Last week’s post detailed three ideas to help a child discover, develop and actively pursue the tasks that they love to do.

  • Action Item #1 – Ask kids what work they like to do
  • Action Item #2 – Guess and try something
  • Action Item #3 – Ask teachers, coaches, friends and family what they observe 

Action Item #4 – Let children quit

Although we often think otherwise, there is actually great value in failure. Failure allows children to rule out a job they don’t enjoy, freeing them to try something else. Not every child needs to be a violinist.

sewing machine

One preteen girl seemed to enjoy sewing with her grandmother, who was an accomplished seamstress. Whenever her grandmother came to visit from out of town, they worked on projects together.

During the next year, for birthdays and holidays, the grandmother would send sewing supplies and gear as gifts for her granddaughter. However, the mom noticed that the girl didn’t sew when her grandmother wasn’t in town. When the girl opened a sewing machine for Christmas, she observed to her parents, “I think grandma thinks I like sewing more than I do.”

It turns out she enjoyed the togetherness of working on a project with her grandmother, not the sewing as an end in itself.

Action Item #5 – Keep a work/task record for the child

hands-color-637381-s hand art

Every parent I know has folders, boxes or digital files of their child’s school work in storage—pictures, stories, projects, poems, hand prints in tempera paint.

Why not keep a file of the jobs, tasks, hobbies the child tried? We have those pictures, but they aren’t separated from the rest of the family photos.

Be intentional. Write down what they love to do and file it away for the child. It might be strategic in choosing a college major someday because a work record makes it possible to see patterns in their childhood experiences.

Action Item #6 – Use their birthday card or baby journal to record milestones

Birthday card


Start giving a child a birthday card each year as a way to record significant developments. By the age of 18 children have forgotten most of their childhood birthday gifts, but a yearly record of who they are, what jobs they loved to do, what they dreamed about, and what motivated them—this helps them find their purpose and see their real self.

They can reread it in times of adolescent angst or in the tough decision about what to do after high school.

So as the birthday nears, look at pictures, your calendar and in your child’s home file to recall and summarize anything that brought purpose and meaning to their life that year.

Baby journal


Another option is to keep a “baby journal” for a child. Every month or so, pull out the journal and write a paragraph or two about what the child was like at six months old, at 2 years old, at 5 years old.

What were their interests? What did they enjoy? What jobs were they good at? What fun stories can you write down from this season of their life? You’ll be amazed at the continuity of the patterns you’ll see over time.

You’ll also be amazed at how delighted your teenager will be to receive and read such a gift.

Next week: Find and build motivation

Tweetable: Ideas for 2 very special gifts for a teen. Not expensive but something only a few people can give them. Click to Tweet