too hard can be a delicate balancing act. Finding joy in your children’s experiences without taking control is a gift you give to them and yourself.

The Sports Aficionado

For many parents, sports represent a chance to relive their own youth while encouraging healthy exercise and competition in their children. If your children are showing interest in sports, you’ll certainly want to encourage their enthusiasm by signing them up for teams, lessons, and camps, as appropriate. You’ll also share the experience of shopping for equipment like baseball gloves, cleats, rackets, helmets, or whatever the requirements for their chosen sport.

Attending your children’s sporting events is a great way to show support, as long as you don’t make it all about yourself. Everyone has heard stories of parents at children’s games getting into fights with each other, referees, and coaches. These shameful episodes are harmful not only because they set a bad example but also because they also steal joy from children who just wanted to play.

If your children are participating in sports, another tension you’ll experience is between winning and losing. You’ll want to celebrate victories, of course, but also acknowledge the hard work and dedication that goes into a losing effort as well. Focus on praising your children for their sportsmanship and steadily increasing skills rather than their win-loss record.

The Artist

Many children exhibit advanced skills in the arts at an early age, and it can be tempting for parents to imagine they’re raising the next Picasso or Pavarotti. While your child may indeed end up making a living as an artist, keep in mind that all children are naturally creative and inquisitive. Your job as a parent is to provide them with plenty of opportunities to explore visual arts, drama, music, and other creative activities throughout their childhood. Encourage them to experiment and enjoy the process without judging the final product.

If you do find that your child has exceptional talent in the arts, take time to learn how to support artistically gifted students. Tips include connecting them with mentors and exposing them to the work of experts in their chosen field. Showing an appreciation of the beauty of art, even if you yourself don’t have an iota of talent, demonstrates respect for your child.

The Chef-in-Training

If you’re the chief cook and bottle washer in your home, having a child with an interest in cooking and baking can be challenging. On the one hand, it could ease your burden to have someone else shoulder the responsibility of making dinner once in a while. On the other hand, cooking can be messy and potentially dangerous, so the beginning of your child’s culinary journey could end up being more stressful for you.

Depending on your child’s age, you can introduce basic concepts like measuring and mixing, or you can sign up for online classes and curated subscription boxes. Just be prepared to take the occasional failure in stride while you praise each piece-de-resistance.

The Budding Gardener

Many children exhibit a fascination with nature. One great way to foster this interest is through gardening. Playing in the dirt, planting seeds and watching them turn into plants, then transforming those plants into a delicious meal or a beautiful flower arrangement, can be an amazing experience for children. Just remember to suspend any expectations of perfection and simply be present with your child through the experience.

Finding the right balance between encouraging your children and pushing them too hard can be tricky. Provide your children with plenty of opportunities to experiment with different hobbies, support their efforts, and let them choose which path they ultimately take.