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Attending social engagements with my parents as a child, I would get seriously annoyed when at the end of every such do, a couple of parents always encouraged their kids to sing, or dance, or recite poems. Just as kids do, I would often be irritated by what seemed to be the parents “showing off” their child’s skills. At the same time, I would feel extremely proud, as I was good at colouring and drawing, when my parents took out my latest masterpiece and exhibited it to all their friends and enjoy all the ooohs and aahs that came my way.
Now as a mother, I realize that every parent at those get togethers recognized that their child had a natural skill or flair for a particular activity, which they encouraged in their own way, usually as a proud exhibition for their friends. Even though my boys are just shy of two years, I feel extremely proud when they display their latest accomplishment to my friends - pointing out parts of their body!
We, as parents, take great pride in our children and their natural skills. It is equally important for us to “nurture” that skill and make sure we give our child the encouragement and freedom to figure out what to do with that skill. Too often dreams of artists of every kind have been squashed under the engineering and medical careers that parents have envisioned for their kids.
What we can do to Enhance and Nurture Our Child’s Natural Skills
Every child need not grow up to be a Shah Rukh Khan, an Albert Einstein, or a Picasso, but every child deserves encouragement and research shows there are things parents can do to expand our child’s skill set. It is our job as parents to identify our child’s “skills”-whether exuberantly on display or latent within. However, eventually, it is more important for us to help our children develop their own sense of self worth and trust.
- Commend Efforts always
In my opinion, it is more important for us to appreciate the effort taken to get there and the journey, rather than the end result. Of course, which parent’s chest doesn’t swell up with joy when his or her child announces that he has won a competition? In such situations, it is more important to say, ‘Well Done! You have worked hard for this prize’ rather than saying ‘Well Done! You are so talented.’ The fundamental difference between the two statements is the praise of the effort and not the talent. Magic Johnson once famously stated, “Talent is never enough. With few exceptions the best players are the hardest workers”. We as parents need to instil in the minds of our children that there are no shortcuts to success and it is only hard work that can be their biggest motivator to strive for excellence.
- Identify the “Not-So-Good” as well as the “Good”
Our school had a system of identifying “all rounder’s” i.e. students who were good at academics, sports, extracurricular activities, etc. and these students were chosen yearly and awarded a gold medal at the end of every academic session. My friend Divya was great in academics and had a cheerful, well rounded personality. Though she played with a lot of enthusiasm, she was not very good in sports and believed this gold medal would evade her for that reason. However, one academic year, she was mightily confused when the management announced that she had won. A wise teacher of ours then cleared her confusion and stated that “You needn’t be good at everything, but you should not fear the things you feel you are not good in”. This statement has stuck with me, as I feel a child who does not approach a task for fear of failure will not be able to develop his or her natural confidence. Hence, it is equally important to identify the “not so good” skill set in our kids for overall healthy development.
- Lead By Example
As in every aspect of parenting, this statement holds weight even when identifying your child’s talents. If you as a parent show your kids through your lifestyle and activities that you have a natural skill which you are harnessing to your advantage, your children will learn how to tap into their skill set as well. It need not necessarily be creative pursuits, even your work can reflect these, and it is important for our children to understand that an individual’s natural skills can be put to use at work and at play.
So often, as parents, we get caught up in the day to day running of our lives between work, home and family that we forget to indulge in activities like drawing, colouring, photography, etc. which we are good at and which bring us immense pleasure. We need to figure out how to include these as a part of our daily lives to set an example to our kids, to make them understand that they too can find time for their natural skills in their busy lives, now and forever.
- Encourage “The Arts”
“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” – Pablo Picasso
There is something wonderfully magical when you see a toddler create “art” from his imagination using different combinations of colours and shapes using Play Doh. A simple activity like this is inherently useful for the development of cognitive skills like planning, experimenting and problem solving in kids, and all through a creative medium.
It need not necessarily be physical artwork, drawings, etc. Any kind of art activity from colouring to singing to dancing to debates encourages creativity in children and gives ample opportunity for self expression, while developing physical and verbal skills. It will help you as a parent realise if your child is inherently talented at any one particular art form and then encouragement and special training can be given to further develop the same.
- Let them Play!
“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” – Fred Rogers
The great outdoors is one of the oldest play places in the world, where children play some of the most interesting games which require a serious level of creative thinking! Besides the basic development of gross motor skills and optimal strength, in playing an organized game with friends, children learn the concept of taking turns and good sportsmanship, and playing solo engages his or her sense of depth perception and spatial awareness.
The benefits of all that free oxygen are too numerous to count, and play energizes and refreshes your child so that they can focus on things and activities that they are actually interested in and very good at. Outdoor play of various kinds helps you find out if you have a future sprinter, footballer or any other sportsperson, and you can then accordingly take the interest forward to passion, and then to profession.
Most importantly, whether our children succeed or not, it is imperative to stand by them in every situation, celebrate their wins with exhilaration and cushion their loss with love and encouragement. So Parents, Go find your child’s natural skills. Encourage them! Provide opportunities for your child to stretch that talent. Then follow your child’s lead.