How to help your children discover, nurture their potential

June 28, 2019
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I CAN remember I always somehow ended up on the list of noisemakers in primary school the mode of punishment for noisemakers was to use cello tape over your mouth if you became unbearable, the teachers were never allowed to beat children.

I was lucky to have been able to harness this into a positive skill, in terms of public speaking, training, teaching, educating and play acting (drama group) when I was in the university.  I probably may have ended up as an actress, who knows? But I am from a generation whose parents believed only in academic prowess, so being an actress, pop musician and the likes were seen as unserious professions and were not to be encouraged. But guess what! Times have changed as the only constant thing in life is CHANGE.

This brings us to the aspect of confusion parents face when a child shows or develops certain characters that they may not have any idea on how to channel properly. Some of these traits, talents, potential, skill show up quite early as early as five years old, while some may linger till seven years old, some exceptional children show their personality or talent by two or three- year-old, each child is unique.

While it is important to notice their personality which will lead to talent discovery, it is important we do not put them under any pressure, as a child’s talent or skill can change repeatedly over time depending on so many factors from environment, peers, exposure etc.

As parents, you need to bear in mind that talents are not born, but made, with appropriate conditions of learning anyone can achieve anything.

What does your child do effortlessly?

Every child has one or more ability which is why we should watch and analyse before finalizing where their talent lies, as some are gifted to do so many things at the same time.

Sometimes these talents may not be even connected to those of their parents, for instance the child of a musician discovering interest in machinery, really far apart you would say, but it does happen.

Always observe and be on the look out

Some people never get to discover themselves even after attaining adulthood, it is not possible for everyone to recognize their own talents, at some point you may have had some “interests” showing a sign that you are e.g. an artist in making, singer in making, lawyer in making etc.

But the reason why observation is important is because “interests” can change or switch over time. I believe in discovering talent so much pressure should not be applied, let them have fun while discovering themselves. if you are patient and observant you will be rewarded as the talent matures.

Nothing should be taken for granted, everything counts, however, silly this talent may appear

When your child is playing, does he prefer to sit quietly, draw pictures, mimic people on television? Joke around a lot? Scatter and rearrange things? Kick football screaming “goallll” every two minutes? Playing with sand all the time? Dismantling all the toy cars , weaving baby dolls hair morning to night? Painting all the walls in the house with crayon and paint?

Most children’s favourite activities are a good indication of what interests them and patient observation during playtime most especially when they think you are not watching will help you figure out what they enjoy doing and if there is any potential hidden talent that needs to be discovered.

An early start is important nevertheless because the seeds of talent are planted between age two and five, especially in homes were parents are elite performers in various fields, their children usually have an advantage because they are surrounded by what their parents do or expose them to. Some parents were not linked to the child’s eventual talent area but provided a nurturing early environment that sparked a talent interest. For instance, a lawyer by profession will most likely have a child exposed to reading and books, the child may end up not being a lawyer but a writer, see the relation?

Allow them experiment, they may not need to specialize too early. While most parents like to know about their children’s successes, these days a lot of them spend very little time talking with teachers, coaches and instructors about gaps and deficiencies of their wards. If parents discuss only performance gaps, they leave behind important opportunities to learn about their children’s talents, this applies to parents who even after careful observation have been unable to identify or notice their children’s talents , another option will be to find out from teachers, neighbors, family members with necessary questions, this opportunity is not just to notice gaps or deficiencies but to see how as one can nature the child’s talent , say for instance a child goes for a summer camp and is observed to always be distracted , even if the instructor informs the parent about this gap, it is important for the parent to also ask “ what did you observe this child doing well?”

Listen and be supportive

Not every tall child will be a football or basketball star and neither will every talkative child will be a lawyer.

We have to be careful not to profile their gifts wrongly which could lead to a life of dissatisfaction for the child and disappointment for the parent.

The easiest way to find out what your child’s hidden talents could be, is to just ask them what they like, what their dreams are and what they want to be when he or she grows up! Yes, it’s that simple, be ready for all sorts of surprising responses, but be patient to sift out several things that may seem out of focus, but with a clear mind give you an idea of the direction the child’s talent may take.

Even if she wants to be cat woman (I can hear some parents say God forbid), ask her what exactly it is about this superhero that she aspires to be like — if he wants to help old people in need, maybe he can become a caregiver, firefighter, policeman in future? Or if he wants to be able to fly, then perhaps he’ll grow up to be a pilot. I had a colleague years ago who was not happy on the job, but once you bring up any topic relating to cars, his eyes would light up and he would practically dismantle a car and tell you what each car part can accomplish, on further enquiry he said he always wanted to be a mechanic and his parents never allowed him to be. He is still stuck as an unhappy corporate worker. That is not to say succumb to every whim of your child, but have an open mind to listen and guide them.

No matter how far-fetched your little one’s dreams are, don’t crush it by telling them it’s impossible or unrealistic — instead, just show them your support and help them set achievable goals. For Instance, if your child wants to be the first female formula 1 driver, you need to encourage her to learn about special car parts, driving gear, training and all other things and maybe one day she can achieve that dream and break world records.  Whether or not they achieve their dreams or talents, at least he will grow up happy knowing that their parents were there to support them every step of the way.

Create the environment and practice

Everyone who has a talent or skill needs an enabling environment and opportunity to grow. As parents once we have identified the talent, we have to create the opportunity for development as this singular act will create avenue for practice and perfection. If there is lack of an enabling environment this talent may remain as an “interest” and when the formative years are gone, it may be too late to develop it to full potential. For instance, if your child loves to play instruments, you may not notice it as a talent if there is no opportunity to play either the piano, flute, drum set and the likes. You have to provide a range of opportunities so as to be sure which direction this instrumental talent is headed.

This applies to other skills and the essence of practicing these talents, there is a saying practice makes perfect, it should be goal oriented outside one’s comfort zone. I have an extremely busy schedule , but a few years ago my husband and I discovered our first daughter loves sewing clothes for her baby doll, initially I thought it was a play thing she would outgrow , but she didn’t , we made the next step to send her to a tailoring school which she enjoys so much and is excited to come home telling us things she has learnt, as parents we had to take turns in our busy schedules to ensure there is TIME for her to learn and improve and practice constantly , also giving her access to fashion shows on television to broaden her mind.

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