Develop Your Children’s Gifts and Talents
When my son was just learning to talk, I carried him around the house in my arms and pointed out things to him. "Look, David, a clock." He'd smile, and point as I did and say "clock."
"This is a flower," and I'd point to a dried flower in the living room. "Flower." David was quick to connect the shape of things to their words and connect the two. Ever since those early tours of the house, David pointed and called out the names of things: cat, fork, pillow.
Cultivating My Son's Curiosity
When my son was about four years old, I remember walking with him to the back yard. We were just filling in some time before dinner: playing catch with a large, balloon-like ball, digging in the sandbox, and then I had an idea. I knew that there was an ant colony under one of the slate stones in the walkway near the shed, so I said to David, "Come on. I want to show you something."
We walked hand and hand out of the sandbox and nearly bounced across the grass. As I showed David the ants that were crawling around the slate stone, he crouched down on his legs and looked with great intensity at the ants.
"Now, watch this."
I dug my fingers under the lip of the flat, gray stone and slowly pulled it back to reveal the exposed tunnels of the ants. They were carrying white sacks, scurrying back and forth, hundreds of ants, and David looked and looked, and then he turned to me and said with delight, "There are so many!"
For days after that, David wanted to look under every rock in the garden, and we often found worms, ants, larva. I recognized that David loved to look at things closely and observe how things moved, and so I continued to point things out to him as he grew older: planes, shells at the ocean, the texture of the bark on the trees. David was a keen observer of things, and I just gave him the suggestions as to where to look.
From Curiosity at Play to Curiosity at Work
Today David is a medical doctor at Columbia University Medical Center. As a pathologist, he spends much of his workday in a lab looking through a microscope, determining the identity of hundreds of different cells, making a diagnosis, determining the extent of someone's cancer or the progression of a disease.
I did not know that David would someday be a doctor, someone who has to pay close attention to what he sees, and yet I felt compelled when he was a boy to encourage his enthusiasm for observation.
That is what teachers and parents do: encourage a child's enthusiasm for a particular interest: music, swimming, art, reading. And we provide tools for the children.
Discovering Gifts and Talents
I believe that all of us are born with habits of being that we inherited both from our ancestors and from God. A good teacher recognizes those habits in children and guides them towards their own sense of self and destiny.
If a child likes to draw, give him brushes, pens, and paper. If a girl likes to tap on the table top, give her a drum. If a child spontaneously sings, give him a microphone and a Frank Sinatra recording.
Blessed is the child who lives with parents and teachers who recognize the child's interest. An apple seed has the potential to explode into a full tree bearing fruit. With the right cultivation, a child will grow into what he or she was innately born to be.
Questions for personal reflection, online discussion, or small groups:
- Read Proverbs 22:6 - "Train up a child in the way he should go [and in keeping with his individual gift or bent], and when he is old he will not depart from it" (AMP).
- What is your individual gift? Who helped you find it?
- If you have children or work with children, think about their individual gifts. How can you help cultivate their gifts?
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