About three years ago while homeschooling our youngest child, I became very aware of the importance of helping her zero in on her talents and interests. We had tried music, but even though her siblings enjoyed it and showed good ability, she just never really loved it. And sports were definitely not on her radar.
Since she enjoyed crafting and needle work, I decided we would take some field trips to places that worked with fiber and yarn. I wanted her to see the process of shearing wool from a sheep, washing it, combing it, spinning it, and maybe even find a place that did weaving.
I got on the internet and began searching for places in our region that might do those things. The more we looked and studied, the more fascinated she became with the whole spinning process.
Finally, she looked at me and said, “Mom, I don’t want to go watch people do that. I want to do it myself!”
Really? That wasn’t quite what I had in mind. I didn’t even know it was possible to buy a spinning wheel. And if I did buy one, how on earth would she learn to use it?
More Googling showed me that I could, indeed, buy a spinning wheel, and it was not inexpensive. Also, I found a very nice woman about 20 miles from our house that offered spinning lessons. She assured me that if I bought the wheel and my daughter later decided she did not want to do spinning, she knew people who would probably be interested in buying the wheel.
That settled it. I decided I would jump in and let her try it. Since Christmas was coming soon, I went in with my parents and bought the spinning wheel as her gift that year. She was thrilled.
Fast forward to now. After zooming through her lessons with Miss Debbie, she has become an outstanding spinner. It is one of her favorite things to do. The yarn she spins is beautiful, and she has created art pieces that have hung in our local art gallery. She even inspired the gallery director to put on a fiber arts show at the gallery with participants from all over the region.
It was all because she got to do something she wanted to do, and realize a vision she had in her head of what she might be able to accomplish. And she would never want to sell that wheel!
Here are five ways we as parents can help our kids unlock their talents and interests.
- Listen to what they tell you they actually want to do. It is very important to listen to what your child tells you rather than to force him to do something you want him to do or that you wanted to do when you were a kid. He is more likely to stick with it if he does something he really wants to do.
- Buy the stuff. I know. This part can be expensive. Really expensive if we aren’t careful. Obviously you need to use good judgement and set a budget, but this part is very important. How will you know if it is something she will be really interested in if you don’t let her give it a try? Perhaps renting or borrowing the necessary tools is possible on some things, such as musical instruments, but finding a way for her to try it should be a real priority.
- Provide the lessons. If lessons are necessary, then find someone who teaches whatever it is your child wants to do. Buying the stuff (i.e. musical equipment, sporting goods, art supplies, etc.) does no good if your child has no idea how to use it.
- DON’T NAG! This is a tough one. You may be tempted to say, “I spent all this money. You better practice!” But frankly, making threats is counterproductive. Nothing would kill your joy of learning something new quicker than someone standing over you night and day reminding you of how much this is costing. Let him enjoy the process. If your child specifically asked to do the activity, the chances are good that he will be motivated to practice and even get good at it.
- Be liberal with your praise and encouragement. Always be ready with kind, encouraging words for a project or performance. Being critical is not your job. Your child needs your support. This mindset will get you much farther down the practicing road than nagging. If your child feels that she is making progress, and if she enjoys what she is doing, then practicing will just come as a natural course.
The most important thing to remember is this – enjoy the process of exploring your child’s interests. It can be fun and rewarding for both of you if you are patient and supportive during the process.
In the comment section below, tell me your experiences with helping your children find their talents and interests. Which of the five steps do you struggle with the most?