One of the delights in seeing my family grow has been to observe the unique talents, abilities and interests that each of my children have and to see those things become strengths in their life.
This week over dinner a friend asked each person around the table – What are you good at, or what is your passion? It was a great dinner time question.
Everyone in our family has unique talents, abilities and interests. These things are a component of who our children are and we need to discover them and allow them to develop.
Whenever parents start talking about talents in their kids we get starry eyed and start thinking of ways where our kids can shine, where they can be the best, where they will go far. But this isn’t the purpose of talents, abilities or interests. In God’s way of living it isn’t about income, accolades, position, or success.
Our son Joshua, has a unique and gifted way of thinking; he thinks fast, deep and is always seeking to understand. Taking his personality and his ability he easily fits into the stereotype of an intellectual recluse. One day he was reading in the lounge room and his baby sister was sitting on the floor crying. He didn’t respond to her need at all – and I was not impressed! As I talked to him I realised that he honestly hadn’t heard her – he was so absorbed in his book, he was totally unaware of his surrounds and what others might need.
This was the turning point in parenting him. As we taught him to be other’s aware I instilled in him an understanding that God has not given you this ability for your own glory – but rather he has given it to you for his purposes – and his purposes always include people. When you meet Josh you see a people person – sure, he still needs his space, his quiet time, but he is interested in people, he makes effort to connect with people and help people. He doesn’t know how God will use his skills or his passions, but he is diligently fine tuning and improving, and at the same time, always building relationships with people.
An inherent ability will often lead to passion – not always, but often. Parents can get frustrated that their child isn’t passionate about anything and they see this as apathy or laziness. But that may not be the case – maybe your child is one who has a broad base of interests. Once again this is a heart adjustment for parents – it isn’t about our child being a master of his chosen area – but rather that he can grow to be fulfilled and purposeful. We have a disdain for the ordinary life – and yet the ordinary, everyday life is where God meets us, and where God calls us to meet with others. This is our life.
So before we talk about how to encourage talents, abilities and interests in our kids, parents we need to do a little heart check. Do we have high expectations on our kids to perform? Are we driven by the need to succeed? Or are we pushing our kids to be good at something because we think it is a good idea?
How to discover our Kid’s Talents & Interests?
As we give our children plenty of free time to be themselves, to be children we will start to see patterns of activity forming, especially if we don’t put expectations on this time. It is as they play that they will gravitate towards what they are interested in. As your kids play watch closely, and ask yourself these questions:
- What is it that the child gravitates towards?
- What do they choose to do with their free time?
- What do they get excited about?
- What do they want to talk about?
Our children need time to recreate. I believe there is a connection between having recreational time and being creative. Parenting today is so much about outcomes – but we cannot rush the development of our child – not their physical growth and not the growth of their interests. Sit back and watch, and be prepared to invest when you see a spark of interest. (Note: I am talking about children here – inspiring older kids/teens who are already bored and not showing interest in anything is a different story).
Give them opportunity – 5 ways
Five ways we can invest in our children to develop their talents, abilities and interests: give them time, supplies, space, a mentor and encouragement
Our kids still need time to grow in these things, but not so much play time, but time where they can explore, practice, fail, and try again; time where they can focus on what they are interested in.
As our kids were growing up we dedicated the afternoon to developing individual skills and interests: this is where I saw the kids passions start to peep through. We called our afternoons – or at least an hour or two – Productive Free Time. This is where they had the free choice of what they did but it had to be productive or purposeful.
We need to give our children access to the tools and materials their craft use.
Parents cannot expect our children to develop an interest in music if we don’t surround them with music, and give them access to musical instrument – an artist needs paint and paper – a builder needs wood and nails – a writer needs pen and paper, or a computer – a cook needs ingredients – sportsman needs a bat, ball.
I believe a healthy home is one that accommodates many different purposes and passions. A house becomes alive as each person stamps their individuality on that space.
When we start to recognise the importance of a particular skill in our child’s life we need to start making space for them to grow and develop. It may mean a desk, an art easel, a cricket pitch in the backyard. One thing we did that made a big difference at one stage in our family life was we created “Project Boxes” – one full of supplies and one for unfinished projects. Having a space to put things helped keep our home tidy while the kids explore and create.
We can’t always teach our kids everything – sometimes we need to hand over to someone with some knowledge and experience.
Our kids’ lives have been enriched by family friends, grandparents, and community people who have talents, abilities and interests that match areas my kids wanted to develop. Debating, sewing, music/piano, drawing, cricket, drama, running, building – the list goes on. Who do you know that can give to your child’s life?
Though nothing can beat a face to face mentor, depending on your child’s learning style, and the skills they want to learn, books and online courses are another way our children can learn without us having the skills involved ourselves.
We may not have the ability in the same things as our children do – but we must have an interest in them and as such we will show an interest in the things they are learning and doing.
Most of the things that my kids are interested in, and have developed passions for are things that I have no idea about. For example, some of their passions are Joshua is passionate about philosophy, Jessica is very talented in the area of organising, Nomi paints, and Daniel builds with wood. I don’t think I taught them much of any of that!! But other than giving them time, tools, space, and a teacher, I also gave them encouragement.
As I’ve already said, parents can get caught up, carried away with this idea of developing our kids talents and interests. So here are three more cautions –
Don’t box our children. They need time and experiences to develop into all that they are going to become. We must make room for lots of playtime, free time and creative expression. Only when the children become passionate about something do we hone in on that.
Don’t rush them; give them plenty of free time, and as long as they are not being disruptive or destructive with that time, they will drift to something. You may have to teach your children to use their time wisely but don’t over stress this all the time. Children need time to dwell, to think, to ponder, to create.
Don’t limit them; their passions may only last for a season – they may change. Remember our children are growing, which is why the free time is the key here. Allow them to dabble in different things, to try things out, to walk away from something – give them the freedom to explore possibilities but not to be defined by one choice.
What a delight to sit around the table and have my grown children be able to define their passions, and acknowledge their abilities. Their passions may or may not lead to a career, but it does lead to a rich and fulfilled life.
Continue reading about developing our kids interests:
How do you define success? How you define success will shape every decision you make in your family.
How to encourage Creativity in your Children: Creativity is the ability to look at some thing in a new way, or the skill to make something.
Our Afternoons – Delight Directed Productivity: Instead of giving my kids lots of free time, some of their afternoons were spent in delight directed productivity – a phrase that became central to encouraging our kids individual talents.
Let other people enhance your Homeschool: To make the most of your homeschool experiences let other people share their passions and skills with your kids.
Developing their Talents: I wrote at a time I was processing how to encourage Daniel in his talents.
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