I can never get over how different each of my children are from one another.  One of the things that became very apparent as they grew up was they had different giftings, talents, interests, and abilities. Homeschooling certainly gave us the opportunity to focus on their individual interests – but all parents have the opportunity – and even the responsibility – to encourage their children’s gifts and interests.  So today I’m looking at 5 different ways you can do that, whether you are homeschooling or not!

5 Ways to Encourage your Child’s Unique Talents and Interests to Grow

As you probably know sitting around the dinner table was a highlight in our family – it is where we did a lot of talking.  I think you could comfortably say – talking around the dinner table was a part of our family culture! One conversation I remember was an old friend who was visiting asking each person – What are you good at, or what is your passion?  It was a great dinner-time question.

Everyone has unique talents, abilities and interests. These things make up  who our children are and it is our job as parents to help our kids discover what they are interested in and then allow those things to develop.

Whenever parents start talking about talents in their kids we get starry eyed and start thinking of ways where our kids could shine, where they could be the Best, where they will go far – far beyond where we ever attained!  But this isn’t the purpose of talents, abilities or interests.  In God’s way of living it isn’t about income, accolades, position, or success.  That is how the world values our unique talents and abilities.

Because we as humans value success that way – we can get frustrated when our child isn’t passionate about anything and we start to see this as apathy or laziness. But that may not be the case – maybe your child is one who has a broad base of interests or maybe they haven’t found their thing yet.  Once again this is a heart adjustment for parents – it isn’t about our child being a master of his chosen area – but rather that he can grow to be fulfilled and purposeful.  We tend to have a disdain for the ordinary life – and yet the ordinary, everyday life is where God meets us, and where God calls us to meet with others.  Ordinary is our life.

So before we talk about how to encourage talents, abilities and interests in our kids, we the parents need to do a little heart check.  

  • Do we have high expectations on our kids to perform?  Who do we want to receive recognition –  us or our kids? 
  • Are we driven by the need to succeed?  Why?
  • Are we pushing our kids to be good at something because we see value in it? Or maybe, we missed an opportunity when we were young and don’t want that for our kids?

As always – so much of parenting starts with the parents needing their heart to be in the right place.  

Whenever we talk about talents and abilities the bottom line is – God’s purposes.  God gave our children particular gifts, interests, passions and abilities.  Are we raising our kids to understand and value their abilities because it will bring them success and comfort or because God has a purpose for them?

 

How to discover our Kid’s Talents & Interests?

I’m sure you’ve heard that quote that says play is a child’s work.  Actually if you do a google search for quotes on play you will see there is a significant amount of work done to help us understand the value of play.  As we give our children plenty of free time to be themselves, to be children, to play, we will start to see patterns of activity forming, especially if we don’t put expectations on this time.  It is as they play that they will gravitate towards what they are interested in.  

As your kids play watch closely, and ask yourself these questions:

  • What do they choose to do with their free time?
  • What do they get excited about?
  • What do they want to talk about?

 

What do you observe when you watch your children – when you get to know your child what do you see? 

I made a scrapbook page for each of my children many years ago when I paused and looked at what was growing as a interest, ability or talent –

  • Josh was an avid reader and verbal processor – he talked a lot, he explained a lot, he asked a lot of question.  He was a learner and knowledge was his interest. – one of them.
  • Jess was an organiser – she organsed events and stuff
  • Nomi was our out of the box thinker, she made us laugh and loved colour and painting – she was our arty one.
  • Daniel was into making and fixing things.  

These observations didn’t define my children completely – they were more than these things, but these things were their unique talents and abilities finding their place to grow and help others in our family.

I find the word Recreation an interesting one.  It means: activity done for enjoyment when one is not working.  In today’s thinking we have reduced that to mean blobbing out – doing nothing – just relaxing and of course screen time has become a big part of that.  And yet if we want our children’s talents and abilities to grow we need to see it differently.  

I saw recreation as a time to create.  Of course create means something different for every person but I think there is a strong connection between create and what we see as talents, giftings, abilities. 

So as an undergirding principle to these 5 things that I’m going to go through we have to value creativity, we have to value unique interests even if we can’t see a purpose.   Let your children play, day dream, create – and sit back and watch and be prepared to invest when you see a spark of interest.

Just a side note here –  I am talking about children here – inspiring older kids/teens who are already bored and not showing interest in anything is a slightly different story.

 

Give them opportunity – 5 ways

Five ways we can invest in our children to develop their talents, abilities and interests: give them time, supplies, space, a mentor and encouragement

1–Time:

Initially, our kids need play time – that is where they explore and discover.  But as they get older they still need time to grow in these things, not so much play, but time where they can explore, practice, fail, and try again; time where they can focus on what they are interested in.

As our kids were growing up we dedicated the afternoon to developing individual skills and interests: this is where I saw the kids passions starting to grow.  We called our afternoons – or at least an hour or two – Productive Free Time.  This is where they had the free choice of what they did but it had to be productive or purposeful.  So make sure your kids have time to explore and practice the things they are interested in – or maybe interested in.

 

2–Supplies:

We need to give our children access to the tools and materials their craft or activity use.

Parents cannot expect their children to develop an interest in music if we don’t surround them with music, and give them access to a musical instrument – an artist needs paint and paper – a builder needs wood and nails – a writer needs pen and paper, or a computer – a cook needs ingredients – sportsman needs a bat, ball. And so forth. 

Teach your children to use supplies and equipment well, and to look after it – it will be a significant investment in each of your children’s lives.

 

3–Space:

I believe a healthy home is one that accommodates many different purposes and passions.  A house becomes alive as each person stamps their individuality on that space.

When we start to recognise the importance of a particular skill in our child’s life we need to start making space for them to grow and develop.  It may mean a desk, an art easel, a cricket pitch in the backyard.  

One thing we did that made a big difference at one stage in our family life was we created “Project Boxes” – one full of supplies and one for unfinished projects for each of the children.  Having a space to put things helped keep our home tidy while the kids explored and created.

 

4–Mentor or a Teacher:

We can’t always teach our kids everything – sometimes we need to hand it over to someone with more knowledge and experience.

Our kids’ lives were deeply enriched by family friends, grandparents, and community people who had talents, abilities, and interests that matched the things my kids wanted to develop.  Debating, sewing, music/piano, drawing, cricket, drama, running, building – the list goes on – and I couldn’t give all that to my kids – I needed help.  Who do you know that can give to your child’s life?

Though nothing can beat a face-to-face mentor, depending on your child’s learning style, and the skills they want to learn, books and online courses are another way our children can learn without us having the skills ourselves.  Though our skills certainly shape our children’s skills – don’t let our lacks limit our children.

 

5–Encouragement:

We may not have the ability in the same things as our children do – but we must have an interest in our children and as such we will show an interest in the things they are interested in.

A lot of the things that my kids were interested in, and developed passions for were things that I had no idea about. For example, Joshua was passionate about philosophy, Jessica was into organizing, Nomi paints, and Daniel builds with wood.  I don’t think I taught them much of any of those things!!  But other than giving them time, tools, space, and a teacher, I was able to give them encouragement.

 

Heart-focused Action Step

I’ve already talked about us as parents getting our heart in the right place, having the right motivation for encouraging our children’s talents to grow – but I have two more thoughts to help you have the right attitude towards your children and the things they are interested in.

 

Don’t box your children.  

Our children are growing – every year they see the world and their place in it differently – because they are growing both in understanding and in abilities.  Allow them to dabble in different things, to try things out, and to walk away from something – give them the freedom to explore possibilities but not to be defined by one choice.

So don’t box your child – or label them – to always be into what you are seeing them into right now.  

 

Don’t rush them

We need to give them plenty of free time, and as long as they are not being disruptive or destructive with that time, they will drift to something. You may have to teach your children to use their time wisely but don’t overstress this all the time. Children need time to dwell, to think, to ponder, to imagine, to recharge, to create.  One of the indicators that this is healthy rather than sinking into boredom is their attitude.  Creative rest is healthy, moody boredom is not.

 

Our children’s passions or talents may or may not lead to a career, but they can certainly be a part of a rich and fulfilled life.

So ask yourself what little sparks of interests or abilities are you seeing in each of your kids and are you empowering them to explore those things?  Do you need to change your thinking about the unique and maybe unexpected things your kids are interested in?  

We can never know what skills or abilities our kids will need when they are adults – their world will be so different we know that much!  But we can take the time, and give value to the things that they are interested in and let them dig deep and see what happens.  No experience is ever lost.

I’d love to hear what interests and abilities you are seeing in your kids – so send me an email – and let me know.  You can use the contact form on my website or hit reply to any of my emails if you are a part of the Heart Booster community.

Before we talk about how to encourage talents, abilities and interests in our kids, we the parents need to do a little heart check.  As we ask ourselves these questions – we must be honest with ourself if we are going to encourage our kids in a healthy way.

As a parent, we all want our children to succeed. But what happens when our child shows interest in something that we don’t necessarily see value in? It’s easy to dismiss it and tell them to focus on something ‘more important’, but that would be a mistake.

Acknowledging our child’s talents, gifts, interests or passions is a part of seeing them as a person. Made in the image of God. Made for His purposes.

We will never encourage something we don’t see value in – so ask God to help you see value in what your child is interested in.

When you take the time to support and encourage your child’s interests, even if you don’t fully understand them you’ll be amazed at the positive impact it can have on their life and in your family as a whole.

Is your child interested in something you struggle to see value in? Let’s list them in the comments!

Why does God give us gifts and talents? This would be a really good family conversation topic.

Whenever I want to discuss something in my family I want to have some idea of what I believe first up, and then I ask the kids a question – like the question I’ve written above here.  Then I see what they say.  Sometimes I’d ask another question to help them dig into their first thoughts (sometimes their first thoughts are right and need delving into – other times their first thoughts have holes in them and they need help connecting what they are thinking to God’s word.)

Usually I’d be able to share my thoughts in the mix of the conversation – sometimes it is just my thoughts added, sometimes it is my researched thoughts prodding and guiding their thoughts to go in places they haven’t gone before.

Conversations are a great way to see what your children believe and to challenge them to live according to God’s word – but only if we talk with them, and not at them.

Further Reading:

How do you define success?  How you define success will shape every decision you make in your family.

How to encourage Creativity in your Children:  Creativity is the ability to look at some thing in a new way, or the skill to make something.

Our Afternoons – Delight Directed Productivity: Instead of giving my kids lots of free time, some of their afternoons were spent in delight directed productivity – a phrase that became central to encouraging our kids individual talents.

Let other people enhance your Homeschool:  To make the most of your homeschool experiences let other people share their passions and skills with your kids.

 

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