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Encouraging an obsession

955 Views 17 Replies 18 Participants Last post by  ShadowMoon
My friend's DD is obsessed with trains-obsessed. Spends many hours per day playing with them, doing activities on the computer about them, on holidays wants to visit stations to see them, day trips to stations etc She enjoys them to the exclusion of other things.

I know children get obsessed with things but this has been for maybe 5 years of her 7 year life. Is it responsible for her mom and dad to continue to feed the obsession?
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What ones sees as an obsession another sees as focused interest. What if Einstein's parents had become concerned about his "obsession" with math?
Short answer: Yes. Her obsession could turn into a great career when she is older. My obsession/fascination of making Barbie clothes has turned into a home business that provides half our family income.
We just got a train book from the library and the dedication is "To my parents, who encouraged my obsession with trains from an early age." The flap describes her as having a lifelong interest in trains. So I agree w/ the PP's, a focused interest can be a positive, not a negative.
Is the obsession preventing her from developing normally (and I don't mean in some vague way like it "prevents" her from developing interests in other topics. I mean like it's actually impacting her emotional or physical or cognitive development.)? Is she overweight because she spends too much time on trains and doesn't get enough exercise? Has she made no friends at all, or gotten horribly behind in her education, or spent very little time with her family, because of trains? Is the hobby disruptive to the family, or dangerous to her health? If I felt like a child's interest in some one thing was causing serious damage to her health and development, I would try easing her towards other interests. But it's only obsession if it's harmful; otherwise it's just a passionate interest, and something to be encouraged, not discouraged.
I see nothing wrong with it, assuming the kid still eats, drinks, sleeps, and gets her school work done. I was obsessed with dogs and horses as a kid- I read only books about them (the school librarian actually told me I need to learn to read fiction after I told her we needed new horse books because I'd read all of them already!), on vacation I wanted to see horses, I played with model horses and stuffed dogs and pretend games about horses and dogs, I was always begging to go to the pet store or the tack shop. As an adult (20 years later!) when my family goes on vacation, I ask for pictures of native horses or dogs from where they are going. I play an online game about dogs. I go out of my way to visit horse and dog shows, and stores where they sell horse and dog supplies, even if I don't need any. And I still read about them constantly. Its turned into a career for me- I taught riding for several summers at a camp, and now I work in the pet industry. Being focused on this one interest has not been detrimental to me, indeed its helped me in many ways. I think your friends child is likely fine.
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So long is she is healthy physically, socially, spiritually and emotionally I do not nessecarily see it as a bad thing.
Why not assume the parents know best how to love and support their kid?
As the parent of a train obsessed child, I don't see a problem with it. We support his interests, and although there is some variance, trains has been a big constant since he was about 2 years old (he'll be 5 next month). It doesn't impair his learning in other areas or social/emotional development so I don't have any concerns. To me it is no different than the kid who has to collect pokeman type things, etc. Besides, what the alternative discourage her passion and hope she started liking something else? Why would you want to discourage it if is isn't causing harm elsewhere in her life?
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I see no problem encouraging a child's interests.
Another train obsessed child here. DS 1 is 6 and loves trains so much. It is all he talks about. He has every Thomas the Tank Engine toy, all the friends, and most of the train accessories. He also has a ton of DVDs and books. He has watched the DVDs so many times and now arrange the track just like in the movies and act out the scenes. Then, he will change it up and make up his own story. He has so many of his own stories. It is amazing to watch. His imagination is unreal. I cannot imagine discouraging him. It would break his heart! He loves trains so much. Nothing else is suffering so why would it matter if he chooses to spend his time on this one thing.
I suppose some would see what we do as encouraging my son's "obsession" when we buy him endless workbooks, go on endless walks to watch traffic signal countdowns (it's not a trip to San Francisco if we don't watch some countdowns, no matter how cool the Academy of Sciences is) play endless math games on the driveway with chalk and on and on. He's been enthralled with numbers since he was at least 2 years old and still is at 6. It's led to him adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing, pre-algebra, and unit conversions already. So be it. It's what he loves, it's his passion. There are times when he won't take an interest in something else something "normal". Unless or until he can figure out how counting or math works into it. He had no interest in cooking and baking until he realized that you could do conversions and had to count measuring cups and there was math involved.

Yes, some things developed slower because of this but he's at a point now where he's decided it's worth while to catch up on those things so he can be a bit more like other kids. Though quite honestly, I don't want him to be too much like other kids. His number obsession and his genius at mathematics is what makes him him. I wouldn't change it for the world. I wouldn't want to squash that part of his identity.
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My oldest (age 14) has always been obsessed with things.
From the ages of 2-6 it was trains. For the last several years it has been lego Bionicles and Transformers. He makes *amazing* stop action movies with them - they take a lot of time and dedication. He is a bright, social kid with a huge interest in cultures and history, be they human or Bionicle.
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Originally Posted by BellinghamCrunchie View Post
What ones sees as an obsession another sees as focused interest. What if Einstein's parents had become concerned about his "obsession" with math?
Einstein didn't have an obsession with math. He hated math and did poorly in math classes. His math teacher told him he'd never amount to anything.

But he did have Asperger's.
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encouragement from parents is fine and it would develop self-confidence in kids too.
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I agree with everyone else. If the child is developing "normally" and not being crippled by the "obsession" then I find it good for the parents to allow and even help their child with the desired interest.
Train obsessed stepdad works for railroad making a heck of a lot of money. He is very artistic because of all the model trains and towns he built.
I agree with encouraging an obsession/interests as long as it's not interfering with the child's life in general. trains are a fun obsession to have IMO.
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