Jill of all trades, master of one
November 4, 2011 7:42 AM   Subscribe

What kind of activities can I put my daughters in that, if pursued to a certain end, have the potential to end up on a resume? Example: “ability to swim” is not something you’d put on a resume. But “Certified Lifeguard” is.

I want each of my daughters to have at least one skill that they can say they mastered. Growing up, I was put into a lot of different activities, but never pursued any to the “end”. There was nothing inherently bad about that, and I’m thankful that I had the chance to experience many different things. As a result, I am a decent swimmer, skier, tennis player, skater and horseback rider. By decent I mean I can participate in all of these activities above the level of a beginner, but I’m not great at any of them. I do wish I had mastered something.

So I want this for my kids. I still plan on putting them in varied activities of course, but I want some of them to provide the potential of an end goal. I can think of a few more examples of this sort of thing:

Martial arts --> black belt
Boy scouts --> Eagle Scout

Can you help me come up with more? Also, if you were a kid who did accomplish something like this, I'd like to hear your perspective. Are you glad you did it? What were the pros and cons?

Lastly, though my parents never put me in any artistic/musical activities, I would like to expose my kids to them, so suggestions along those lines are welcome.

My kids are 7 and 8 and have so far been in swimming, skating and tennis (these are all ongoing, though not all at once).

Note: my motivation for this is not to give my kids a competitive edge and start padding their resumes before they’re 10. It’s to instill confidence in them and teach them the value of working hard to accomplish a goal.
posted by yawper to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (54 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
I'd suggest letting them do what they want, see what they're interested in, and then - only then - start encouraging them to pursue that hobby toward that end of "on a resume." If your daughter loves swimming, then sure, lifeguarding is a thing to pursue. But "go be a lifeguard!" is an awfully stressful goal to pursue if you're not already inclined to go down that path in some respect.
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:52 AM on November 4, 2011 [9 favorites]

This is the way in which I was encouraged to do certain things as a kid -- although on an academic basis and not a personal development one -- and I have to say it is not the greatest idea. Sure, you can become a Certified Lifeguard or Eagle Scout or Black Belt, but unless you realize that the goal isn't the reason to do it, all you've learned is that there's a point at which you can stop doing a thing and you're good. And if you stop lifeguarding or scouting or practicing martial arts once you reach the goal, you've pretty much sentenced yourself to losing the skills you've gained. Yeah, there's a certain amount of development that never goes away, but the actual skills atrophy if they're not practiced past the goal.

This is especially true in music and arts where there's no goal to work toward, especially at that age. Even gallery shows and recitals should be a regular part of the activity, rather than the goal. Anyway, I'm not saying it's not good to have goals, but to enter something in pursuit of that goal makes it a hollow endeavor.
posted by griphus at 7:53 AM on November 4, 2011 [3 favorites]

I think you have to be careful with this idea - it's great to try something but if your kid really expires on it you have to weigh the merits of continuing just for the sake of having done it for a long time. We've generally required our kids to finish a season or a semester or the like but if they tried something and it really didn't resonate for whatever reason we'd move on. As they become a little older than your kids are now you'll have a better sense of what activities really grab them and you'll find more ways to help them pursue them. It also gets harder to explore lots of things by the time they're in high school when activities become far more time consuming and specialized - it's good to explore more things while they're younger.

That said: music lessons, exposure to science activities, art classes and volunteerism are all good. All three of my kids took music lessons for quite a few years. The oldest and youngest no longer play but the middle kid is going to a music school for college so - you never know what will really stick.

My youngest is very interested in astronomy and has been ever since he was about 10. He has multiple telescopes, is planning a research project, went to astronomy camp and plans to major in astronomy (he's a junior in high school). We nurtured this interest by star gazing with him, buying a first telescope, finding related programs in the summer and it certainly helped that my husband is knowledgeable and able to teach him a lot.

Look at your local art center, music center, Y, university or college with kid's programming, scouting, etc. You're in Toronto according to your profile -check out the ROM for kids' classes. Lots of museums offer great programming for kids.
posted by leslies at 7:54 AM on November 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

You're asking two different questions - one is about what activities you can put on a resume, the other is about activities you can master.

It seems to me there are an infinite number of activities one can master, including all the ones you listed (sports, art, music) and many more. Each one of these activities, even the obscure ones, have competitions and awards that can be won, so if achieving some sort of mark of the merit of your work is what you want, you just need to find the right competition/award/outlet to showcase your talent, not the right activity per se. Anything of this nature could be put on a resume and look good. The right activity to focus on mastering is the one that your child enjoys the most.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 7:54 AM on November 4, 2011

Are your daughters even interested in musical activities or would you be making them take classes because it's something you think they should do? I think the better idea would be to expose them to a little of everything and let them choose what they want to pursue, rather than you doing it for them.
posted by crankylex at 7:54 AM on November 4, 2011 [3 favorites]

I'm not sure you can ever say you've mastered the piano, but some of our kids take lessons and part of the lessons is participation in twice-a-year recitals. Our two oldest will probably start entering competitions before too much longer, though the goal for them (in our estimation) is not to become the next Van Cliburns, but rather to receive rigorous feedback from the judges on technique.

In both cases (recitals and competition), there is a goal that directs the practice, as the recital pieces are usually relatively difficult. FWIW, they generally started lessons about the same ages as your kids. The teacher - who is wonderful - lives locally and comes to the house, which is super convenient. The only advice I'd give w/r/t choosing a teacher is to find someone with the same sort of end-goals in mind Their original teacher was very nice, but wasn't principally a pianist and was more interested in Music Fun Time. This works for the little kids, but wasn't really what we were looking for the older ones.
posted by jquinby at 7:55 AM on November 4, 2011

Best answer: Any musical instrument would fall into this category, for sure, since there are all kinds of different curricula that you can follow (here in Canada there's the Royal Conservatory of Music, and you take exams and move onto the next grade). I would highly recommend starting with piano, but I'm biased since that's what I played. But it means learning to read both treble and bass clef, and is really good for coordination. Plus it's a fun, lifelong skill to be able to sit down at a piano and pick up a piece of music and play.
I also think piano is a good basis for learning to play other instruments - I went on to learn flute, violin, and guitar with my base of piano.
posted by sabotagerabbit at 7:55 AM on November 4, 2011

Also, I took Tae Kwan Do as a kid, and here's a story our sensei told us. I don't know if it's true or not but, when he was just starting out, he found a dojo and a sensei and the sensei asked him what he wanted out of training.

"I want to be a black belt."

So the sensei gave him a black belt. Then they trained for months and months. And at a certain point the sensei took his black belt and gave him a white belt. The rank of a beginner.
posted by griphus at 7:56 AM on November 4, 2011 [6 favorites]

What kind of activities can I put my daughters in that, if pursued to a certain end, have the potential to end up on a resume?

The kind that your daughters are most passionate about.

If there's an activity that you have to practically drag them away from it, they'll find a way to find a practical application for it, or make it a marketable thing, themselves. The danger you run into when you try to encourge them to do something "that could go on a resume someday" is: they'll think that the only reason you're encouraging them is because you want them to have a good job. This has a tendancy to suck all the joy out of things if you have especially sensitive and intuitive kids; I loved learning as a kid, and did well in school, but I kept on getting subtle hints that if I did REALLy good in school, maybe I could get a full-ride scholarship somewhere, and that way my parents wouldn't have to pay; that really skewed my perspective about school and grading all through high school, and I had some kind of weird self-imposed pressure on myself that didn't let up until I got into college and could do whatever I wanted.

Let them pick and choose for themselves, and the thing that's most exciting to them will be something that they not only may make marketable, but will be something they also love in its own right. And that's MUCH more important than how it looks on a resume.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:58 AM on November 4, 2011 [8 favorites]

Watchmaking classes can lead to AWCI certification.
posted by reverend cuttle at 8:03 AM on November 4, 2011

Best answer: I'm not going to encourage or discourage you on this idea because you've been given good food for thought above. I just wanted to add what initially popped in my mind after hearing what my college students did in high school (and still do).

Swimming can lead into teaching swimming lessons for kids or lifeguarding (or both).
Soccer playing (or quite a few other sports) can lead to refereeing or coaching "pee wee" versions of the sport.
Martial Arts can lead to teaching younger kids as well (I'm assuming...I know nothing about martial arts!).
Dance/Cheerleading can lead to coaching younger teams and teaching basic classes.

I think that if they find something they are truly passionate about, it will ignite a fire in them to not only excel, but to pass on their knowledge to younger kids and bring out their passion as well. The key is having that passion and the desire to mentor/give back to society in some way. The bonus is that if they really love the activity, they will find a way to make it profitable (in a job sense) or a way to take it to the next level.
posted by MultiFaceted at 8:04 AM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Well, sports can lead to coaching sports. Music can lead to teaching music - ie working your way through the grades and then getting certified. Really anything you do long enough and well enough you can teach or coach.
posted by hepta at 8:04 AM on November 4, 2011

Best answer: What kind of activities can I put my daughters in that, if pursued to a certain end, have the potential to end up on a resume? Example: “ability to swim” is not something you’d put on a resume. But “Certified Lifeguard” is.

Well, you can help them to identify a fundraising mission, and begin doing charitable work that results in or contributes to a foundation that continues it. I think "Recognized by UNICEF as a Global Youth Leader" is something fine to aspire to, but even a small fundraiser can get huge in no time. Continuing it over years and years, with consistency and dedication and evolving skills is the kind of thing any employer would be thrilled to see. In the meantime, much good comes of it for the charity as much as for character development and personal responsibility for the girls.

Every year our daughter has had a lemonade stand for the Canadian Peregrine Foundation, and we "adopt" one, but this year the money's going to be donated to, and we're going to become volunteer drivers for, Toronto Wildlife Rescue on account of a pigeon we found that needed to be humanely euthanized. She had a tour of the facilities, and she wants this to be "her thing", so I'm helping her to work toward some small goals, and as she gets older, she can volunteer there. This past weekend we visited the Humane Society where on a behind-the-scenes she saw other volunteers doing things like kitten handling, washing blankets, etc. and she is thinking about what she can do for them - a blanket drive, etc.
posted by peagood at 8:12 AM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Learning another language - Employers love that.
Also, first aid. They have junior members for St. John Ambulance.
posted by lizbunny at 8:13 AM on November 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for the answers so far. I would like to clarify:

1. In no way would I be encouraging my kids to take up certain activities by telling them about the end goal, or talking about their future resumes! The resume thing was just the easiest way I could think of to explain what I meant by “end point”. I don’t have unlimited resources to put them into tons of activities, so I want some of the things they participate in to have the POTENTIAL for a good sense of accomplishment.
2. The advice some of you are giving (put them in different things, let them choose, they’ll stick with what they like) is exactly the tactic my parents took – and it didn’t work. I didn’t stick with anything. Yes, I didn’t feel pressured, but I also don’t have any particular sense of pride in my abilities. Kids this age don’t always have passion for any particular activities – they don’t know what’s out there.
3. I would never force my kids to stick with activities they hate. This is about exposing them to good activities, and encouraging them to pursue excellence. That’s all.

Please keep the answers coming!
posted by yawper at 8:13 AM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm all for girls particpating in activities that have objective goals rather than subjective ones. Figure skating, gymnastics, compeitive cheerleading--these are all dependent on judges and standards that aren't really verifiable by the particpant.
Target shooting and archery--the target is the judge. You can track your own progress. While team sports are important, I'm very keen on solo sports/activities.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:20 AM on November 4, 2011 [7 favorites]

Best answer: I don't think there's anything wrong with having a goal in mind - you've already said you're not trying to pad their resume early or anything weird, you just want to give them the opportunity to achieve something. Here's my contribution:

Chess: The United States Chess Federation assigns ratings that correspond to ability groups (ie, Class C, Expert, National Master, etc). 7-8 is a perfect age to start playing chess. It will not take much study for your kids to be able to beat almost any non-chess-student they meet. It's a fantastic game, and learning how to play is very worthwhile. It's very deep - but can be enjoyed on many different levels.
posted by machinecraig at 8:22 AM on November 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: You mentioned you ride horses, do your kids have any interest in horses, or agriculture in general? 4-H (is there a Canadian equivalent?) is a great program for kids interested in agricultural science or horses, and can lead to both athletic awards in riding and academic awards in cattle judging, horse judging, hippology, etc. My daughter spent the summer traveling the country competing in horse judging with the state team. For somebody pursuing a career in agriculture, that is resume and college application gold. Not to mention the fun in being 15 and traveling with a group of like minded friends, plus the career potential in horse judging, etc.
posted by COD at 8:24 AM on November 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Programming languages and human languages are very useful things that can be put on a resume without needing a certification. It can be easier for children to learn new languages than older people. In the absence of any information about your kids' aptitudes and desires1, the best thing to do would probably be learning Chinese. And for you to learn it at the same time so you can practice at home.

1 Of course yawper
posted by grouse at 8:24 AM on November 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

You need to read the book Drive. I honestly don't think there's any sort of formal lesson you can enroll you kids in that will externally make them become "masters." The desire for mastery has to come internally from the kid. You could pay all the money in the world to the most expensive instructors and still never create that desire. In fact, there's good evidence (described in Drive) that focusing on external incentives (such as bonuses, certifications, awards) actually reduces creativity and ... drive.

Perhaps you should shift your focus to the skills you think your kids should have for the sake of those skills themselves, rather than the content-free idea of "mastery." For example, maybe you want your kids to be music literate? Then require that they take piano lessons for a few years. Maybe you want them to be handy around the house? Then let them help out on repair projects. Maybe you want them to be outdoorswomen? Then send them to a hardcore summer camp where they'll learn to build fires and canoe.
posted by yarly at 8:24 AM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I did one thing right with my kids and one thing wrong.

What I did right: require them to finish what they started. A class, a season, a whatever. If it was something that cost money up front, or something that someone else was committed to on their behalf (carpools, coaching, etc.), then they had to commit to finishing the paid/committed time. That worked because they didn't feel like they were locked-in just by mentioning a passing fancy.

What I did wrong: turned their interests into tasks. Want to play piano? Here are lessons with an old-school teacher who will make you learn scales, when actually they want to learn at their own pace via youtube (which has some excellent tutorials & step-by-steps for their fave songs). Interested in rocks & crystals & all that stuff? Here's a geology tutor who can teach you about plate tectonics. This did not work because they felt like they were locked-in just by mentioning a passing fancy.
posted by headnsouth at 8:24 AM on November 4, 2011 [4 favorites]

knows a bit about the aptitudes and affinities of her children, so she'll be able to make this decision more intelligently.
posted by grouse at 8:25 AM on November 4, 2011

If there's an activity that you have to practically drag them away from it, they'll find a way to find a practical application for it, or make it a marketable thing, themselves

That's almost exactly what I came in here to say. When I was a kid my parents left me to my own devices and I just naturally gravitated towards drawing and making things. They never really had to try to get me interested in these activities, I just already was. And because I was interested (and probably because my parents never pushed me) I stuck with it all the way until the end of high school and college and got all sorts of good stuff to put on my resume- art scholarship, shows, etc. They never pushed me to do anything- I was always the one begging them to enroll me in a class or get me more supplies or whatever.

Anyway, out of all the activities mentioned I can really only relate to artistic pursuits so my advice is specific to that- tell your kids that if they would like art/ painting/ drawing lessons, you'd be happy to sign them up. And then leave it at that. If they really want to do it, they'll take you up on it. But they might not want to. Part of what I liked about being artsy/crafty was that it was something I did to be entertained in the comfort of my own home. When I see kids these days who GO everywhere to do things or take classes, it just seems exhausting. I liked being at home, where I could draw for ten minutes and then if I got bored and wanted to stop and come back to it later I was free to do so. (This would be a good reason to have a piano around the house too, I always wished we'd had one.) And I also feel like if a parent drags you to do something that you haven't expressed any interest in doing, it just feels like work. (Like my parents putting me in dance class even though I'm pretty sure I never gave them any inclination I was interested in dancing.) But by agreeing to let them do an activity that they told you they want to do, it seems more like you're giving them a gift or privilege and they'll be more excited about it. That's how I felt about my art classes- I knew they were expensive, and I felt like my parents agreeing to them was a lucky break for me. I appreciated them and took them seriously and loved them. I would really just focus on trying to explore your kids interests at home. Bring up the idea of this class or that activity and let them know they can ask you for it if they want. But I really wouldn't force it. I can't remember anything that my parents MADE me do that I ended up liking.

All that aside though, now that I'm a musically untalented adult I totally wish my parents would have gotten a piano and forced me to learn it. Being an adult who knows how to play the piano is always awesome.
posted by GastrocNemesis at 8:26 AM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Ooh and I should mention this. The one thing that I did that I think gave them a picture of what it's like to work hard and succeed at something new?

I went back to school in a completely unrelated field, and I mastered something. They saw me doing homework right across the table from them, and they saw me fall in love with what I was learning. That did more than any lessons I could have tried to impart with them in mind.

So if you "don’t have any particular sense of pride in my abilities" and you want to impart that to them, then learn something, master something, struggle with it and do it anyway. It could be anything. I am buying our house a grownup electronic keyboard for xmas this year because although my son is the one who wants one, I'm going to learn it too. (Re-learn it actually, because I haven't played a piano in 20+ years and I love it.)
posted by headnsouth at 8:29 AM on November 4, 2011 [4 favorites]

When I was a kid my parents left me to my own devices and I just naturally gravitated towards drawing and making things. They never really had to try to get me interested in these activities, I just already was.

Yeah, I think this is so true. Every single meaninful interest I developed as a kid and young adult was almost purely based on my own, naturally developed interests which I luckily had the freedom to explore. I think where my parents could have done more is by supporting and helping guide those interests where they already existed. For example, I loved playing the piano, but I had a hard time finding a teacher I really clicked with. When I got a horrendous new teacher I just quit; I think that if my parents had encouraged me to pursue what I really enjoyed about playing and find a better teacher, then I would have stuck with it.
posted by yarly at 8:31 AM on November 4, 2011

My husband's father showed him how to program a computer (just really simple things he could master as a kid) and he caught the bug, spent his child at computer camps and programming and he is a software engineer today. My parents encouraged my brother to write poems and stories as a kid and he is now a published author many times over. Also, I think it absolutely has to be something your kid really enjoys doing. Forcing it won't lead to success in life. My husband still loves programming and my brother still loves writing, so it really has to be something they work at because they love.
posted by bananafish at 8:38 AM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: What my parents did was have me try a variety of activities, but making clear that they'd expect that to funnel into a long-term sustained interest over time. They also (for varied reasons) made it clear I'd be expected to do some sort of (more or less classical) music through the end of high school, but I had choices about what that looked like.

The things I'd consider are:
- Some activities have natural limits of how far you can go with them without hitting the limits of your personal body, or without devoting basically *all* your time to them.

- Some activities are much more flexible, and can be done by people in varying ways throughout their life.

- We get better at stuff we do more of, generally, but *how* much better varies.

- For the things that have really defined achievements, you have to really like the thing to make it there. There are lots of ways to develop substantial skill in an area, without it being something that's easy to label.

How things worked for me:
I started with a really standard surburban set: grades 1-4, it was swimming, dance (basic ballet and tap), weekly horseback riding lessons (I was totally horse-mad), and a variety of seasonal sports (ice skating, skiing, soccer, softball.) One thing each weekday, mostly. (though riding was on Saturdays, and so was the skiing).

In fourth grade, I started piano and flute (4th grade was when my school system started instrument lessons.) Also church youth choir.

In fifth grade (after years of begging) we figured out a way for me to do much more horse stuff, and I basically dropped everything else but the music for the horseback riding. I wouldn't say I mastered it, but I developed a really solid background in it (C2 level Pony Club and trips to Nationals in three disciplines, solid placings in State shows in 4-H, and a lot of related 4-H stuff.)

What I hit with riding is that my motor skills and coordination were never going to be as good as my intellectual-brain, and there was only so far that was going to take me. (I hit a big wall with the next level of Pony Club ratings - based on a combo of horse management and riding skills, and I just couldn't get my body to that next level while taking challenging courses in high school. Made me miserable for a few months until I finally admitted that that next step probably wasn't sensible for me.)

Music-wise, I dropped classical piano in junior high, picked up bassoon in 10th grade, and played straight through the tail end of college. (I've also kept up with singing, which is a lot more portable and flexible.) I was a music major in college, so it obviously stuck, and music is still an important part of my life. I'm *not* a great performer (I'd get better if I practiced more, but I'm never going to be the person who blows you away), but I'm fascinated by (and good at) theory/composition/structure. I consider myself a strong journeyman, not a master.

I also enjoy swimming (and came close to getting certified as a lifeguard: many people (at least when I took it) failed the first time, and passed the second - my life went in a direction where I didn't make the second attempt because I was doing other things. I now swim by preference for exercise. I'm not fast, but I do consider myself pretty skilled (wide variety of strokes, ability to respond to changes fast, extremely comfortable in the water.)

One of the things I most like about how my parents went about it is that it was designed to be flexible, but with an eye on long-term enjoyment and opening choices, rather than closing them. A couple of years of dance means I can watch it more intelligently now (I also did a little for phys-ed type classes in school). A few years of ice skating means I can do it for fun without starting from scratch. But the things I did for 10, 15, 20, 25 years, I've got really extensive experience in now, and that's pretty awesome.
posted by modernhypatia at 8:40 AM on November 4, 2011

You don't seem seriously interested in the let them gravitate" method but seriously... let them gravitate.

I took piano for 5 years on my parents' insistence. I remember literally none of it. Sit me down in front of a piano and I can't even play chopsticks.

However, despite being a terrible actress, awful singer, and worse dancer my parents continued to pay my membership in a youth theatre company. I loooooved it. I'm not a pro actress now, but by the end of my tenure at the theatre I had, I suppose, mastered youth theatre. I was running the summer camps and helping pick plays and all of that. That experience directly influenced how my life worked out.

I guess what I'm trying to say is this:
a) If a kid doesn't like a thing, she isn't going to learn it, and she isn't going to get a sense of accomplishment from it. No matter what you think she'll gain from it.
b) Nearly every activity (passion) has the potential for a sense of accomplishment and growth.
Your girls will find one that works for them.
posted by AmandaA at 8:42 AM on November 4, 2011 [3 favorites]

To the list of actual activities, I'd add foreign languages. Learning a foreign language opens up whole new worlds of awesome culture, literature, music, and people to be friends with. It's also great for the future, both in terms of employability and in terms of being able to actually interact with the world more meaningfully. Elementary school age is a great time to start learning a foreign language, because kids pick things up more easily than adults do.

That said, I think everyone is very wise about not pushing your kids to do things just as a resume builder and about teaching them to focus on the process rather than on some faraway end point. I know you're rejecting the "gravitate" message because you feel as though you never "finished" anything. I'd urge you to think about whether being a bit of a jack-of-all-trades is just a part of your personality. Knowing a little of everything is a skill too, and I think you're selling yourself short by feeling upset that no one ever made you "finish" a skill. Your kids may take after you and be dabblers. Please, if they're like that, don't ever let anyone make them feel like they're less accomplished than people who pick one activity and obsess over it for years on end.
posted by decathecting at 8:48 AM on November 4, 2011 [3 favorites]

Girl Scouts can earn a Gold Award, which is just as impressive as Eagle Scout, but for some reason (PR, sexism, who knows) is not as well known. Many of the opportunities open to Eagle Scouts go to Gold Award recipients too (college scholarships, advancement in military rank, etc.). Unfortunately, it might not help them as much on resumes since some employers may not have heard about it.

Scouting also helps girls find out what's out there and where their passions lie, so it might be the perfect way to expose your girls to different activities and let them choose what to pursue.
posted by Dojie at 8:52 AM on November 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

The advice some of you are giving (put them in different things, let them choose, they’ll stick with what they like) is exactly the tactic my parents took – and it didn’t work. I didn’t stick with anything.

I think there's a step missing here between 1. "Get interested" and 3. "Profit!" And that step is 2. "Receive parental encouragement and support of your chosen hobby."

None of the activities that my parents exposed me to stuck - music (2 classical instruments + singing), swimming, soccer, honor society, charity involvement all went out the window. But I screwed around on the computer endlessly, so my parents allowed me to build our family computer from scratch when I was 14. Today, I work in IT - probably as a direct result of building that computer, which is the only project that I remember from high school that I really, really cared about and that was really, really successful.

In contrast, I wanted to get into drums in high school, but my parents (who had already tried to get me into music three times) weren't interested in helping with that one. Five years later I finally bought a drum kit, learned to play, and started a band. My sibling chose the "right" instruments and went much farther than me while they were at home, but they never play anymore and I'm the only one who's actually been paid to play an instrument - because I actually enjoyed and cared about playing. Makes me wonder what would have happened if I'd been playing drums since high school. Not that parents have to cater to their children's every whim, but it seems that you want to encourage your kids, and that's an example of missing a chance to encourage.

So I'm going to echo the people who encourage you to pay attention to what your kids like, and give them support in those directions.
posted by Tehhund at 8:53 AM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Girl scouts and boy scouts oviously.

Sports if they like playing them .

if you have boys and are catholics you can have the boys join the squires with the knights of columbus once they turn 12 (i think thats the current age) . There are other organizations that are similiar for different religions if you and your family are religious.

If they like plays theater is another thing.
posted by majortom1981 at 8:59 AM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Hi, certified HR pro here.

What kind of activities can I put my daughters in that, if pursued to a certain end, have the potential to end up on a resume?

I've read all sorts of "hobbies and interests" in resumes. Things ranging from volunteering, to semi-professional sports, to bit parts in an academy ward winning movies.

It doesnt factor into my decision to hire or not. Its interesting, but i wouold much rather hire a marketing manager who has experience with pptx than a marketing manager who doesnt claim to have experience with ppt, and is a former miss california.

Putting in out-of-work interests means nothing to me...except that you didnt have enough relevant tuff to put in your resume.

So don't raise your daughter hoping this will turn out to improve her life...it may not matter at all. Let her do what she finds fun and interesting.
posted by hal_c_on at 9:10 AM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seconding learning another language, this is a great age for it and the benefits are varied and long-lasting. Chinese is obviously in at the moment, but I'd suggest looking towards the big European ones: Spanish, French, German, even (this is what I would do but you'd have to calculate how much risk of your kids resenting you you want to take on) Latin. Your profile says you're in Canada so there will be more immediate connection with the French-speaking parts of your country, with the books they read in school, much of the history they learn. And if they go into university already bilingual it will make it that much easier for them to learn something like Chinese or Persian then.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 9:28 AM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You've gotten a lot of good advice here, but I just wanted to say, as someone who did something to AN end point (classical piano, undergrad and grad degrees in piano, performed at Carnegie Hall) -- though not THE end point (international classical music superstar world domination!!!!) -- it is seriously ALL about the process. Especially doing something on that level. It is entirely about the process. Sitting down and doing it each day, to the exclusion of nearly everything else, for hours and hours. Learning new repertoire, each time feeling like you're not just learning a new piece, but learning how to play the instrument all over again. Honing your craft. Spending hours on voicing one measure. There is no end point, really. There is just the process. You know the saying, "Practice makes perfect"? It's not true. Practice makes practice.

My own kids are musically adept, even kind of talented. But they don't have that same drive that I did, for whatever reason. Their lives don't seem to depend on playing the piano. (Go figure!) And I know that since they're not going down the same road I did -- competitions, conservatory, that professional classical music world -- they don't have the same goals I had when I was their age. So practice, for them, isn't about an end goal of winning a competition or getting into conservatory or being a piano master. It's about the process. It's about learning how to practice. It's about learning how to take something big and break it down into small parts that you can isolate and understand and make sense of and master, and then put back into context and rediscover all over again. It's about learning the kinds of skills that apply not only to being a possibly world-dominating piano superstar (quite limited job opportunities there, actually), but to any task they might have to tackle.

This is what I focus on with them in pretty much everything they do -- whether it's homework or swim team or writing or even just figuring random stuff out. Process is messy stuff. It's not as pretty as final mastery. It doesn't show up on a resume, except as a hidden part of all the other things they do. But I'd wager that a level of comfort with process is a far more useful life skill to have.

So that's my take on things. I have friends who see it differently -- who say, "If only my parents had pushed me / made me take lessons early / forced me to practice more / got me to play sports! I would have been awesome / talented / an expert by now!" Well, maybe, maybe not. I'm one of three kids. We all took piano lessons. We all had the same level of exposure. But I'm the only one who ended up at Carnegie Hall. It's really just the luck of the draw, and whatever crazy combination of drive, talent, and opportunity happens to come together.

(Also, what happens when you reach the end goal, or AN end goal, and then there's nothing else? You hit a wall, you discover that even though you're better at whatever than 99.5% of the other people who do it, there's no way you'll break through that last .5%? And then you've spent, what, 15, 20 years of your life working on something to the exclusion of almost everything else for....nothing? That's the problem with an end goal type situation.)

So for my own kids, I've resisted over-scheduling, over-"lesson"-ing, over-enrolling them in enrichment type activities, and instead have let them try things and find their focus. I understand the importance of dabbling in many things, even as I heartily believe in the importance of focusing closely and deeply on something in particular. Whatever they do, I try to emphasize that even if they don't end up doing it for the rest of their lives, they need to give it a fair shot and engage in the process. Because it's the process that's most important.

Right now, to our collective surprise, they're both turning into kind of serious swimmers. Am I glad they're on the swim team? Yes! Do I secretly hope they'll be Olympic swimmers? Ha, that would be awesome! But what I'm actually more proud of is that every day, for a couple of hours, they get the physical practice and experience of literally getting in over their heads, focusing, and swimming to the other side.
posted by mothershock at 9:29 AM on November 4, 2011 [9 favorites]

Response by poster: Oh boy…I had a feeling I would regret putting the word “resume” in my post. Please understand: this really has nothing to do with putting stuff on a resume. I could care less if they actually put any of their extracurricular activities on their resumes. What I was looking for was activities that have the concept of a goal. Having a goal is not a bad thing! I am not advocating pursuing that goal to the detriment of all else. Often the activity is the goal itself, and I will never restrict my kids from participating in activities they enjoy simply because there’s no concrete “goal”. If they are gravitating towards certain activities, OF COURSE I will support and encourage them in that direction. But right now they aren’t showing any particular passion. Not every kid naturally gravitates towards things. I do see certain talents in my kids, and I am encouraging them. I am simply looking for more suggestions.
posted by yawper at 9:35 AM on November 4, 2011

Best answer: I think maybe you're looking at the question wrong. Every single activity you encourage has the potential to be put on a resume in the way you describe - if your daughters are good enough at it and passionate enough about it. Especially now, when every hobby, no matter how seemingly obscure or pointless, has its own websites you can edit and write for, forums you can found or moderate, and tournaments and Cons you can compete in, present at, and help run.

Building a resume with side activities won't necessarily help someone get a job, even if they achieve (let's say) black belt status in it. But showing leadership and initiative skills often can. So long as you're teaching them to invest themselves fully in the things they like, and not to sell themselves short when they see an opportunity, you're on the right track.
posted by Mchelly at 9:38 AM on November 4, 2011

Response by poster: Oh, didn't preview. Mothershock's and moderhypatia's comments both resonate with me, and best illustrate what I'm hoping for. This in particular: But what I'm actually more proud of is that every day, for a couple of hours, they get the physical practice and experience of literally getting in over their heads, focusing, and swimming to the other side.
posted by yawper at 9:40 AM on November 4, 2011

Best answer: RE: a goal -- setting goals is a good idea, even in small instances, like having a daily practice goal (saying "my goal today is to practice for 15 minutes / to work on that one place I keep messing up / whatever"). Otherwise it can feel like a pointless exercise.

Something I did re: piano last year was set a practice goal -- mostly because they weren't practicing at all. So, we had "Piano Challenge." The goal was to practice every single day -- no exceptions! -- between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It didn't have to be for a million hours, it just had to be every day. The end goal was: a little "recital" of the pieces they practiced, performed on Christmas for my in-laws. The bonus prize for completion: cold hard cash. Added difficulty: if anyone skipped a day of practice, they'd still have to play their piece, but they'd lose out on the cash prize. Added extra stakes: I would have to participate, too (that made it more fun for them).

So, they made up elaborate practice calendars for all of us. They were on each other's cases about making sure they got their minimum practice time in. They hounded me to make sure I practiced, too. They complained about having to listen to me play "too loud songs." They complained about having to listen to each other. BUT they got to hear how I practiced -- how I worked, how I went through my own process -- and how each other practiced. AND they got the satisfaction of working towards a sizable but attainable goal, in small bites.

In the end, everyone practiced, everyone performed and everyone got some cash. Except me. I had to pay out. I guess I didn't really think that through...

Anyway, the fact is that our little "Piano Challenge" didn't turn them into people who practice piano every day. It was more of an exercise about following through. And that's okay, because when they're dreading some big project for school or whatever, I remind them of how they worked through "Piano Challenge," and how even if there's not a performance and xmas money at the end of whatever the particular issue they're tackling, they can still work through it the same way: little by little, one day at a time.
posted by mothershock at 9:51 AM on November 4, 2011 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I've read all sorts of "hobbies and interests" in resumes. Things ranging from volunteering, to semi-professional sports, to bit parts in an academy ward winning movies. It doesnt factor into my decision to hire or not. Its interesting, but i wouold much rather hire a marketing manager who has experience with pptx than a marketing manager who doesnt claim to have experience with ppt, and is a former miss california. Putting in out-of-work interests means nothing to me...except that you didnt have enough relevant tuff to put in your resume.

1 in 5 hiring managers has made a hiring decision based on volunteer activities listed on a resume. I would bet a much greater percentage have had it influence their hiring decision.

As someone who has made hiring decisions, I have made offers to people based on their outside involvements. As a former college admissions volunteer, I can tell you it absolutely makes a huge difference in the college application process.

What matters is creating a direct relationship between the skills learned in the activities, and the skills necessary in whatever you are trying to accomplish, academically or professionally. Underwater basket weaving might not do much for you, but being an Eagle Scout might. You can also look to activities that don't reward you directly, but that give you experience that you can apply in other settings (volunteer experience that could be applied toward a PMP certification, for instance). So, if you're going down this path, think in terms of both direct and indirect application.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 9:58 AM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I was a kid who enjoyed goal-based things, like the merit badge system in Guides, and the idea of finishing something to the point where you've got a portfolio piece* to show for it was something my parents encouraged. So, I got certification in computer skills and did ballet and music exams, and competed in athletics and did extracurricular languages, and I'm the same kind of adult. (I also fucked up a lot of things or didn't excel, and that was allowed to be ok too.) My parents are also the same, constantly engaged in learning new things that interest them despite the family background not being university or liberal arts sort of stuff (any higher qualifications were job-related), and the idea of lifelong learning seems normal and fun to me as a result.

As an esoteric data point, I got a job in architecture at one point in large part because I'd skills in bookbinding and zine publishing, hobbies I'd output from but nothing I'd normally even list on a resume or develop with a career benefit in mind.

It's hard to finish things off to a presentable standard and to actively engage in making and learning instead of just watching/idolising. So, opportunities to try as many things as you can manage (from French lessons to visiting cultural centre open days to basketweaving workshops), and then spotting when they're passionate and facilitating that - bringing them to tennis competitions or helping them to make a zine of photos of their friends skating or to publish little stories, etc, to present to the world.

The difference between achieving mastery and just doing something (which you can still put on a resume, though I get your point!) is the bit where you keep doing it, and their enthusiasm and choices are the secret to that, especially transitioning into teenage years when rejecting YOUR choices may be an issue. Whatever else you do, I'd lead by example, and they'll understand.

* slightly expanded resume equivalent, and I mean it as broadly as you do.
posted by carbide at 10:17 AM on November 4, 2011

I would love love to have learned Spanish as a child, to be bilingual. My friends who are bilingual -- it opens worlds.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 10:22 AM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I agree most strongly with mothershock here. Process is the point, and I wish I'd understood this a long time ago. Also, a very useful skill to learn is how to take an activity you like doing, and turn it into something marketable and useful.

My own childhood was a blur of classes and lessons, and I honestly don't think that was the best way to go about it. I did violin for seven years, but haven't touched one in more than that many years now. I swam competitively for ten years, but I quit after winning a few medals and never looked back (that's on my resume, as is the fact that I was on my college tennis team, but I don't have any sense of accomplishment looking back at that). I always felt forced to practice, and I was a good kid, so I went along with it, but eventually I rebelled.

The thing that I stuck with strangely enough (or perhaps not), was something that my parents mostly discouraged -- cooking! My mother was interested in raising me in a gender-neutral way, so she made a conscious decision to not make me learn to cook and clean like she'd been taught to. We had a maid and a cook, so there was no reason for me to do any of this stuff. Yet I hung out in the kitchen all the time, experimented and failed over and over again -- there was the time I made a gigantic amount of stock by slowly simmering it for 12 hours, then managed to spill the entire mess on the floor :( Yet, I kept with it, and I can say that that's why I'm a very confident cook now -- I know it's ok if I make a mistake, I know how to salvage things, I've developed a real skill. So I guess, you have to let your daughters know that it's ok to fail. Help them find something they like to do, even if they're not very good at it, and let them do it over and over until they experience the joy that comes out of going from not very good at something to really good at something. Almost anything can be followed to a point where it can be put on a resume nowadays -- it might be interesting to see what they come up with! Encourage them to be entrepreneurial and independent. It's a fine line.
posted by peacheater at 10:27 AM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

And I've just realized you're in Canada, so my recommendation is Girl Guides rather than Girl Scouts. It's still a great way for them to discover and develop their interests and I know there are many many opportunities for achieving goals and accomplishments, but I know nothing about the highest awards for Guides and whether they are comparable to Eagle Scout or Girl Scout Gold Award. So, sorry about that.
posted by Dojie at 10:49 AM on November 4, 2011

2. The advice some of you are giving (put them in different things, let them choose, they’ll stick with what they like) is exactly the tactic my parents took – and it didn’t work.

It didn't work FOR YOU. But this technique works just fine for many people. Your kids know how to swim and play tennis and skate. Would they be interested in martial arts? Pottery? Yoga? If they don't know something is an option for them, how would they know to express interest in it?

My mother wanted me to play the piano. I did not. I wanted a drum set. She did not. End result, there is no one on this planet with less musical skill than me.

You're weirdly hung up on this idea of "mastering" something, when just knowing how to swim probably feels like mastery to your kids.
posted by crankylex at 10:51 AM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

What's stopping you from pursuing something along the lines you've mentioned, to mastery, now, for yourself?

If now, as an adult, you can't even make yourself do it, what makes you think you can make someone else do it?

The best way to teach kids seems to be by example. So get on it.

Alternately, if you think you're good enough as is, have trust that letting them follow their own natures will also let them turn out good enough.

If you think you/your life is not goo enough, the place to start fixing it is a bit closer to home than you're aiming.

I'm sorry if this sounds harsher than I would like it to. But if you're kids are happy, learning, growing, open, I think it's pretty harsh of you to say that what they/you are doing "isn't working."
posted by Salamandrous at 11:56 AM on November 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Basically my mothered followed much of the above advice about just allowing "what I had a passion for " and I ended up in your position. There was one exception though, Girl Scouts. Extremely different than boy scouts in ideology, the Girl Guides and Scouts around the world is probably accepted and renown feminist organization. More than anything it allowed me to take on leadership roles, land my first job and to try anything I wanted ( badges) which all still led to a final goal. They have the rep of only being about cookies, but really the things I learned were building a fire, safetly handling knives, being a leader, math and being a salesman in addition to the arts and crafts. Yeah, let them follow what they love but if they're anything like me they might not even realize it until years later.
posted by raccoon409 at 12:09 PM on November 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

Mothershock's and moderhypatia's comments both resonate with me, and best illustrate what I'm hoping for. This in particular: "But what I'm actually more proud of is that every day, for a couple of hours, they get the physical practice and experience of literally getting in over their heads, focusing, and swimming to the other side."


It sounds more like you want to foster a quality in them, actually, than a given goal. That is: you want them to learn how to keep working at something.

If that's the case, I think trying to pick a goal for them to work towards may be kind of beside the point -- because what you're trying to instill in them is a quality. And that quality can be applied to literally anything. A lot of educators are now talking about the importance of parents praising effort rather than result for the same reason -- you know, rather than praising them for "wow, you got an A!" or "wow, you played that piece so great!" or whatever, praise them for, "wow, I'm really impressed that you didn't give up and you kept working on that report!" or "wow, it's really great that you just made up your mind to keep working until you did a backflip -- and now you can!"

So maybe that's the way to think of it. Let them do the activities they want to do, but encourage them to keep working at the things they choose, and not to give up RIGHT away. There are times when walking away really is the best thing, of course; but what it is they're working towards isn't quite the same as ensuring they learn how to keep working AT it, and that's a method and a quality you can encourage them with, no matter what the goal actually is.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:26 PM on November 4, 2011

Best answer: Ha - I love this whole thread!

To directly answer the question, I would say being a part of an activity is not nearly so incredible as being a leader in that activity. Anyone with good grades can be a member of the NHS. Only a couple students can be leaders, event organizers, etc.
Boy Scouts is a great example of this, because the scouts themselves run the meetings (with adult guidance) and take on roles. It's a head start on leadership skills.

To enter into the debate, there's a lot to be said for doing ANYTHING for an extended period of time with the goal of mastery. With it comes character traits like Discipline, Grit, Self-confidence, Tolerance for Delayed Gratification - the markers of a successful adult that trump talent.
As both the author of Tiger Mom and my Asian roommate would say, the difference between western culture and eastern culture is the east's push to work hard. You don't have to like, for example, playing the piano. That's not the point. The point is to become good at a skill with patience, discipline, and intention. The follow-your-dreams mentality and the idea that one day it will all come together is sort of an illusion. It also turns out that people rather follow easy dreams, hence the dearth of STEM degrees given to Americans.
posted by jander03 at 12:35 PM on November 4, 2011

Best answer: Seems like people are being overly harsh here. I totally understand what you're getting at, and I think it makes lots of sense.

I think dog training is a fantastic activity with real world applications. If a child sets his or her sights on winning a show (agility, obedience or confirmation) they learn about perseverance and positive reinforcement in a way that can be internalized and make a lifelong impact on both human/animal and human/human relationships.

My mom encouraged us to enter the county fair in random weird categories when we were little. We'd get the catalog and leaf through looking for something that was totally foreign to us and do our best to figure out a new skill. I look back at that with tremendous fondness.
posted by Nickel Pickle at 1:02 PM on November 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

1 in 5 hiring managers has made a hiring decision based on volunteer activities listed on a resume. I would bet a much greater percentage have had it influence their hiring decision.

This means that 80% of hiring managers have not made a hiring decision based on volunteer activities. Nothing more.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:54 PM on November 4, 2011

it's not a bad thing to ask your kids to commit to a goal and see it through. That will be satisfying and teach crucial life skills.

I agree -- this is actually what I was trying to say. But it sounded like the OP was asking for suggestions about a goal to pick FOR them as well, and that's what I think raised a few eyebrows. A sort of compromise approach -- let them look for the goal, so long as they agree to stick to it -- may be a better approach.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:47 PM on November 4, 2011

Best answer: nthing some form of scouting or guiding. It's not what it was perhaps, but it still is an excellent format for lifelong learning and participation. It's the original gameification/achievement-based learning system. Your kids can dabble or go in depth into a billion subjects, all within a consistent framework and somewhat consistent peer-group. For gods sakes, there's an "administrator merit badge" for people who find personal banking exciting and a street-sport merit badge. Don't be afraid to shop around and do research for a good group and to let them switch once or twice before they are settled, some groups are rubbish. A good group should be able to explain their process and have close and active ties with the main organisation. Personally I would choose an organisation with international activities, since getting out into the world that way is amazing. The grit and perseverance part comes in when sticking with the same group as it grows and changes, as that one girl you really get on with quits, as the leader hits a rough spot and isn't as committed for a time etc.
posted by Iteki at 6:55 AM on November 5, 2011

Best answer: My daughter had a bit of a musical aptitude as a young kid so we enrolled her in piano lesssons. She griped for a while, but we always made her go because "we'd already paid for that month's lessons." Then last year she told her teacher, "I've actaully gotten too good to quit now." That was an awesome feeling for her parents! Yes, we pushed her a bit, but she also became self-motivated, which is a great skill to have.

(My daughter is also getting into roller skating now. My husband thinks she should do something that'll look good on a ivy league application like fencing -, but I always think that roller skating is just weird enough that it might actually work as a "hook." It'll be like Elle Woods getting into Harvard.)
posted by vespabelle at 10:12 AM on November 5, 2011

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