Every parent wants the best for their child, to have a better life and access to more opportunities than they had. But let’s take the foot off the ‘pressure pedal’ for yourself and remember your one job is to help them live their ‘best life’ – whatever that is for them. As long as they live a happy and fulfilling life – you’ve done a great job. But what brings someone happiness and fulfilment is very subjective to the individual. Helping your little individual find the path that is right for them can seem daunting , but the discovery of their talents and passions is the key to helping them also find their purpose and potential.
We’ve all heard of the old Nature VS Nurture debate – were they born with it or has the way they’ve been brought up influenced who the child becomes? Why can’t it be both – working hand in hand to help each child grow up to be the best version of themselves?
Nature and Nurture
Every child is born with natural abilities. There are abilities inherited through genetics and biology. These are usually physical attributes which can offer advantages with activities – such as height, which can help with playing basketball or you may have heard of a ‘runners build’, great ‘piano fingers’ or perhaps your child has a beautiful singing voice.
Other natural qualities and attributes, make up ‘who’ they are as a person – their personality and identity. GT Scholars explains; these natural abilities ‘usually manifest themselves in the early stages of a child’s life. However, these natural abilities are usually just seeds waiting to grow, and as with any other seed, they need to be nurtured and nourished to grow and develop into a plant. Hence, as your child grows, you can play an active role in nurturing their natural abilities to grow into fully-fledged abilities and talents.’
Tips to Identify and Develop Your Child’s Interests and Talents
1. Pay attention when they are just ‘being’. When there’s no organised activity, and your child is engaged in free play – what do they love to do? What do they gravitate to? What are their natural preferences? I.e., running around or sitting quietly. With so many options available – what do they go to first e.g. Playground equipment, a musical instrument or a device. By just paying attention to your child, when they are in control of their play and choices, you will learn a lot about their interests and potential talents.
2. Let them discover their natural abilities themselves. Give them the time and room to figure out what their interests are, not what interests you think will be best for them. After observing your child in free play and the types of activities they gravitate to, expose them to a variety of activities that could interest them. Let them choose activities as well. If they reject an activity that you had hoped they would love – remember, it’s not about you – it’s about your child figuring out what they love.
3. Eliminate the pressure. It’s wonderful you want big things for your child, but forcing them to engage in an activity they hate or to perform at a level they aren’t ready for or comfortable with can affect their grades, behaviour and even lead to depression. Let them choose their interests and support them in their choices.
4. What do they need to develop their interests and talents? Provide the resources and opportunities to help their abilities grow. It’s more than just physical things like art supplies or instruments for the budding artists for example, having access to mentors and teachers is also important. The gift of your time is priceless – practice soccer in the backyard with them, buy a chess board and play with your child. Your investment in them will mean the world and go a long way to building their confidence in their abilities.
5. Be their biggest cheerleader and supporter. The path to success, isn’t always filled with positive experiences. Sometimes there are setbacks, sometimes we don’t feel inspired to train or practice or do what we love… that’s normal. It’s normal to feel deflated and disengaged when you have fallen short of your best. Being there when they have these moments to help pick them up again is so important.
Encourage them, remind them of all their previous achievements and that all talented people still need to work hard and develop their abilities. A house isn’t built in a day, neither is a talent. Teach them it’s okay to fail. Failing doesn’t mean they aren’t capable or less talented – it’s an opportunity to learn from a mistake and improve. Your unwavering support, regardless of your understanding of their gift – will mean a lot to your child.
Celebrate their growth and wins (big and small). Your child is building their self-confidence and self-belief. As these strengthen – your child will naturally stretch themselves, take risks and be more resilient when they make mistakes or experience setbacks, learning from them and growing.
6. Help your child understand that self-confidence and self-esteem aren’t the same thing and they don’t need to do or be anything to be worthy of your love. Drawing on the work of Dr Michael Hall, parenting expert Dr Rosina McAlpine explains; “self-confidence relates to what people “do” in the world, self-esteem is all about “being” in the world. Dr Hall defines self-esteem as “a person’s innate value, worth, dignity, honour and lovability. It has nothing to do with what people can do, what they are good at or their talents, dispositions, gifts or achievements. Those facets define self-confidence”.
Beware conditional self-esteem. As Dr McAlpine explains, conditional self-esteem “is where you do not see yourself as innately valuable but rather you believe you have to earn the right to be valued as a person. In the context of parenting, if your children feel that they have to earn the right to be loved and valued by you, then they miss out on their innate right to be a valuable human being regardless of their looks, behaviours, abilities, talents or accomplishments. It makes sense then that children who constantly feel the need to prove themselves in order to earn their parents’ love, attention and approval will feel insecure and have poor self-esteem. On the other hand, children who feel loved and valued, not conditional upon anything they have to do or achieve but simply because they “are”, will feel less pressure and stress and lead happier lives. Imagine what it would be like for a child to experience life knowing they are valued and loved unconditionally.”
7. Live your best life. When we’re busy parenting, often we forget about our talents and what we love to do. Don’t forget to invest in your own abilities – when you show your child by example that it’s important to ‘do what you love’, it will give them permission and empower them to do the same.
8. Create an environment of openness, creativity and celebration. Don’t hide your personal achievements or talents from your child; have your trophies on a shelf, hang your own photographs and paintings on the wall. Play music. Just allow your child to be immersed in an environment of personal expression. The more they see it – the more they become it, the more they feel comfortable in expressing themselves.
The most important thing to remember is that “a talent is only worth pursuing if it can also be enjoyed”- Robert Myers, PhD. Enjoy learning about your little human’s abilities and watching their confidence and talents grow. Let them do whatever lights up their little faces, whatever makes them shine – their brightness is what the world needs.