Passion requires autonomy
Parents who want their children to discover a passion for music, sports, or other hobbies should follow a simple plan: Don’t pressure them.
“Passion comes from a special fit between an activity and a person,” said Geneviève Mageau, a psychology professor at the University of Montreal. “You can’t force that fit; it has to be found.”
In one study, the researchers followed 196 middle-school students as they picked up a musical instrument for the first time. After five months, the psychologists found that one major variable that predicted whether children developed a passion for music was if their parents allowed them the freedom to practice on their own schedule. The passionate kids on average scored 9 percent greater on the autonomy scale than the non-passionate kids, which is a big effect in a psychology study, Mageau said.
“I’m not telling parents to let their kids do whatever they want without limits,” Mageau said. “The most important message is to focus on the child’s interests and not to impose one’s own on them.”
We had a somewhat difficult time finding music teachers for our sons who would honor our desire to not force them to practice. I made it very clear that we wanted them to further develop their love for music and do whatever they wanted to with it, and we did not care about speed or amount of progress. Still, twice we had to replace teachers who pressured the boys or scolded them for not practicing enough.
My younger son only practices piano 5 to 10 minutes a day, but he loves music and writes his own pieces.