Nurturing Children’s Talents

by | Dec 14, 2010 | Uncategorized

Parenting styles that raise gifted and talented kids. Parenting advice to apply the research and increase your child’s natural talents and gifts.

In almost 100 parenting segments I’ve done on the TODAY show, “Is Your Child Gifted?” received the strongest reaction.  It really struck a cord among parents. (And almost every parent wrote in to express that they “knew their kid was gifted!”)

While the vast majority of us will never raise a Bonnie Blair, an Albert Einstein, or a Picasso, research shows there are things parents can do to expand our child’s potential.But  our real parenting goal is to make sure every child reaches their potential. And one of the best ways to do so is to nurture your child’s natural nature and unlock your child’s “gifts.”

What the Research on Talent Really Shows

Noted educator, Benjamin Bloom, and a team of researchers at the University of Chicago conducted a five-year study of 120 immensely gifted or talented young people. Among them were exceptional mathematicians and scientists, concert pianists, Olympic swimmers, and accomplished sculptors.

Bloom’s research found that these world-class talents weren’t simply born talented—they were brought up to become talented. Although each child’s road to achievement differed slightly, their parents all used remarkably similar practices to nurture those gifts.

As most of us know, the odds that our children will become superstars are remote, but using these parenting practices will help your child live a richer life and boost self-esteem. So how do parents raise a superstar? Read on…

Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Natural Gifts

Here are the steps to apply Bloom’s research to nurture your child’s unique gifts. Remember, the goal is NOT to produce a next Olympian, Nobel Prize or Oscar winner, but to help your child be the best he or she can be. Keep the perspective, right?

Identify “the gift.” Bloom found that the parents’ first step was to recognize their child’s unique talent. (By the way, even gifted children typically show exceptional talent in one or two areas only—not in everything). So watch for areas your child shows intense interest or passion (such as piano, computer, geology, violin, English history, mythology, math).

Make it be your child’s passion. Be sure it’s your child’s interest—not yours. Then choose one –and certainly no more than two-talents or strengths at one time so your child can really explore that interest more in depth and you can discover just how strong the interest is.

Emphasize encouragement. The parents made sure their children’s early talent development was positive, fun and not pushed.

Make practices enjoyable. The parents made their practices enjoyable and usually sat with their kids as they practiced.

Provide resources to cultivate the talent. The children’s talents improved because parents constantly provided the necessary resources to nurture their skills.

Show interest. Parents attended every major activity to show support, and often learned the skill themselves just so they could spend more time with their child. They encouraged – not pushed. They usually followed their child’s lead.

Stand by your child–win or lose. Each superstar had an encouraging parent standing by his side, celebrating his wins and cushioning his loses.

Focus on the talent. All parents placed great emphasis on their children’s evident talents and spent tremendous time cultivating it for years.

There ya go! We can use those strategies for all our kids. Go find your child’s natural gifts. Encourage them! Provide opportunities for your child to stretch that talent. Then follow your child’s lead.

Dr. Michele Borba, Parenting Expert

For more Practical Parenting Advice follow me on twitter @MicheleBorba or refer to my daily blog, Dr. Michele Borba’ Reality Check. You can also find dozens of research-based and practical tips to raise strong kids from the inside out in my latest book, The Big Book of Parenting Solutions.

Benjamin Bloom, Developing Talent in Young People. New York: Ballantine, 1985.