Almost every parent looking down at their newborn baby is wondering what talents this little bundle of joy has brought along.
The curiosity is often difficult to contain and most parents want to know as early as possible what talents their little one has so that they can nurture those talents and be proud parents of a prodigy.
Of course some parents do find that their children are prodigies.
But many find that their children have no real talent to speak of. And this discovery fills them with a feeling of overwhelming disappointment.
Worse still, many parents see sparks of talent in their children – but the sparks don’t last long to create the glow of success. And this leads parents to frustration in addition to disappointment.
These feelings of disappointment and frustration are easy to ignore on busy school days when everyone is in a rush. But they come to haunt parents during vacations and school breaks.
When they look around and find that friends and colleagues have talented children they feel this urge to dig into their child and scrape out something that looks like a talent.
This makes vacations stressful for both parent and child. And any talent which may have existed is lost in the stress.
Are you a parent who is feeling the pressure to discover and nurture your child’s talents and strengths? I am sharing a step by step plan that you can use to discover your child’s talents and strengths in this article.
What is a Talent
A talent is the natural ability to do something well – especially without being taught.
This is the definition of talent from the Cambridge English dictionary.
As soon as you read this definition – you fall into the trap of thinking that talent is an inborn quality. And like millions of other parents – this myth fools you into wanting to open up your child’s brain and see what talents your child is hiding inside their brain.
But it is important not to fall into this trap.
How to Find a Child’s Talent
The greatest misconception about talent is that children are born with it.
No, they are not.
You can’t dig into your child’s mind and find your child’s talents – no matter how diligent you may be as a parent.
You have to allow your child’s talents to emerge by creating the right environment.
Talents literally pop out of children when the conditions are right.
They are almost like saplings that pop out of the ground when the ground is moist after a spell of rain.
If you are trying to discover your child’s talent – stop now.
Even if you dig you will only find the seed – and there will be no way for you to turn it into the mighty tree that it is meant to be.
But if you create the right environment your child’s talent will emerge. And if you keep nurturing it, it will grow.
When do Children Explore Their Talents
The one thing that really prompts children to explore their talents is boredom.
When a child has nothing to do, nowhere to go and no source of entertainment, you will find your child beginning to do “something”.
For example – you would notice that if you leave your child in an empty room and ask them to sit still in a chair, after a while your child will start experimenting with their own body.
They will stand on one foot, attempt a back bend and if left long enough probably perfect a cartwheel.
And when you walk in – you will have a child eager to show you what they have learnt or rather discovered about themselves.
It is here that your role begins
Don’t start yelling at your child for having left the chair when you clearly instructed them to sit there until you came back in.
Admire what your child has accomplished. And encourage them to do more. The journey towards exploring talents starts when your child is bored. And continues when you show interest and give out encouragement.
The roadblock at this point is your preconceived notion about what you think is a valuable talent. If you are a pianist and want your child to master the piano, you may find their cartwheels useless and a waste of time. And if you say this – your child will neither end up a pianist nor a gymnast.
If Your Child is Not Talented
If you can’t see any talents in your child, begin to look for strengths.
Yes – talents are different from strengths.
Talent is performance-oriented. It is something your child does that you can see.
A strength, on the other hand, is a part of your child’s character. You may not see it unless you are actively looking for it.
And you are especially likely to miss it and even think of the strength as a negative quality in your child unless you are carefully examining the way you think.
For example, a few weeks ago, a parent reached out to me to ask me what he should do to change his son’s easy going and relaxed attitude about everything.
He was worried that his son would grow up to be careless and unmotivated to take on challenges.
I helped him to see that easy- going can also be called calm and relaxed and can be a very good quality in times of stress when things go wrong.
And very soon this worried Dad did come up with a situation, in which the quality that he disliked so much in his son, had held them in good stead.
He related an incident where he had driven into what he mistakenly thought was a shallow puddle on a rainy day. The puddle was much deeper than he had thought, and the car started sinking.
Being a person who was used to doing things right…on time….and perfectly…this situation threw him into a state of panic and self-blame and shut down his thinking brain.
Luckily for him – his laidback 15 year old was with him.
Because of his laidback attitude and he was in the habit of salvaging situations when things were not going well.
As soon as he realized what was happening – he jumped out of the car – asked the cars behind them to back up and prompted his Dad to reverse with full force.
This saved the car and their lives that day.
As we spoke this Dad realized how nurturing his son’s ability to be level-headed in stressful circumstances could be a huge asset. If only he could stop focusing on being easy-going as a negative quality.
Instead of laidback – use the word level headed to describe him I told the Dad.
Rebranding can work wonders in your perception of your child’s behaviour in various situations
What is a Strength
A strength is character trait. It may not be visible because it is not skill based but emerges in everything that a child does.
Unlike talents, we may need to look carefully before we find a child’s strengths. And according to famous researcher Lea Waters – if we look for strengths under the following broad groups – we are more likely to find them
- Sense of justice
- Ability to look beyond yourself
Think of a talented person and you are sure to find that one of these character strengths is a prominent part of their personality
A successful businessman like Jack Ma of Ali Baba would have never succeeded without courage.
Einstein would not have been able to do what he did without the wisdom to ignore failure
Mahatma Gandhi would not have been a Mahatma without his sense of justice.
And a sportsperson like Sachin Tendulkar would not have been the great cricketer he is without self-control.
Yes – these people had talents. But these talents would be useless without their unique character strengths.
How To Identify Your Child’s Strengths
A strength is something that comes naturally to your child. It is something that makes your child feel good. And it therefore becomes something your child chooses to do often.
Let’s examine it in the following example –
Question 1: Is your child the first one to step back in a fight?
If the answer is Yes.
Question 2: Does stepping back in a fight make your child feel good?
If the answer is Yes.
Question 3: Does your child prefer to avoid conflicts most of the time?
If the answer is Yes.
Then being amicable and sweet tempered is your child’s strength. And it is a great quality that must be nurtured because it is the most important quality in teamwork and leadership.
No. Stepping back from a fight is not a sign of weakness as you think – but a sign of empathy and high emotional quotient.
No. It is not cowardly to avoid conflicts. Unnecessarily plunging into fights all the time is a waste of time and energy and best avoided. And is a sign of wisdom.
So the way to discover your child’s strengths is
A: To observe carefully
B: To rethink preconceived notions
How to Help Your Child Explore Their Talent
It is important to understand that the part of talent that is really determined by genes, or in other words is in-born, is “interest”.
- Expose your child to various activities
- Notice what your child is interested in – Your child will be more interested in some things than in others. Interest is important because it will prompt your child to focus more on those things than others. For example – If your child is interested in music, they will focus on the song much more than you will. They will pick up intricacies in the tune and beat more than you. As a result, when they try to sing – they will sing much better than you, because they have more knowledge in that area.
- Encourage – Once they have attempted it and discovered that they are good at it – if you encourage them and show interest in seeing a more perfect version of the song, they will begin to practice it.
- Stay involved – Once a child starts practicing they are most likely to give up, because practice is boring and involves coping with failure and not getting discouraged by it. If you are involved you can help them keep the larger picture in view and remain focused on the goal without getting discouraged.
- Arrange for training – Once your child reaches a certain level of proficiency in a certain skill, they will want to improve further. And if you are involved, you can help your child find online or offline resources to learn from (depending on their learning style). Always remember that learning something is not easy, and there will be roadblocks here that you will have to inspire your child to overcome.
- Step back slowly – Once the child learns how to navigate the space of that skill – you can slowly take small steps away from the actual learning and participate only as much as your child desires. Be there but don’t dominate the scene. That is the best approach to motivate without pressurizing.
How to Create Best Home Conditions to Help a Child Develop Their Talents
#1. Allow Your Child to Get Bored
One of the biggest obstacles to discovering a talent or recognizing a strength – is excessive entertainment.
When children who are otherwise busy all day – suddenly have nothing to do during a scheduled or unscheduled break – they panic.
They call this lack of things to do boring.
And as parents this makes us feel guilty and we rush to fix their boredom with entertainment.
We hand them devices that offer passive entertainment
Or we sign them up for classes that compel them to do things a certain way at a certain time of the day.
And with this we kill their motivation.
Devices kill motivation because of the way they hack the Dopamine pathway of the brain. And activities kill motivation because they are based on instruction and performance.
How to motivate your child to discover a talent or build on a strength –
- Allow your child to get bored
- Give your child the time and space to focus without being rushed.
#2. Have a Routine
The first thing to be thrown to the winds during a break – forced or otherwise is routine and discipline.
Most of us think that the absence of routine and discipline is freedom and we imagine that by giving up on the routine of the house we have set our children free to explore themselves.
But this is a misconception
Routine and discipline are crucial because they free up time from routine activities and help children to find the time to do something new. A routine makes children feel safe and powerful because of the sense of control and predictability that it offers. And it is only when children feel safe that they can actually exercise their higher mental functions.
In a house where routine and discipline are followed, children are set free to reach their true potential.
How to maintain a routine that prompts your child to explore new talents
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day
- Serve healthy meals on time
#3. Stay Connected
More than anything else – children need to feel connected with their parents.
If you just leave your child to do what they want and get completely preoccupied in what you are doing – you will find your child has found their way to a device in an attempt to find connection or to block out the lack of connection.
Allow children their own free time to do what they please – but not all day for days on end.
How to connect with your child to encourage them to explore their talents
- Connect at mealtimes and bedtime and listen to what they have to say.
- Give lots of hugs and kisses to reinforce your presence throughout the day.
#4. Inspire Instead of Instructing
Constantly telling your child what to do. And then nagging your child about not doing what you asked, is the sure-fire way to kill motivation.
Remind yourself that your child will lead you to their talent or strength. You cannot lead them to it by poking and prodding them.
Your role is to inspire not instruct.
How to inspire your child to find their talent
- Create a vibe of enthusiasm and industriousness in the house by doing something yourself. It doesn’t have to be something you want your child to do. However, it must be something that you are passionate about. Your child must see you working hard at it whether it is baking or pottery or anything else. And persisting in spite of all the obstacles without bothering about failure. When your child sees you so committed and inspired – they will be inspired to start and persist with something themselves.
- Switch off the TV and stay away from devices. Unfortunately in a lot of houses the prevailing vibe is one of being annoyed and irritated because of boredom. And this is remedied by keeping the TV running in the background providing passive entertainment. When passive entertainment is so easily available your child is unlikely to work hard to achieve something to get the Dopamine rush to feel rewarded.
#5. Do not compare
One of the easiest ways to discourage your child from doing anything is to begin comparing them with other children.
Unfortunately for many of us parents, comparison is a way of life. And we think that comparing children is the most effective motivation tool.
But we must realize that it is not.
As soon as you begin to compare your child with another child, you convey to your child that “I think that child is better than you.”
“I will love you only if you become like that child.”
And by conveying these rigid expectations – you ensure that your child is completely demotivated. And absolutely unwilling to try.
And a child who is unwilling to try is unlikely to ever find a talent or a strength and excel at anything.
How to appreciate your child to help them identify their talents
- Stop comparing
- Appreciate with interest and enthusiasm
#6. Do not Teach Fear of Failure
Most children are afraid to attempt anything new because they are afraid of failure.
Curiously, fear of failure is something children are not born with. It is something that they acquire from us their parents over a period of time.
A child who is learning to walk has no idea that falling down while attempting to walk is a sign of failure.
But over a period of time the message is driven into their brain.
“If another child learns how to swim or write or skate or do anything before you or better than you – you are a failure.” They are told.
The pressure of always competing, always trying to win, is so stressful that children decide that it may be easier not to try.
How to motivate your child to explore their talents
- Fill your child with the courage to try.
- Show them that failure is a stepping stone to success
#7. Do not React to Misbehaviour
When you spend a lot of time with each other during a break, both you and your child are going to start annoying each other.
While your child may not have the freedom to point this out to you. As a parent you are likely to grab the opportunity to tick your child off every time they do something that annoys you.
And in my experience parents are neither tactful nor gentle when they are annoyed.
If the whole day is spent squabbling over little issues – you will find that very little has been accomplished by your child because of a lack of motivation and the fear of conflict.
If you feel triggered by your child’s behaviour, examine your own reaction to the trigger and find out why you react the way you do.
Understand that conflict will not get you anywhere, but if you respond instead of reacting – you will be able to help your child discover their strength.
Instead of saying – “You have to listen to me otherwise you will be punished “ If you say “Can you cooperate with me the way you cooperate with your friends when you need to play a match? Then we can enjoy the day.”
This helps your child to discover an inner strength and a way to use it to their advantage.
How to respond to encourage your child to discover their talents
- Respond instead of reacting
- Use your inner strength and help your child to use theirs
Remember that talents are useless without inner strengths that help us to hone those talents and excel at them.
Also remember that it is more important to discover inner strengths than to perform and win prizes for talents. Because inner strengths – like resilience for example – multitask for us in everything we do. While a talent like being able to dance may have limited utility.
As parents our goal should be to encourage the development of self-esteem and motivation in our children so that they can excel in whatever they attempt.
In our panic to beat the competition and ensure that our children have resumes packed with awards for their various talents we must not allow ourselves to lose sight of this very important goal.