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What to do with a child with no interests?

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
Okay, so he doesn't have no interests, he just doesn't have interests that *I* would deem beneficial.
He does not want to read on his own.
He does not want to learn to swim.
He does not want to play any sport.
He does not want to ride his bike.
He does not want to go for walks or explore nature or geocache with us.
He does not want to go to an art class or do any creating or art work at home.
He does not want to ice skate or ski.
He does not like any of his school work - we aren't totally unschoolers because I struggle with depression and I need guidance. If we totally unschooled I would probably never get out of bed. But I do want the majority of my boys learning to be child-led. The problem is that I feel as though one child isn't leading!

He is 8. He likes to play. He likes to be read to. He likes monsters, mythology, and such. He likes to play computer games, occasionally build with Lego, and play. And if people don't play the way he wants he thinks he is having a terrible day and that no one likes him. If I ask him to help me with something, he explodes even if I give him time.
I just want to get him interested in something more than just playing. That sounds ridiculous when I type it out, but every other child his age that I know is really into several things - music, martial arts, drawing, building, skateboarding....something! He is just into play and certain stories. I am sad because I feel as though he has similar tendencies as me to be depressed because he is so disinterested.
Maybe I'm just feeling sad and overwhelmed right now, but this has bothered me on and off for a year or so. My other (younger) son is not like this. He loves reading, cooking, baking, trying new things, skating, doing nature studies, music, learning the piano, creating things out of our arts and crafts materials, I feel like I'm missing something and not giving my oldest son what he needs to get excited about life.
post #2 of 11

"He is 8. He likes to play. He likes to be read to. He likes monsters, mythology, and such. He likes to play computer games, occasionally build with Lego, and play. And if people don't play the way he wants he thinks he is having a terrible day and that no one likes him. If I ask him to help me with something, he explodes even if I give him time."


Do you know what, I think this is, in a nutshell, a typical 8 year old boy! Its how we do them round here, anyway :-) , except its Lego and playmobile and board games rather than the computer.


My real question would be, if he were left completely to his own devices, what would he get up to? IF and only if the screen time is an issue for you, what would he do if he was without that option, say if you were on holiday without it? Is he a kid who actually has a lot of strong interests, but which possibly don't see so "educational", or a kid who really hasn't found his focus yet?


Another thing you say, he's just into play and certain stories". I think this is incredibly common, and the play is normally the first stage of developing an interest. 

I also think that as homeschoolers there's sometimes an expectation that a certain kind of child to emerge, which is one who has a narrow, focused, educationally acceptable interest which they pursue to excellence. Now this is the case for some kids, homeschooling does allow them to find one or two strong interests and give them time to really concentrate on them. But for many others, the advantages are more subtle, and they are more about having the time to play and grow at their own pace.


Re the not doing things. Disclaimer: I am not an unschooler (I have been and I understand the basics). So that's my disclaimer, and I hope its ok to post this. I think its incredibly common for kids at this age to be bored of a lot of stuff, especially (sorry) the stuff you've put on the list. They aren't all super-exciting things, sorry, especially to an 8 year old boy. Now this is the thing, I often find with my son that if I can motivate him in some way to just try things, he often then wants to do them. Not always, but at least he's made an informed choice. II would tend to talk to my son about this and how and why I wanted him to try. I don't have so much of a problem with him refusing to do stuff if he's tried it, but I'm not so keen on him just rejecting stuff out of hand. I think kids, especially boys, at this age, can be quite unwilling to leave their comfort zone and it can help to gently, consensually, give them a bit of a push.


Just re the way he plays. First of all I think that's actually very normal at around this age. A lot of boys I know , including my own but actually, now I think of it, most of his close friends -go through this at some point between 7 and 10. What I've noticed is that its often tied into being a new kid in a group, or being excluded by a group-and of course then if you behave like this it hardly helps! We're getting my boy through it by talking, avoiding situations with kids who he really has too much of a history with, and spending more time in our community with him doing things to build his confidence.

Edited by Fillyjonk - 11/10/12 at 7:18am
post #3 of 11

Yes, he sounds pretty typical.


For my son, it's all about interaction. He might like an activity if he really likes the other people in the activity, especially if the adult in charge is engaging. He is physically a bit cautious and has some minor sensory issues (mostly an issue for learning to swim) so he isn't terribly interested in sports. Also, he isn't particularly good at them and he's old enough to realize the other kids can run faster and leave him in the dust. That's no fun for him because everything is about being with other people and doing things with them. If he can't have that, he'll use the computer as a playmate. Once kids get to be "big" kids, they've experienced a lot of the basics and there is no longer a novelty factor. They have already hiked, geo-cached, ice skated, or whatever so they have a "been there, done that" attitude.


Perfectionism can also be an issue. I feel like it is more common with first born kids. Maybe because they are around adults more, they set the bar higher for themselves. It's easier for younger siblings in some ways because they are only comparing themselves to someone a couple of years older. And they get to benefit from the older siblings experiences whereas the older one generally has to be the first to try things out. People have higher expectations for the older child, as well, so it's often easier for the younger one to try new things and perhaps fail or do poorly.


It always seemed to me that many of the kids who did lots of activities just were somewhat easy going kids who didn't mind being told what to do and kept busy. Some kids develop passions, of course. But it seems pretty normal to me for kids to just go through childhood dabbling in this or that.

post #4 of 11

hug.gif  Hang in there. You mention your own depression and that you're feeling sad and overwhelmed right now. Might it be that he's more emotionally tuned in to you than is obvious? I'm wondering about the possibility that he's more sensitively tuned in to your lead than your other son, even if he isn't thinking about it consciously. You're obviously interested in some fun things, but I wonder if he's picking up a lack of joy in them. Just some thoughts to ponder. But I do agree with others that he's not particularly atypical for his age, and I'd really encourage his play - play can really serve him well and ripen his imagination for many interesting pursuits as he grows. And since he likes being read to, that's a perfect opportunity to provide lots of juicy things for his imagination to soar with. I read to my son till he was 12 - we both treasured it and thought of it as some of our favorite times together - and he turned to reading during that time to get information about things he was interested in, but didn't enjoy reading fiction till he was 12 and took off on his own, becoming a voracious reader. You might try engaging him in sincere conversation about mythology, since he finds it interesting, and let him lead, being the one who's informing you. Having something he's more of an expert at could possibly trigger more exploration on his own as time goes on. I'd add some ideas, but I need to get out the door. WIll be back later... - Lillian

post #5 of 11
Thread Starter 
Thank you all so much for the encouragement.

There are so many times that I am glad that he can just be a kid and play, but he seems to be in between younger kids that will role play with home and kids his age who only want to watch a movie, talk about a movie, play video games, or do sports. So he feels bad because the kids who WILL role play with him do so with less maturity and it frustrates him.

It frustrates me as well that every.single.thing that we try to do out of the house as a family he complains about. He'll try things a couple of times and never get interested. He also is not that coordinated and is not good at running, and he definately notices that younger kids are better at physical activities than he is. I would never put him in competitive sports for several reasons, but I would love to see him get excited about working toward developing a better skill of any sort on his own. But at the same time I don't want to push him to be who he is not. It is a horrible realization to discover one is disappointed with any aspect of their child, and admitting that is hard and it makes me feel terrible.

He has some anxiety and tics and has struggled with OCD. We worked acutely on combatting OCD because I could see it progress quickly. Every time it creeps up again, we tackle those thoughts and actions with vigor and are able to keep it in check. He will have most definately picked up on my depression and irritability. It's pretty impossible not to. He responds to me with love and sensitivity.

The things he will do if he is left to his own devices...he will build with Lego, he will set up signs and museums, zoos, etc around the house for me to tour, and sometimes he will draw, write simple stories, or make a simple book. When I think about it now I think those things are preparing him wonderfully for his future as an adult, but at times I get so down because I hear of kids who have great passion for ________ ( whatever) or who are excelling at _________(whatever) and how everyone is amazed...blah, blah, blah.

It's funny that I am upset that my son isn't interested in cooking, baking, swimming, skating, skiing, reading, bike riding, doing arts and crafts, etc....as I am interested in NONE of those things. I like going for walks and occasionally knitting and listening to music. That is it. My son actually has more interests than I and would whip my butt at any strategic game we play, and is able to build way cooler things than I out of Lego. And yet....I stress out about who he is. I don't want to be like that.

I guess I just need regular encouragement that he is developing okay, and that I am doing an okay job of homeschooling him.

Thank you, ladies, for your encouragement!
post #6 of 11

Ok but you know those kids with the great passion for blah blah.


They will not be playing with lego in the hugely imaginative way your son does. Or if they are, there will be something else he's doing that they're not. Trust me.


Another thing I notice is that as kids grow up that imaginative play they did as younger kids-whirling round the house and setting up shops and so on-becomes more prop based, more reliant on a common language (Lego!) but its essentially a more complex version of the same thing. 


I also think that there is a particular type of highly dreamy kid who is usually half paying attention, thinking about stories and mythology and acting them out with Lego or what have you who then can struggle with playing with others...but they do grow out of it. My brother was the same and he's not socially awkward now (if it helps he also had quite bad OCD which he is now able to control). They are very in that phase and preoccupied and it can be hard for them to snap out of it.


I'm asking gently, what do you see as the benefit to having a passion? If your son was hugely into something, say skateboarding, there would be a whole lot of other stuff that you probably see as valuable that you might well all miss out on. My own instinct is that unless a child happens to really feel a calling to something, passions are the work of the teenage years. 


I agree he might be picking up on the depression, and that must be hard...but otoh he might well not. He doesn't sound at all atypical-he sounds like a lovely, dreamy, eight year old! These ARE the years of lego and mythology and working out all that business about good and evil in the comfort of your bedroom. I'm fortunate enough never to have experienced depression and my son sounds incredibly like yours.


ETA you mentioned you liked knitting. My 9 year old has always liked knitting, or even more, crochet and he appreciates being able to use the sewing machine. Any kind of textile with a purpose. Now he's starting to get into pottery and metal work. Knitting and crochet and sewing are not huge passions but he has the skills there. The point for him is that these things need to have a practical point. He's not going to knit because he likes knitting but to make a hat for one of his stuffed toys. I think at this age boys in particular can turned off arts and crafts when its process rather than results based, but they do often appreciate having skills. Cooking is another one.

Edited by Fillyjonk - 11/11/12 at 12:31am
post #7 of 11
Originally Posted by Fillyjonk View Post

Ok but you know those kids with the great passion for blah blah.

They will not be playing with lego in the hugely imaginative way your son does. Or if they are, there will be something else he's doing that they're not. Trust me.

Absolutely. My 3yo has a passion... and it's all. he. does. His passion is music. Everything is about music. He spends hours & hours a day just sitting listening to music. He turns anything he can find into an instrument. Just about the only thing he will play is "concert"... which makes it very, very hard for him to connect with his friends. They are happy to play "concert" for a bit but then they want to play dragons or princesses or house or pirates or just play with toys or run around together... and he ends up off in a corner, still playing "concert", all by himself. The net result is the same -- the reason I'm following your thread here is because I have the same concerns you do, even though he DOES have a passion.

I also noticed you mentioned he has anxiety & OCD. Speaking as someone who has also struggled with these things, and with a child with severe anxiety & tics... I do think that inhibits them, keeps them from doing things they might otherwise enjoy. Do you have him in therapy at all? No one got me help for my life-long anxiety until I was in crisis toward the end of my teens (and then I ended up hospitalized, over-medicated, etc.) I am trying to do better with DS, we started play therapy not long ago. It might be worth a try, especially if you do feel the anxiety is affecting his everyday life significantly. Maybe his "lack of interest" isn't actually a lack of excitement, but anxiety that's preventing him from getting into whatever he's trying or doing. If you go to a party & you're worried the whole time about whether your dress is appropriate, you won't enjoy the party much. Same with any kind of worries or anxiety... they can really put a halt to the fun!

I'm sure you are doing a great job homeschooling him! I know you said he likes monsters... have you tried, for ex., making a math game about monsters, or learn-to-read monster books, or swimming in an imaginary sea of monsters and he has to get to the other side? Take the interests he does have & expand them to other areas, and that might help increase his interest in these other things he's reluctant to try, or give him a safe way to try something new.
post #8 of 11

He sounds EXACTLY like my 8-year old first-born son, just minus the interest in legos. 


I have been finding it really hard to figure out what to do with my kids on the weekends and holidays from school because he objects to everything that the littler kids would enjoy.


My DS who is also interested in Greek mythology has read all of the Rick Riordan books and really enjoyed them--perhaps your would like them as well.


Glad to hear that this is normal 8-year old behavior.

post #9 of 11

Percy Jackson and the Olympians--loving that series right now!


(Sorry--this turned out to be a long post!)


My almost 8yo daughter has enjoyed Greek mythology for a while now and it did indeed start because of her interest in monsters.  I had initially checked out the books from the library because she was interested in scary things with teeth.... and comic strips.  I found a graphic novel titled "Perseus and Medusa" and we read it over and over.  She would look at it herself, and eventually tried reading the speech bubbles while I read the narrative.  From there, I found a beautifully illustrated book about Pegasus, Bellerophon, and the Chimera, stories of the Minotaur.  Medusa was her favorite, though.  I branched out a little once I discovered a book on the constellations that told the Greek and Mesopotamian myths upon which the constellations are based.  ("Zoo in the Sky" and other books illustrated by Christina Balit.)  And onward.


Another favorite author/illustrator is Marcia Williams.  Her style is a bit cartoonish, but she manages brilliantly to bring classics to life.  She has several books on Greek mythology, including the Iliad, 3 volumes of Shakespeare (dd loved the ghost stories), Chaucer, Dickens, etc.  All have little speech bubbles to go with the narrative.  They are good books that encourage quiet perusal.


This addresses just one topic of your issues, and I don't pretend to have a solution for the rest.  I do know that you don't have to be interested in everything.  And being interested in everything doesn't mean that kids are going to fall in step with you.  My girls continually reject things I love to do (sigh....) and I'm interested in everything.  


What you need, though, is solid support for what does interest them.  It's nice to have a little imagination about where might be the next step, but at the same time invest no expectations that they will be interested.  Far more ideas of mine have been shot down than met with enthusiasm.  So, feel free to explore with his interests in mind, but not with the expectation that he will be remotely interested.  Sometimes it simply means "now is not the time".  (Until suddenly it is, as our recent reintroduction of origami showed me.  First time--meh.  Second time, 2 years later--we are swimming in little origami creations.)


I also like to put my feelers out into the community to see what people and resources are in the area.  Wednesday afternoons is Lego Day at one area library.  My youngest is interested, but our plates are a bit full.  I found our local 4-H group (except for fair time, the girls are only modestly interested--OK, a bit bored-- in this now).  Last night at gym, one mom commented on a sweater I made and she happened to mentioned Girl Scouts and after having some more conversation, she is mailing me some recommendations for her favorite groups closer to where we live (rural, just under an hour to a small city).  This my girls seem excited about--badges and NO BOYS!  (No offense, but they are 6 and nearly 8, and it comes with the territory!)


This means I have to put myself out there more than I like.  I am a go-with-the-flow person, and searching out people and things can be more work than I like.  It can be discouraging for me because I am never sure if anything will ignite from the little sparks of connection I make.  I got excited about an unschooling group, and so far I've had not further contact from the coordinator (another sigh....).  For other opportunities, they are there for when the girls might be ready for them, if ever.  It's nice to know about them, so when and if they become interested I can get the ball rolling.


In the meantime, I can take steps to support what there interests are.  DD1 spends a lot of her time playing game of her own invention, all on her own.  She has a lot of ideas for structuring our days, but when it comes down to it she still is very much in the Now.  She is bright though not gifted or exceptional.  She is submersed in gymnastics and horses, but she has no obsessions like some other kids.  She is interested in academics, but...not-right-now-I'm-in-the-middle-of-a-game.  A lot of the academic stuff she learns is from watching videos.  She's 8, and I think this is typical, though until I read the responses from others here,  I hadn't realized how typical it really is.

post #10 of 11
Originally Posted by bass chick View Post

The things he will do if he is left to his own devices...he will build with Lego, he will set up signs and museums, zoos, etc around the house for me to tour, and sometimes he will draw, write simple stories, or make a simple book. 



This sounds pretty great to me. He may not have a passion at this point, but this sounds pretty good for 8! When I was 8 I don't think I had a passion yet, except maybe animals. It wasn't until Jr High that I got into my real passions (Martial Arts, Skateboarding, Music). I wish I could give you more help than this, but I would say keep reading to him. As much as you both can stand and anything he is willing to listen to, eventually his interests will widen. 

post #11 of 11
Thread Starter 
After examining myself, I realize my concerns have more to do with me than with my son. I don't have many interests. I don't get excited about anything, except for maybe going for a long walk with someone. So after thinking about it for a long time, I see that I'm really worried he is going to struggle with depression, self-harm, and insecurities. It's not really that I think he should have a great passion, but I do wish that he would be enthusiastic about trying something out that is new. My youngest is 6. He has learned knitting, loves to help in the kitchen, helps me dust and wash floors occassionally, shows great interest in nature, pulls out science kits and begs me to explore it with him, runs and runs and runs and tries to improve his speed, bikes like a mad-man, likes to swim ( although he doesn't swim...he plays in the water, has tried skating and wants to keep trying, pulls out paints and goops around in it, pulls out playdough, loves music, is asking me questions about the piano, reads alone and for a long time, builds with Lego, writes me notes...oh the list goes on and on. With him, I am confident that he will learn and grow with his own direction. With my other son, I feel less confident. I feel like he is not interested in much, so his daily experience is that the day was not that great because I didn't let him play Minecraft all day or he didn't have his brother to play with for the entire day.
I realize though, that they are their own persons. I don't want to push him to do things he does not like. I have no problem encouraging him and pushing him in his areas of interest, but they are slim and I don't feel good about him staring at the computer all day. His dad also is a computer game addict (he plays usually only once the boys are in bed though) and his dad's dad has recently retired and spent an entire year playing 12-18 hours of World of Warcraft online EVERY DAY! All I can think about that is that it is pathetic.
So all these things play into my little freak out.

But I realize it says more about me than about him. I also think I have to get more creative and start playing with him. Our interaction is limited to schoolwork and snuggles.

I also look at other kids who excel at playing an instrument, or who are great at soccer, or who write incredible stories, or draw and draw and love it, and I want my kids to each be really good at something that they can feel good about. But I sort of don't think he has that drive or desire or interest. But he is a "young" 8, and I shouldn't rush him into growing up, right?

Thank you for your feedback and replies and suggestions. I can always count on you guys!
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