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!
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
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
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.
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!