Parents: Help Develop Your Child’s Talents
Do you have a son or daughter? Then you are caring for the greatest creation on Earth: the human mind. The Creator of human beings has put under your responsibility a miraculous combination of intellect, emotion, spirit and potential. What will you do with it?
Since your child was in the womb, the neurons in his or her brain have been firing. Certain parts of the brain that control autonomic functions like heartbeat, reflexes and breathing have been hardwired. But after birth, seemingly innumerable neurons are available as the brain and the mind undergo construction.
How is your child’s mind being built? What will it be like at maturity? How will your child use that mind to contribute to others? Will your child be an engineer? A musician? A translator? A culinary artist? An athlete? An entrepreneur? A craftsman? A good father or mother?
It depends on how your child—and you—develop the talents in that amazing human mind.
How can you find out what your child’s talents are? And what is the best way to develop them?
Turn On Your Talent Radar
The word talent is vague and even problematic. As a music teacher, I often see it used to excuse laziness in both the “talented” and the “untalented.” The “talented” already have endowments—so they (and others) reason that they don’t need to work hard. The “untalented” reason that success is out of reach—so they don’t need to work hard. For this discussion, we’ll call the proclivities and preferences of a child’s intellect and personality his “aptitudes.” The development of an aptitude becomes his “skill.” “Aptitude” is the raw natural resource; “skill” is its refinement into something usable.
Heredity does heavily influence the areas where a child will naturally excel. But heredity does not predestine your child to become a star shortstop or a virtuoso violinist. How many potentially great writers, musicians or other creative geniuses never developed because a parent didn’t recognize their aptitudes?
Every parent must invest time and effort into getting to know his or her child.
Children are predisposed to have particular likes, dislikes and interests. Don’t assume you know what they are. Be particularly careful of expecting similarities between siblings.
As your children grow, watch. What questions do they ask? What activities hold their interest? Assess their development. Encourage them in areas where they show aptitude or interest, from books to outdoor pursuits. Such praise helps your children thrive emotionally and can yield practical insights and opportunities that lead to greater exploits later in life.
Let your children explore different interests. They themselves may not understand their own “likes.” In early childhood, aptitudes will not always make themselves known. Expose your children to different experiences. Even when they hit their teen years, continue to present them with new opportunities. These experiences and opportunities can be simple: Let your children help you cook; throw a ball with them; take in a concert together; let them watch as you change the motor oil. At every opportunity, explain what you are doing. This is not only quality family time, it is also time where you are on the clock as their talent scout.
The wiring of the brain proceeds according to a fairly predictable timetable. For example, the auditory cortex wires itself in a way that shows it’s best to introduce a second language and its foreign sounds before age 10. You may have found from your own experience that waiting until high school makes learning another language much harder.
Studies have shown that the neural circuitry for math is near the circuitry for music, and can be developed even in a toddler by teaching concepts like “one” and “many.” Experts also suggest that the musical brain has a learning window of ages 3 to 10, as far as learning an instrument and the fundamental concepts associated with music. But exposure to music can happen while your child is still in the womb and through infancy. And this does far more than develop his or her musical abilities, as ample research proves.
Develop Their Talents
Once you have discovered your child’s interests, then what?
Though heredity plays a part in a person’s aptitudes, “the biggest factors in determining success or failure in life,” educator Herbert W. Armstrong wrote, “are motivation, determination, drive, perseverance” (Plain Truth, January 1982). It really comes down to what we do with the resources we’ve been given. You can’t sit back and admire the talent you’ve discovered in your child and watch it magically develop. It takes diligent effort to forge an aptitude into a genuine ability—and far more to refine it into mastery.
No matter how impressive their “talent,” great performers could never achieve excellence by merely dabbling in their field and then moving on to something else when it got difficult or boring. “Were they specially talented above other people?” Mr. Armstrong asked. “Undoubtedly, yet everyone began while quite young—and stuck to it with determination day after day, year after year. They didn’t quit. They worked at it. They continued improving. They were not content with mediocrity. They became real ‘pros’!” (ibid).
The Bible advocates doing whatever your hand finds to do “with thy might” (Ecclesiastes 9:10). God has used people with ability and skill to rally nations to righteousness, to record His thoughts, and to compose music that illustrated His plan. Men like Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were known—even to Gentile nobility in Babylon—for their skills in language and science (Daniel 1:3-4). Young David was “cunning” on the harp (1 Samuel 16:15-23), and later employed people who excelled at music to serve God full-time with that skill
(1 Chronicles 15:22).
God clearly supports such development. The fact is, the path to greatness in any physical activity demands the same focus and commitment as the path to spiritual greatness. Teaching our children how to develop their abilities instills lifelong habits and lessons in discipline, self-restraint, focus, motivation and hard work.
Concentrating on “talent development” does not mean neglecting general education and daily chores. These provide opportunities to balance out the personality and knowledge base. But avoid the temptation to enroll your children in too many extracurricular activities. Encourage them to more deeply develop one or two of those areas where they have shown heightened aptitude.
Develop Their Character
Mr. Armstrong related, “I knew a boy who had the talent of a child prodigy on the piano at age 6 or 7. But he tired of that, turned to blowing a trumpet, tired of that, reached maturity unable to do much of anything in any area” (ibid). If our children quit when things get difficult, they may never learn to push past the obstacles life is sure to present. This mindset leads nowhere.
Developing aptitudes does take sacrifice for both the child and the parent who oversees (and funds) it. But it can yield benefits that last their whole lives—and beyond.
1 Peter 4:11 shows that ability comes from God, that it is to be used to serve His purposes, and that all the glory should go to He who gave it.
God is most concerned with building righteous spiritual character in us, and what we do in the physical realm affects that character. As the master in one of Christ’s parables said to the two servants who doubled their talents: “thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things” (Matthew 25:21). At the very least, “talent development” teaches us one simple lesson: to use whatever God gives us.
“And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible” (1 Corinthians 9:25). The phrase “striveth for the mastery” comes from a Greek word meaning to enter a contest or contend in gymnastic games; to fight; to strive with strenuous zeal to obtain something. Whatever the “crown,” this exercise can teach us to be disciplined “in all things.”
As Mr. Armstrong wrote, “The Christian life requires the same continuous, diligent, no-letup effort that a great pianist, violinist or singer must exert. There is the easy road that leads to failure, but the way to achievement, whether in a profession, or entrance into eternal life in the Kingdom of God, is the hard, difficult, never-give-up way of persistent, determined effort and self-prodding” (ibid).
Every parent, every young person developing a skill, should read that quote again.
If you do not develop your child’s physical talents and abilities, then how will he learn to prioritize, resist, discipline, sacrifice and drive himself? On the other hand, if you do develop and refine your child’s physical talents in these ways, then he can apply these principles spiritually, learning to prioritize, resist, discipline, sacrifice and drive himself toward the development of godly character. That is why God made us physical in the first place, and gave the human spirit to empower the human mind and ultimately to connect with Him.
Discover and develop your child’s talents. Work to provide him or her with the resources to pursue those aptitudes. By nurturing those physical skills, he or she will learn eternal lessons!