Written by: Holly Schaeffer
Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could know from a very young age what we are very good at and what we will never be able to master completely?
Some kids certainly exhibit their natural talents for music or sports very early on. But what about the kids who don’t? How can we, as parents and as adults, help children identify their strengths and weaknesses? And why is this important in the first place?
Let’s find out!
Why Do We Need to Know?
Knowing you are good at something does not necessarily mean this is something you will want to do for a living. It doesn’t even mean that it’s a hobby you might be looking to pursue. Likewise, understanding that you are not naturally gifted at something should never prevent you from trying your best and getting better at a certain activity.
For example, just because a child is great at math doesn’t mean they won’t want to pursue a career in a creative field. Similarly, someone who’s not very athletic should definitely sign up for basketball if they’d like to give it a try.
There is a line here somewhere that should prevent a child from wasting a lot of time and effort on a skill they may never truly come to grips with. As long as you are very careful about framing this message, you can safely do your best to identify what they’re good at and what they aren’t as much. Just make sure you don’t inadvertently tell your child that hard work doesn’t pay off or that a weakness means they should give up.
1. Observe Them Carefully
Watch your kids in all kinds of scenarios. How do they react when faced with a specific kind of challenge? How are they with large groups of people and individuals? How do they like to spend their time?
The mere act of observation can tell you a lot. For example, shyness will come across pretty easily, as will a natural gift for sports or the creative arts.
2. Try a Lot of Different Things Twice
We can never really tell if a child will be good at something if they’ve never tried their hand at it. Encourage them to try a whole bunch of different activities, at least twice. They may have a bit of trouble adjusting to something new and unknown the first time around, so the second encounter is meant to solidify their opinions and performance.
Take them to play different kinds of sports, try a language, and all kinds of arts and crafts, give them different instruments to try. Chances are your kids will have their own ideas, so indulge them no matter how fanciful they seem. You never know what kind of hidden talent you might uncover.
3. Test Them
When your kids are older, allowing them to do all sorts of different tests is a great way to get to know them better. Tests will also be very helpful for identifying their strengths and weaknesses.
A personality test (age-appropriate and reliable, not something you see on Lifehack) is a great place to start. You can also do a CAT test or even an IQ test with them.
The purpose of the testing is to help them realize how they deal with different kinds of tests, as well as to uncover hidden strengths or weaknesses.
Make sure not to put undue pressure on your kids, however, and don’t expect them to perform well in each.
4. Determine Your Focus
Once you have a more general idea about a child’s strengths and weaknesses, make sure you avoid that all-too-common mistake of focusing on either of them too much.
For instance, you don’t want to force your child into activities they are good at if they don’t enjoy them. They may naturally be very fast but not enjoy running at all. Don’t try to live through them and force them to live up to your expectations. Let them realize their own potential in the way they want to.
Also, don’t devote too much time to improving weaknesses that aren’t all that important in the grand scheme of things. It will take up a lot of their time, and they may not even need to excel in a certain area. If they’re bad at sports, don’t try to make them better. Encourage regular physical activity, not a pro-level set of skills.
In the end, it’s all about giving your kids enough space, time, and encouragement to develop. If you provide the right kinds of opportunities and encouragement, you’ll soon be able to identify their strengths and weaknesses.
Once you’ve done that, don’t let these discoveries shape their entire lives. It’s not just the talent that counts, but hard work and affinity too. So instead of forcing a certain path on them, make sure to always ask them what they want to work on.