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Every par­ent hopes, deep down, that their child is the next great sci­en­tist like Albert Ein­stein, a world-class pianist like Glen Gould, or a future cul­tur­al icon and author like Toni Morrison. There’s no shame in it! It’s not only a com­mon impulse; it sim­ply means that you want your child to excel at what­ev­er they choose to do in life. Peo­ple with Gould or Mor­ri­son or Ein­stein’s gifts are, admit­ted­ly, quite rare, but as a par­ent, you’ll nev­er know what your child is capa­ble of until they try dif­fer­ent endeavours. And it’s your job to see and check if they are exposed to a myr­i­ad of activ­i­ties to let them find out what they’re good at and – most impor­tant­ly – what they love doing. Only by try­ing new and dif­fer­ent things will they learn where their tal­ents lie and whether those tal­ents are some­thing they can turn into a life­long pur­suit and a poten­tial career. Guid­ing your child through these waters is an impor­tant part of your role as a par­ent. Chil­dren can be unfo­cused and impul­sive, and one day they may want to play the tuba, and the next, they want to enrol in the chess club. How do you rein in some of those impuls­es with­out damp­en­ing their spir­its and deflat­ing their desire to try lots of new things? We’ve got some sug­ges­tions for you, ideas you should embrace the next time your child says, “I want to be a vet and a tap dancer!” How do you han­dle pro­nounce­ments like that if they don’t have evi­dent strengths in either field? What to do?

1- Remember: Few Geniuses are born; they’re Made!

how to nurture your child's talent l how I nurture my child's talent l how I find my child's talent l how to develop a child's talent There are chil­dren who are born with incred­i­ble skills; for exam­ple, Mozart was com­pos­ing com­pli­cat­ed pieces by the age of six. But let’s be real­is­tic; most chil­dren are not born with innate gifts. Nor are their IQs off the charts right out of the womb; most chil­dren don’t dis­play tal­ents at a genius lev­el until much lat­er, after sev­er­al years of schooling. It’s impor­tant that you don’t pres­sure your child into dif­fi­cult aca­d­e­mics unless they show an apti­tude for and enthu­si­asm about advanced schooling. In ele­men­tary school (grades one to eight), a child’s gifts become evi­dent to par­ents and teach­ers alike, and you should be alert to those cues.

2- Resist the Impulse to Push Them too Hard

It’s almost guar­an­teed that if you insist your child takes three piano lessons a week, regard­less of their age, they will rebel against the strict­ness of that schedule. Try to bal­ance their social activ­i­ties (fun) and their train­ing activ­i­ties (lessons and tutor­ing). This is par­tic­u­lar­ly impor­tant if they are show­ing an apti­tude for some­thing; more is def­i­nite­ly not better! Even if they ask for addi­tion­al lessons because they love play­ing (the piano, soc­cer, or what­ev­er the activ­i­ty may be), don’t cave in. Chil­dren will often want to indulge in some­thing they love a whole lot more than is good for them; it’s your respon­si­bil­i­ty to set lim­its and boundaries.

3- Praise Them Continually, Even when they Make Mistakes

Chil­dren need con­stant, pos­i­tive rein­force­ment, and you can do that by mak­ing sure they get lots of kudos even when they’re at home, not just at a recital or sci­ence fair or oth­er pub­lic venues. Mis­takes are part of learn­ing, and crit­i­ciz­ing them for mak­ing them is a sure-fire way to lose inter­est in the activity.

4- The More they Sign Up for, the Less Focused they’ll be

how to nurture your child's talent l how I nurture my child's talent l how I find my child's talent l how to develop a child's talent Of course, noth­ing is wrong with enlist­ing your child in the math club and the sci­ence club, espe­cial­ly because the two areas are some­times relat­ed, and an inter­est in one may indi­cate an inter­est in the other. But too many activ­i­ties, even though you have the best of inten­tions, spreads your child’s ener­gy and focus far too thin. Talk it over with them, find out what they are most cap­ti­vat­ed by, and go from there.

5- Don’t Get “Hung Up” on Gender-Based Interests

Has your son said he wants to study bal­let at the local dance acad­e­my? That’s terrific! Some­times par­ents make the mis­take of asso­ci­at­ing cer­tain activ­i­ties with gen­der, and that’s a big mistake. Girls can be engi­neers and might like to build hous­es with Habi­tat For Human­i­ty dur­ing the sum­mer. Boys can be gift­ed at bal­let, jazz or tap danc­ing, and many make a career of those artis­tic pursuits. As the par­ent, don’t con­fuse ques­tions of sex­u­al iden­ti­ty with their pref­er­ences; you’ll only alien­ate them. Ask your­self whether you are uncom­fort­able with your child tak­ing up a par­tic­u­lar activ­i­ty because of their gen­der. If the answer is yes, you’ve got some work to do on your atti­tudes and opin­ions. It’s the 21st cen­tu­ry, and what was once con­sid­ered ver­boten for a girl is now avail­able to all. Isn’t that marvellous?

6- Let Them Make Mistakes in Their Choices

Say­ing “I told you so” (or words to that effect) if your child tries the dra­ma club and decides it’s not for them is not productive. Of course, no par­ent wants to invest hun­dreds of dol­lars in new sports equip­ment for their child to play hock­ey only to have it end up gath­er­ing dust in a base­ment clos­et, but crit­i­ciz­ing and forc­ing them to feel worse about quit­ting an activ­i­ty will only make them hes­i­tant to try some­thing else. Of course, you should express your hopes that they give some­thing time before decid­ing to quit, rather than attempt­ing it once or twice and stop­ping. But if they give it a lot of thought, are sure it’s not right for them, then accept their deci­sion and let them move on.

7- Be Sure you Aren’t Nurturing your Past Dreams

Remem­ber when you were 10 and dreamed of being a world-famous actress or engineer? Those were your dreams, not your child’s and impos­ing yours on them is not fair, and any attempt to do so will like­ly end in dis­as­ter. It’s vital that you view your child as an indi­vid­ual in this regard; what mat­tered to you as a child is not nec­es­sar­i­ly going to mat­ter to them.

8- Show Genuine Enthusiasm

how to nurture your child's talent l how I nurture my child's talent l how I find my child's talent l how to develop a child's talent It’s tough to lis­ten to a child rehearse the sax­o­phone, vio­lin, or oth­er instru­ments that take a lot of prac­tice to become proficient. But if that is where your child’s gift lies, and their enthu­si­asm, you’ve got to be sup­port­ive and cheer them on – even when the notes they’re hit­ting sound like fin­ger­nails on a chalkboard. Devel­op­ing your child’s tal­ents means using your strongest gifts as a par­ent – sup­port, enthu­si­asm, and time man­age­ment skills, so they don’t get in over their head with too many activ­i­ties on the go all at once. how to nurture your child's talent l how I nurture my child's talent l how I find my child's talent l how to develop a child's talent

Last but not least

There is no guar­an­tee your child will become a mae­stro musi­cian, bril­liant math­e­mati­cian, or savvy busi­ness per­son, no mat­ter how much sup­port and time you invest in achiev­ing their dreams and devel­op­ing their gifts.  But as the par­ent, it’s your role and your respon­si­bil­i­ty to be your child’s biggest fan and finan­cial backer, so to speak. That means pony­ing up the mon­ey for fees, equip­ment, and what­ev­er else it takes to get them and keep them engaged in the activ­i­ties that lead to the awak­en­ing of their gifts. It’s what you signed up for when you decid­ed to become a par­ent, right? Since being a par­ent is the most reward­ing gift of all, sup­port­ing your chil­dren as they grow and thrive. It means liv­ing up to your part of the bargain!

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