October 1, 2019 // by Laura Malone
My feet sank deeper with each gentle lap of water and sand that rolled past me. I had waited months for our trip, and I stood there for what seemed like an hour, staring out across the waves, watching the storm blow in. Rain or shine I was going to be on that beach filling my lungs with warm salt air, shoulders relaxed, exploring, walking, thinking. If I walked backward into the deeper, softer sand, I could sit among the millions of tiny shells that painted the ground. Some were flipped, only revealing their monotone ribbed side and the others were shimmering, their striking colors brought to life in the sun from having been tossed onto their backs. With nothing else to do, I sat and flipped and flipped until all shells within arm’s reach were belly up, proclaiming their own original artwork. They had all looked so similar until I looked inside. No two of them were the same and they were all beautiful in their own way.
Aren’t people that way, too? We all look so similar on the outside, ordinary beings walking through life. It’s not until we discover and share what’s inside – our thoughts, passions, dislikes, gifts and TALENTS – that people see our original beauty and can be blessed by them.
"For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." Ephesians 2:10 NIV (emphasis mine)
Definition of Talent
If you look up definitions of talent, you’ll find most of them say, “The natural ability to do something well.” However, research studies and many personal testimonies show that talent isn’t based on natural ability alone. Something might be naturally easy for a person but if they don’t put in the work to nurture it, it doesn’t develop into a talent. There are other factors that aid in developing talent – Perseverance and hard work. These two traits have been proven to play a larger role in success than natural ability alone. It is possible for a person to become talented in something they have a great interest in, if they’re willing to persevere and work hard. So, let’s discuss examples of talent, why it’s important to identify them in your child, how you can identify them and how to make them grow.
—–I want to point out that there is a difference between talents and spiritual gifts. Anyone can have a talent, but gifts are special abilities given to Christians by the Holy Spirit. They are things like wisdom, knowledge, faith, miracles, teaching, encouragement, etc. For the purposes of this post, we will only discuss talent.—–
Examples of Talent
The list of possible talents is endless. In Western culture, we often think of talent as being confined to sports, art, music, dance and academics. But other examples of talent include being tech savvy, acting, organizing, designing (structures, graphics, décor, fashion), fixing things, humor, crafting, building, strategizing, teaching, cooking, photography and having verbal intelligence (writing or speaking).
Benefits of Identifying Talent
I believe all people have the ability to be talented in something. We can all take the functions that come easily to us or bring us enjoyment, and nurture them so they will grow into a talent. But why is it important to do this? I have found in my own life and in my children’s lives that life is a lot more fun when we’re doing what we love and we’re doing it well. We can’t be good at everything, but if we can excel in something, we are happier, healthier people.
In elementary school, I was a quiet and shy girl. There was a voice inside me that wanted to say something, but I had a hard time finding a comfortable and natural way to say it. I’ll never forget the day Mr. Martinez from the local middle school came to my fifth-grade music class and showed us a film of children playing all the different band instruments. As soon as I heard the flute, I knew that was what I was going to do. My parents signed me up, bought me a flute that summer and as I took it out of the case every day to polish it, I got butterflies in my stomach just thinking about the first day of class. Something inside of me was drawn to music. When classes started, it was all natural to me. The full clear tone, memorizing fingerings, musical theory and terms. Someone was finally speaking my language. I had found an outlet for my voice that was more beautiful than my ability to share it with words.
Looking back, I’m so thankful my parents gave me the opportunity to learn music and encouraged me. Some of my friends in elementary school were honors students or award-winning dancers and I was just Laura. But finding my talent changed my world by:
- Building my confidence;
- Teaching me perseverance;
- Giving me the opportunity to take risks and learn from mistakes;
- Letting me experience teamwork;
- Giving me a tool for blessing others and the privilege of giving back to our community;
- Giving me pure satisfaction and the enjoyment of being creative;
- Teaching me performance skills;
- And developing leadership skills even though I wasn’t a natural leader. Being talented forced me into leadership roles in that setting.
One other benefit of discovering and using our God-given talents is that it prepares us for heaven! Did you know that we will be working in heaven and our work will be a combination of our talents and passions? In A Place Called Heaven, Dr. Robert Jeffress says, “One of the best indicators of what we should be doing in this life and what we’ll be doing in the next life is the desires that God has placed in our hearts. He doesn’t waste gifts, experiences, or desires on us. They’re all essential components of our unique purpose – not just in this life but in the life to come as well.” So, developing our talents now will make us more equipped for the job the Lord has planned for us when we finally get HOME.
How to Identify Talent
So, we know what talents are and why they’re important. How do we identify them in our children? Be a detective. Look for clues. This is what has worked for our family:
- Pay attention to what comes easy for them. Sometimes this will be obvious, like when your 18-month old is throwing a ball up in the air and actually hitting it across the yard with a plastic bat. But other times you need to look a little closer. For example, I noticed one of my boys has always had great strength, body control and balance. After putting some thought into what types of activities required those skills, I put him in gymnastics. He started in the beginner class and after two months he had moved up three levels because he just got it. It came easy for him and he loved it. It was also a great confidence booster for him after years of watching his three older siblings do things he couldn’t do.
- Consider what they enjoy. The talents we’ve identified in our children are all things they naturally love doing. They’re the things I’d find them doing when they were supposed to be doing school or chores. It’s usually what you don’t have to make them do. I have a son who is athletically talented, and I don’t have to tell him to practice. If I’m calling his name and I can’t find him, he’s out in the backyard kicking the soccer ball or doing his drills.
- Listen to what they talk about. Do they often point out how many rooms and windows they counted in places like the doctor’s office or come home from a friend’s house describing in detail what their friend’s mom made for dinner that night? Maybe they’re constantly showing you games on the computer and wondering how they work. One of my girls loves finding songs that have meaningful and artistic lyrics. She researches the artist, their story and then enjoys explaining it all to us. She’s a talented writer so that’s where her conversations tend to go.
- Give them opportunities to experience many different things. Provide variety. I’m not talking about putting them in a bunch of expensive activities. Simply provide creative materials like recycled boxes, Legos, paint, games, scrap wood with nails and hammer (with parental supervision, of course). Also, utilize free parks in your neighborhood to play tennis, volleyball or basketball. Let them spend the night baking with grandma or making jewelry with their aunt. Look up free online resources for things they’re interested in, like Scratch for computer coding or play around on Canva to learn graphic design.
- Listen to other’s opinions. Sometimes, as parents, we spend so much time with our child that it’s hard to recognize their talents because they’ve always been that way and it’s normal to us. If other people are pointing out your child’s abilities, listen. They could be on to something.
- Pray for wisdom! Remember that God knows and loves your child more than you do. Ask Him to show you all the wonderful abilities He has placed in them. He will reveal them at the right time.
How to Nurture Talent
Once you’ve identified their talent, it’s important to nurture it. If you haven’t discovered your child’s talent yet, but they are showing a strong interest in something, you can incorporate these ideas below to possibly develop their interest into a talent. Here are some ideas that have worked for my family and have also been proven in studies:
- Be an involved parent. Research done on Chinese American families from the Hong Kong Institute of Education reveals that this one thing trumps even natural ability. When a parent has a strong sense of responsibility to help develop talent, has high expectations and shows that they have confidence in their child’s success, most of the time the child will excel in their endeavors. Again, modeling perseverance and hard work.
- Encourage practice. This can be on their own, with you or with an expert teacher or trainer. But, as I said before, most children don’t need much enticing. They’re usually eager to learn more and improve because they enjoy it.
- Allow unstructured down time to explore their talent. Make tools available. Leave the keyboard or drawing materials out so they can easily access it. Don’t take over. Let them do their thing and be proud when they’re ready to show it off.
- Help your child find a mentor. Do a little research and find other people who do what your child loves to do and let them learn from them. Look at church, in your neighborhood and in your own extended family. You can look online for famous people but also search within your local community. Go to local art exhibits and music performances. Check the library for public appearances by writers, storytellers or entertainers. See local plays and stay to meet the cast afterwards. Buy tickets to sports events if your child loves a particular sport. When they see real people doing what they love, it can light a fire in them to continue pursuing that talent even when it does get tough. Mentors model perseverance and hard work, too.
- Praise the hard work and effort, not the natural ability. Remember the natural ability isn’t requiring much from them and it won’t take them as far as the hard work will. Learning these character traits will serve them well throughout their lives.
“The talent of success is nothing more than doing what you can do well, and doing well whatever you do without the thought of fame. If it comes at all it will come because it is deserved, not because it is sought after.”Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Sorry, My Kid Has No Talent!
The ability is there. I promise. We are all made in the image of God, Who is the definition of talent. Your child may not shine in their current surroundings but let it be your mission to be a detective and discover where they do shine. It’s like the plant in your formal that has always been pretty and alive but when you decided to move it to the kitchen window, it bloomed flowers you never knew it had. The new environment revealed its hidden talent and now you and others are more blessed by it. Encourage your child to try new things. They may surprise you and themselves.
And remember, all children are not made to excel in the same things. That would make for a very boring world, and God knew that. Nancy Next Door’s daughter might have been accepted into the gifted school for academics and Baseball Bev’s son might have just hit his tenth home run for the season, but that’s OK. Be happy for them and know that God has great plans for your child, too. Love the child you have, and don’t think you or they have failed because they don’t have the talents others have. And be careful not to push particular talents on your child just because they’re the ones you or others consider successful. God has chosen their talents and they’ll fit him like a glove.
One of my favorite things about children is that as they grow and mature, each year is like unfolding another strip of the wrapping paper that God has decorated them with. In God’s timing, we will see more of who God has made them to be and it’ll be the most exciting birthday present ever.
Have you identified a talent in your child? Share in the Comments below how you discovered them and what you’re doing to develop them further. Also, share how their talent has blessed them and others! I’d love to hear from you.