As a parent, we cherish that moment when we first hold our newborn baby in our arms. We look into his sleepy eyes and think about the infinite possibilities this child has. Why, he could end up being the next Einstein, Van Gogh, or Michael Jordan. You can hardly wait to watch his potential develop.
And then he turns out to be...well, average.
His grades are OK, his artwork is messy, and he falls down a lot on the playground. You might start to worry that your child is destined to go through life without any particular talent.
Sometimes our children need a little help to discover the talents that are unique to them. Here are some ways to do that.
Encourage your child to explore different interests
Your child will never discover something he is good at until he finds something he loves. Passion is more important than initial talent.
My son started playing soccer when he was six years old. He wasn't the star player, and he never made a single goal all year. However, I loved to watch him dance in the backfield as he waited for the ball to come his way. I could see how much he enjoyed playing soccer, regardless of his skill level.
Embrace the bad
Sometimes when my kids are trying something new, they get discouraged because they aren't very good right away. I tell them to "embrace the bad." You have to be bad before you can get better.
According to Michael Michalko at the Creativity Post, Einstein attended trade school for a year before he was finally admitted to a university, Van Gogh sold only one painting during his lifetime, and Michael Jordan was cut from his high school team.
Teach your children that it is OK if they aren't good at something right away. Focus on having fun, and improvement will come with time.
Practice makes perfect
In his book, Outliers: the story of success, Malcolm Gladwell takes a look at the best and brightest, the most famous and the most successful - essentially, the most talented people. From computer geniuses to sports figures to virtuoso musicians, he discovered that they all had at least one thing in common: they had each practiced a minimum of 10,000 hours.
I'm not recommending that you force your child to practice for hours and hours after school. Kids do need time to be kids, after all. However, you can encourage your child to develop his talent with consistent practice.
Encourage your child to focus on her personal progress, not competition. Winning a race may be out of the question at this point, but I bet your daughter can beat her best time or pass one of her competitors. Help her set achievable goals so she will push herself at a reasonable pace. Help her recognize the satisfaction that comes from steady improvement.
So your child is perfectly content to be a C+ student or a spectator in the stands instead of a player on the field. Does that mean he has no talents? Not at all. Some of the most important talents are the ones that are not so obvious. Look a little closer at your child, and you will notice that he already has talents that will make you proud. For example:
My oldest daughter is very good at reasoning and communicating. She is able to argue her position without calling names or getting angry.
My oldest son has a great sense of humor and is a peacemaker. When his younger brothers would fight, he'd intervene, often using his sense of humor to diffuse the situation.
Another daughter has the courage to try new things. She has dabbled in art, acted in class plays, sang in her middle school's "American Idol" contest, tried out for volleyball and participated in cross country, swim, and water polo. She hasn't always excelled at everything that she has tried, but she has had fun and collected some wonderful life experiences.
My other daughter is cheerful, optimistic and a good friend. She sees the good in everyone and everything and is always fun to be around.
Another son is a great learner. I'm not just talking about getting good grades, either. He comes to me with his problems, listens and asks for suggestions that could help. Then he applies those suggestions. He uses that pattern of learning and applying in all areas of his life.
My youngest son is sensitive to the feelings of others. He is very empathetic towards others, and he reaches out to those who might not have many friends and could be a target for bullies. He also has a talent for having fun.
Helping our children discover their talents is a great way to boost their self-esteem and develop their confidence. Have fun exploring the possibilities and celebrating their victories with them.