Wednesday, June 5, 2013

How To Identify A Child's Talent

OMG she is going to drown! I was at the pool and had just seen this little girl (I later found out she was 3 years old) jump into the deep end but before I could get over my shock and scream for help, she popped up and swam gleefully to the shallow end and back again. I was so impressed I had to practically interview her mum who told me her Dad had been taking her to the pool since she was 6 months old and she had been swimming since she was 2.

Children are like a new computer with no software installed on it. Children from both research and history pick up a lot of things their environment. Exposure is the best gift you can ever present to any child. The William sisters are award winning  tennis players because their father exposed them them to tennis at a tender age, same thing in Tiger Wood's case: he started playing golf at the age of 2 with his father, by the time he was 11 he was beating his father in golf games and by age 16 he became a professional golfer. Mark Zuckerberg the founder of facebook started coding at a very young age because his father taught him, at a time he became better than his father, so his father employed a programming tutor to teach him. Ben Carson's mother did not give up on him even though he did not start up as a child prodigy, she kept exposing him to books until he out shined every one in his class and became a neurosurgeon.

Let's quickly make a clear distinction between "skill" and "talent." Skill is craft and technique. It is taught, refined, honed and developed. I'd lean on the word "craft" in this definition. Talent is intelligence, confidence and natural ability. Even though, I hesitate to use that term. It's too easy to fall back on thinking someone is gifted, when really that isn't necessarily true. Talent is being able to manipulate one's skills. Almost 85% of art-making is skill-based. Ballet Dancers are entrenched in technique -- it is the Prima Ballerina that takes that craft and displays talent, the upper 15%, to make it and become a star.

I have observed that many children naturally gravitate to what their parents do, my father was an engineer and out of his ten sons 6 are engineers and one of of my sisters too. Kids are are able to repeat boring task's with you - not notices how boring because - in their minds , am having fun with Dad or Mum, some might say its hereditary.

Providing art books, encyclopedias/picture books, musical instruments, swimming classes, sport goods (football, tennis racket) etc is always good. Give them many options at an early stage this introduces her/him to a wide variety of options.The child will automatically pick up the option they finds best suited towards and will work on it. Always provide the options and keep it as an open choice.

Sometimes I think that society has streamlined our thinking into what we define as success and how to nurture talents. Someone once suggested a test to reveal a child's talent. That is absolutely wrong. We really shouldn't depend on school or exams to identify a child's talent. Many societies produce a lot of stars who never experienced formal education.

Looking out for what the child likes and dislikes. Moses hated to see people abused. Sometimes talent may be embedded in recalcitrant behaviour. A child may be opening-up your radio, television or even blow up your socket. He may be exhibiting a knack for engineering. Someone said that she always cuts her mum's wrapper and sew then back. 

You can discover the temperament of a child by close observation of that child behaviour and you could also read this book Why You Act The way you do by Tim will help you to identify which of the four temperaments a child predominantly into.

My Advice is:
  • Expose kids to a lot of experiences ( music classes, scrabble, computer club etc) and see which one they really get excited about or stick to.
  • Once identified, buy them a child-sized kit as early as possible ( e.g drawing kit, small computer, football kit including shin guards and ball, ballet attire, karate gear or WHATEVER they require).
  • Enforce some discipline so that they stick with it to take it beyond passing fancy into early mastery.
  • Give them opportunities to impress their peers with their new found skills, it builds self esteem and makes them want to get even better at it.
  • Find them a mentor/role model to inspire them.If your kid is really good at programming, find someone among your IT friends to mentor him or her on what to learn and focus on.
Finally, lets allow children to be children.Its disturbing when on a 12 hour plane flight you see 6 years old silently sitting like Stiff Robots almost too scared to decide choice of ice cream! Confidence breeds creativity. Above all go to GOD, he is the manufacturer he has the blueprint of every one's life. As a parent and or guardian pray to God the maker and depositor of every gift and talent and he will show you since he put it there in the first place. 

Ijeoma Olujekun

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