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Identifying and nurturing your child’s talent effortlessly

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Talent can be described simply as a natural aptitude or skill at something. Most of us are born with one or more talents but most never identify or hone the said talents. A child’s experience in their early years can greatly influence adult development and since every child is born talented in one way or the other, it is important to identify your child’s special talent early on and help them to realise their potentials.

This list is not set in stone but these are some ways you can spot and hone your child’s talent today.

Watch for tiny, powerful moments of ignition
It’s not easy to practice deeply, it requires passion, motivation, persistence and the emotional fuel we call love. New research is showing us that when it comes to motivation, we are all born with the neurological equivalent of hair triggers. When a child’s identity becomes intertwined with a goal, the trigger fires, and a tsunami of unconscious motivational energy is released. A study done with a set of young musicians in which kids who foresaw themselves as adult musicians learned 400 percent faster than kids who did not. It’s not genes that made these kids succeed; it’s the fuel contained inside a tiny idea: I want to be like them.

Understand that all practice is not created equal
The talent hotbeds have long known a crucial fact that science is just discovering: Skill-acquisition skyrockets when we operate on the edge of our abilities, making errors and correcting them, a state called deep practice. Mistakes aren’t verdicts; they’re information we use to build fast, fluent skill circuits. Kids who are able to see errors as fuel for learning, rather than setbacks, are the ones who eventually become geniuses.

Recognize that slow practice is productive
This technique is common to virtually every talent hotbed, from athletes to math geniuses. The reason it works, when you go slow, you can sense and fix more errors, coaching yourself to build a better skill circuit. It’s not how fast you do it; it’s how slow you can do it correctly.

Praise effort, not natural ability
When we praise a child’s intelligence, we’re telling them that status is the name of the game, and they reacts by taking fewer risks. When we praise effort, however, kids become more inclined to take risks, make mistakes and learn from them; the essence of deep practice and learning. It’s no coincidence that talent hotbeds use effort-based language.

Encourage mimicry
Copying is a neurological shortcut to skill. Vividly imagining yourself perfecting a skill is a great first step to actually doing it, whether you’re writing or dancing. Let them do things over and over again at their own pace initially without butting in every other second to make corrections.

Stand back
The kind of deep practice that grows skill circuits can only come from within the kid, not from the parent, no matter how well-meaning. All parental advice can be distilled into two essential points; pay attention to what your child stares at and praise them for their effort.

In other words, notice when they fall in love with something or an activity, and help them to use the energy of that love wisely. When you start thinking about talent as a process- when you see the power of certain forms of practice, when you look for inner passion, when you tune into the teaching signals you can send, life changes. Like most big changes, it shows itself in small ways. For instance, if your child has to learn a tough new song or play the piano, encourage him to try just the first bar, or just the first five notes over and over, doing it in baby steps until it starts to click. This works with anything, be it learning a new skill in a game they love or new steps if they are into dance. Failing and falling initially are all part of the process and it is important to let them go through all this on their own before stepping in to make corrections or adjustments. Teaching kids that talent is built, not born, allows them to look at failure in a completely new way. Failure is not a verdict, it’s a path forward and mistakes are not something to be embarrassed about, they’re steps on the path to success. Without them, greatness is not possible. Remember, hard work always beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard. Having talent is not always enough, encourage them to work at it, develop and perfect it till they are at a point they are comfortable with it.


In this article:
Tobi Awodipe
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