Perhaps you’ve just watched your little one in the school play and you think wow, he can really act and sing too! The next question you need to ask is, how do I develop my child’s talents? Knowing how to develop a child’s talent is an important part of helping children find their place in the world. First though, let me state that I believe all kids have a talent and our jobs as parents is to find what that talent is, facilitate it and encourage it. But that also means that just as it’s possible to have considerable talent in one area, it’s also possible to have no talent in another.
First, find your child’s talent
I’ll give you an example. My eighteen year old daughter in grade twelve, has an amazing voice both in range and even more importantly, timing. She loves jazz, sings in every venue she can find, the shower and even busks on the street corner once in a while. On the other hand, I can’t offer her the same accolades about chemistry. I could put her in a chemistry class morning noon and night and while I could hope she would achieve an acceptable standard, she’d likely never be brilliant at it. I’ve come to terms with that and I think, so has she.
But why do I mention the chemistry and singing? Well, to illustrate the fact that there are two stages in helping our kids find their talents. One is exposing kids to all sorts of things and the second is to discover whether or not they are any good.
While parents often get the first half of the picture right, many of them miss out on the second. They expose their children to lots of different things but they fail to see when the writing is on the wall, even when it’s shouting at them in big bold letters and saying, ‘Stop Please!’ Sometimes that’s because the parent themselves has a talent, or a particular love for a certain area and so they can’t let go of the fact their offspring might not. Sometimes it’s for other reasons.
One of those other reasons is because it has become politically correct to tell kids they can do or be anything. Nobody wants to look like non encouraging grinch. So I think it’s a good idea to ask why that is? After all, the result is my daughter’s choir class, filled as it is, with a significant number of kids who really can’t sing. I mean not just singers who are struggling with a note here or there but kids who, as lovely as they are, are simply tone deaf.
I know choir is part of the high school curriculum, so that’s perhaps that’s why having significant groups of non singers is understandable, but it’s worth asking the question of why do so many parents find it difficult to come to terms with their child’s limitations? Well, largely I think, because our attitude has been swayed by society in general and more particularly, by the consumer part of our society.
Why is it easy for parents to be confused
We can look at it like this. If a young adult can be made to believe she’s utterly gorgeous supermodel material then she will want to worry all the time about her appearance. She’ll buy more makeup. She’ll buy more clothes. She’ll have her hair cut more often. She’ll browse fancy shops looking for all sorts of cool accessories. At home in the bath, she’ll read fashion magazines. In short, her expenditures or more likely yours will exponentially increase because of her belief about her new found gorgeousness.
In other words, by pretending to children that they can be good at everything (if only they make the effort), we are essentially serving a master we might not even realize exists. Who is that master? It’s profit. It’s the marketplace, and its words have eaten their way in to our collective consciousness. It’s filled society at large with decent people who say to children, hoping to inspire them, ‘you can be anything you want to.’
Now if you’re talking to a little people, I get that. After all, when they’re little nobody knows yet where their skills lie and we want to simply encourage them. However, it’s not something we say just to little kids anymore. We say it to everyone and that’s why there are lines and lines of people standing outside the doors of ‘American Idol’ auditions or similar shows, who simply can’t sing.
Life’s lesson number one; Not everyone is good at everything
It’s why in my last playwriting class, we were all told we can be playwrights when I know for a fact, that’s not true. Many of the attendees can’t write their way out of a paper bag. Others can, but lack a natural ear for dialogue, so their words sound horribly stilted. It goes on, because more than anything, we have been told that if we put the work in we can make it! Yes, you can teach playwriting and everyone can achieve a certain standard, but all but the most talented lack the spark that will keep you sitting in your seat. It why everyone rises now during a standing ovation, an accolade that is supposed to be something that separates the extraordinary from the ordinary. Actors hate it. They know the difference. Why don’t we?
No matter how much we might desire it, we are not talented at everything. In fact, I would argue we are actually not talented at most things, but in that mire of mediocrity, somewhere there’s a gem. It is might be like trying to find a needle in the haystack, or a black cat in a coal cellar. Often buried, often obscured to all but the most determined eye, it’s still there lucking, waiting to be found by the encouraging parent. It’s brilliant and it will fill your child with joy, not just because people tell them they are good at it but because they can feel it for themselves. Their success will be real and their talent obvious. As parents, we simply have to find out what that is.
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