When we think of talent, our thoughts may go straight to natural abilities. It’s certainly true that some children are more athletic, artistic, musical or apt to quickly pick up a complex skill like math or science than others. However, more often than not, developing talent is a combination of innate ability and learned experience, with every child bringing their own unique circumstances to the forefront and all capable of mastering their own skills and interests.
As parents, we may not be able to control which natural abilities our kids are born with, but we can certainly nurture what they already possess, and help build on what may not be there just yet. We do this by providing opportunities for our children, as well as establishing healthy boundaries and expectations around their talents.
You don’t have to be a prodigy to start early
Do you notice your toddler has a knack for painting or maybe your second grader is already challenging your own math skills? By catching the signs of your child’s potential early on, you may be able to nurture their talent from a young age, providing them with more time and opportunity to harness their abilities. Take the time to watch them when they are playing. Are they tapping their fingers to music, dancing, doodling with crayons, throwing or kicking a ball? Watch and take note.
One study revealed that 22 of 24 talented performers ranging from chess players to figure skaters were introduced to their respective talent by their parents, usually between the ages of 2 and 5. It’s great to get them started early, but make sure not to apply pressure at the earliest stages. Pressure may negatively impact their emotional development and damage the parent-child bond if they feel forced to do an activity. Be sensitive to the difference between nurturing a child’s abilities and dumping two tons of pressure on their small shoulders.
Provide plenty of opportunities to explore
One way you can help your children discover their talent is to give them plenty of opportunities to explore different skills early on so that they are aware of their strengths and potential. Joining a team sport, taking art or music classes, and even joining competitions like the Young Talent Big Dreams competition will challenge their abilities and increase their desire to improve.
Parents should be encouraging throughout and remember to make it fun, especially early on. Expose them to all manner of arts, music, sports and other activities and parents shouldn’t limit their children to the things they themselves like. Remember to ask them their thoughts and feelings regarding their new experience, which will help you explore and discover your child’s talent even more.
Don’t let them quit when things get tough
Most of us know that hard work, determination and perseverance will develop a talent - it’s no surprise that some studies point to resilience as one of the biggest factors that determines lifelong success. So don’t let them take the easy way out when things get tough, or they feel that they are not good enough or improving.
It’s wise to teach your child that their talents must be honed and strengthened through dedicated practice and perseverance. Still, make sure to keep your own expectations realistic by remembering that your child is working toward a long-term goal, and always valuing progress over perfection.
In the mood for some inspiration, take a look at two youths who started developing their talents early on and have already achieved remarkable things in large part thanks to The Children’s Trust-funded programs. Read more about musician Silvio Plata and dancer Destiny Delancy at TheChildrensTrust.org/20thAnniversary.