"My child isn't interested in ANYTHING!!!" I hear parents complain that their child has no interests fairly often, especially from those with younger children. Hang in there! It's like children learning to ride a bicycle; they use training wheels for so long, that you think they'll never learn to ride on their own. Then suddenly - they're off! If you are in the "training wheels" stage, what can you do when your child doesn't seem interested in anything?
I received this question from a fellow homeschooler...
Hi Lee, What if your 13 year old daughter isn't interested in anything....or so she says. Loves to read but says she's not interested in reading anything "educational". Seems uninterested in most things the last year or two. Help?
It's extremely common for kids that age to have no particular interests. I have talked to quite a few people who have complained about this problem and then they call me the next year to explain that their child suddenly "caught fire!" There are some things you can do that will help.
First, expose your child to a wide variety of different experiences and subjects. Colleges like to see core subjects covered to make sure kids have caught an area of interest, so make sure you have all the usual subjects covered.
Second, look for an area of interest where you least expect it. I often notice kids have an interest, but neither the student or the parent recognizes it as a "passion." Instead, they may label it as "annoying" or "just for fun." We actually made an amusing video depicting how annoying it was to have chess and piano as my children's interests. Here is that video showing a moment when passions became too much for one annoyed mom! Here is an article to help you find areas of interest using your own "annoy-0-meter". Use Your Annoy-O-Meter Skillfully.
Third, think about passion as something you encourage in your children over four years of high school, not as something they START high school with. My husband has written a series of articles called Raising Your Own Superheroes, all about developing interests in children:
Raising Your Own Superheroes: Step One - Observing Passion
Raising Your Own Superheroes: Step Two - Catching Fire
Raising Your Own Superheroes: Step Three - Providing Opportunity
Finally, when you are considering interests, remember to look outside of academics. Some kids don't "love" books, but they love "doing" something, and hat can be a passion, too! So if your daughter loves babysitting, or baseball, or beach combing...one of those things may end up being a passion. Look beyond school work and academics, and at the whole person.
What is your child's interest? Does it seem like your child has no interests right now? Share in the comments!
Please note: This post was originally published in September 2009 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
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Lee, again! THANKS for the great information and encouragement. It gives me hope for my kids who haven't found their passion yet. I will be paying more attention to those things that annoy me!
I couldn't agree more with your assessment.
By the way, I am finding your high school information to be very reassuring and helpful. Thank you!
I know someone who was not given the opportunity to pursue passions - this person's family was dirt poor and lessons in X and Y were beyond their means. This person seems to think that my children should be doing X and/or Y simply because my children have displayed a bit of aptitude for X and Y, and (this person thinks) all children ought to do X and Y. My childrens' passions lie elsewhere - in fact, one of my kids has made it absolutely clear that X and Y are the last things on earth she wishes to pursue. I just can't convince the person that one cannot possibly succeed in X or Y if one's heart isn't in it, and forcing a child to do something that requires a great deal of discipline and hard work will only engender resentment. There are children who take to X and Y like ducks to water, and the world is a better place because of them. The world will be a better place because of my childrens' passions too - whatever they end up doing as adults! I can't imagine forcing any other child to do what my children do naturally, eagerly, and with a great deal of dedication. The vast majority of kids would scream and run away at the very idea of pursuing A and B to the extent that my children do!!!
Oh, and by the way, I was interested in everything. So I earned a degree in television production in order to be able to make TV shows about anything.
To "Mr" Homescholar,
Just read your 3 Raising Superheroes articles - just want to thank you for them because I relate to them so much with my 2 daughters, and because my teen daughters and I share an enjoyment of the Incredibles movie, which I've watched almost as many times as they have. My older daughter, who I just graduated, has several passion-driven areas of excellence; the younger one I haven't been as sure of, but your thoughts on the "annoying" areas are getting me thinking about where to look. Thanks!
Loved it when you said, "Look beyond school work and academics, and at the whole person." Yes, this is so important. Thanks for the reminder, Lee.
Thank you! I agree. Lee's really good at reminding us of what's important.
Assistant to The HomeScholar
I had no interests, and this was never a point of concern got either of my parents. After college, getting married and starting my first post college job, a feat I accomplished in the space of four weeks, I became lost. It's been nine years; I'm now divorced, haven't worked since 2009 and still lack interests. The difference is now I also lack motivation. The fact you notice and are concerned about a disinterested child is a plus, but only if you've always been a consistently available and proactive parent. If not, then you've got to find a stealth way to motivate your kid without them having to actively acknowledge your input because that will cause rebellion. I'd do things more often as a parent; you set the example for your child of what life is, and how to engage in it. Want a more socially responsible kid? Go volunteer. They see that. They ask you why you're doing it. You tell them and they begin to appreciate the point. Don't listen to this bad advice about it being normal for a kid not to have interests. It isn't.
Thank you for your perspective, Lisa. Great advice about setting an example for your children.
My problem seems to be almost the opposite. My oldest has loved history and reading since 4th grade, when we started home schooling. In addition, she has already shown skill with game coding and video editing. We have so much to choose from as she begins high school this fall, I have to be careful she does not become overwhelmed with all she wants to do! My youngest is the one who worries that she does not seem to have found her passion, but I assure her that she needs to give it time (she is only 11) and that she already has an incredible skill set in dealing with people and animals. My "worry" will be to help them channel and focus during the next several years, and of course reassure my youngest that she is right on track for her age!
I can see how those interests can work together for a future career. I think you will gain some peace by knowing how she is progressing each day. I think you will like Lee's article: Have a Morning Meeting
Assistant to The HomeScholar
Help! My daughter really isn't interested in anything .I may just not see it ? It seems whenever I encourage anything she just moves on . For awhile she was interested in forensic science .. We signed her up for a class, no go she hated it ! I had agreed to let her drop out before she would sign up for group so.. We tried having her do the work at home with research and hands on experiments we got the class credits , near the end it was like pulling teeth . but She decided she didn't like forensics anymore ! Too much chemistry
she said ! Before that it was pets especialy dogs ...
She wanted to be a dog trainer . Nope she had a really bad experience with a shelter dog and isn't interested anymore . She is 16 and very negative ..she doesn't like to cook will do no sports ; refuses to take anymore co-op courses. In her spare time she listens to music ( has no intrest in singing or playing an instrument) plays video games and watches anime .. She is into goth fashion at the moment and has told me her goal is to work as a sales person at hot topic in the mall . She likes a fashion design game ... But did not want to go to a highschool class given at a prestigious art school in fashion design .I have offered an at home online class in textiles ( not interested ) I'm almost afraid to encourage this because I fear if I get enthusiastic she will drop it ! And i really don't see were this is going right now
Also my husband is a conservative minister and is not too happy with the goth thing . I am very proud of him for standing up for her in the face of criticism and suporting her being herself ! However the more extreeme or sexy costumes and platform boots are not allowed .
I just wish she liked one class in school ! Or anything !!!
That's a tough one, Claire,
I have four children, and TWO of the FOUR are passionate about what they want to do. Many times, it's because they have many gifts, but they don't really see how they can come together, or how to picture a future using those skills. I think it's a common problem for teens. Lee has written about it in her article: How to Cope with Lack of Motivation in Teens
I hope that helps!
Assistant to The HomeScholar