All parents want to see our kids shine. We also love to watch the sense of self-confidence that comes with true accomplishment. But helping our children identify and develop their natural gifts and interests can be hard for even the most motivated parents.
All children are more gifted in some areas than in others, although effort and culture do play important roles in skill development. Researchers have found that we all possess at least seven distinct "talents," although in varying strengths. These include:
Linguistic-verbal: intelligence of spoken and written words
Logical-mathematical: intelligence of numbers and logic
Visual-spatial: working with pictures and images
Musical-rhythmic: perceiving, reproducing and appreciating music
Bodily-kinesthetic: physical abilities, often seen in athletes, craftspeople and mechanics
Interpersonal: working well with others
Intrapersonal: understanding one's own emotional and mental workings.
In his book Seven Kinds of Smart (NAL Dutton), Thomas Armstrong says, "Childhood is the original spawning ground for all seven intelligences. Out of this mix of behaviors and experiences, a certain pattern of strengths begins to emerge."
As parents, we want to encourage our children to explore and experience each of the seven areas?after all, they possess some degree of all of them. But it's also important to find which areas are strongest in each child. That way, we can involve them in activities they'll succeed at and enjoy.
It's important to expose your child to a wide variety of activities and experiences. Then observe. Once you have determined the kinds of things your child enjoys and does well, you can encourage her to further strengthen her gifts.
A "bookworm" might like the chance to develop a family newsletter or write a poem or short story for a kids' magazine. A math lover might work on his own Web page or take a trip to explore cause-and-effect at a science museum. The kid that's driving you crazy because he's always tapping his fingers will probably jump at guitar lessons.
Sometimes helping your child develop his gifts takes some creative thinking on your part. If he's really good with Legos, he probably has a high degree of spatial intelligence. You can further enhance these skills by asking him to help design and plan next year's garden or enrolling him in an art class. Children who enjoy playing board games with others or who spend lots of time chatting may have strong interpersonal intelligence. These children will thrive as volunteers in the church nursery.
However you choose to help your child express his talents, remember that each child is gifted and talented, although in different ways. Help your kids find what they do well, and then allow their natural gifts to shine. This produces the best kind of satisfaction?the kind that's derived from doing a job well and enjoying it in the process.
Writer and mother of two
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1999 by the author or Christianity Today/Christian Parenting Today Magazine.
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