How to Discover Your Child's Talents
Updated: Jul 25, 2018
Friday, March 23, 2018
How often have you heard or uttered these phrases:
“Wow, where did you learn to draw so beautifully?”
“Did your daughter really solve that Rubik’s cube under a minute? Isn’t she like, 8?”
“My boy started swimming like a fish at the age of two! I just threw him into the water.”
Possibly the first two questions are more common, but hey, that last question is not impossible. According to psychologist Dean Keith Simonton, talent is best explained as any package of personal characteristics that accelerates the acquisition of expertise, or enhances performance given a certain amount of expertise. In short, talents aren’t something you are born with, but takes time to develop.
But fret not, because here are some ideas on how you can discover your child’s hidden talent.
1. When is my child going to find their “thing”?
You may have taken ballet classes as a child or represented your school as an athlete back in the day, and it’s tempting to steer your kid into the same direction…don’t! Genetic influence does not mean it was already set in stone genetically. Instead, introduce your child to try as many things as possible from a young age and see the endless possibilities abound!
Check out free classes and workshops to try and be there for them as you observe what they’re good at or what they don’t like. You might just be relieved that your son or daughter didn’t inherit that robot dance you were once oh so famous for.
Even if it’s the smallest of abilities that catches their attention - a fascination with colours and patterns that can birth a love for art, a curiosity to seek out little critters that may be an indication of an adventurous mini entomologist you know wasn’t inherited from bug-phobia you, or even stomping to the rhythm and belting out that theme song from their favourite cartoon you’ve heard a million times over.
Pretty soon you’ll be able to figure it out as you observe them closely, whether it is their musical abilities, or scientific curiosities - yep, maybe even THAT robot dance.
2. Ask, ask, and ask!
The next best people to ask for opinions about your child’s talents are the people who spend copious amount of time with them - it can be their teachers, grandparents, coaches, and friends who are best at spotting potential. It’s easy to fall into the Asian culture trap of talking about their weaknesses and gaps.
You can always consider their opinions but don’t let this be your only determining factor because of something someone said that can clout your judgement. These are good feedback but getting positive feedback is even better. Instead, ask questions like “What did my son/daughter do well? How can I help nurture this talent? What are the opportunities I can provide?”
Alas, the best person to ask is of course your kid! You are your child’s greatest detective and you’d know something’s up even before Sherlock Holmes does. As a kid, I had always wanted to play the piano and all I did was to tell my mother that I wanted to try it out. I wouldn’t say that I was a piano prodigy when I started but within piano styles, I found my talent was to play by ear, and as they say, the rest is history.
3. How should I nurture a talented kid?
“To err is human”. Children need to learn that even with talent, mistakes can teach them a thing or two about acceptance, to face their fears and fallibility, and the capacity to take the risks necessary to discover and develop their talent. When people talk about their failures and how they’ve overcome them, we’re all ears. It’s an element that humanises us to point out that talented people are not a superior race and it brings people together to talk about the values gained in their choices.
Child prodigies that have been over-cultivated are known to develop self-esteem problems and performance anxiety, always living in the shadow of never being good enough. It is crucial for your child to have a “growth mindset” by acknowledging their efforts, not just their ability from very early on.
Alissa Quart, who has won a dozen creative-writing competitions by the age of 17, puts it very succinctly by saying this, "Emphasise the work in itself, the process itself, the activity. The kids are trying, they're doing a good job, they're learning how to do something. Each thing they do is discrete; it's not part of a larger identity of being spectacular.”
Let Children Be Who They Want to Be
With these pointers, this journey of discovery would lead to a lifetime of gratifying experiences together with your child as they discover who they can be and the role they are able to take on to make this world a better place once they’ve found their calling.