People keep saying how talented my 7 year old son is. If they only knew how much that "talent" takes! I've heard the words "gifted" and "talented", and even "prodigy" too. These words genuinely embarrass me (especially the latter), and yet they make me proud at the same time because I know the amount of sweat and practice it takes for him to perform. I certainly don't think my son is a prodigy and I also don't think he is profoundly gifted or talented. Instead, my husband and I have helped him develop his passions into talents through lots and lots of work.
What are the 10 things you can do for your young child?
1. Recognize your child's passion very early. What does your child love to do all the time? What does your child naturally do well?
Our son used to wake me up with a drum roll on my head when he was a baby. Here he is drumming on his lunch box at 3 years old. This was natural for him to do and he did this ALL the time.
He also loved role playing and dress up since he started talking. Here are photos of him when he was 4 years old.
|as the Mad Hatter|
|as Edward Scissorhands|
Today, his passions are drumming and acting. Surprise, Surprise!
2. Find ways to support your child's passion at home.
Provide tools and materials that make their passions more accessible.
|for us, this meant instruments|
Use play to instill more love for their passions. Here I am singing with my 6 year old as he plays the ukulele in a song that he wrote.
Study people in their fields of interest: watch videos and research notables.. My son loved his Notables projects, where he would dress up as his Notable and research all about them. Here are examples of his projects: Roy Rogers, Bruce Lee, Johnny Depp, and Dana Carvey.
3. Find ways to support your child's passions outside the home.
Look for teachers, help your child access people in his/her fields of interest, go on field trips, look into joining organizations (theaters, museums, sports, academies, teams), attend summer camps, etc.
You'll have to sacrifice some ME time.
Bedtimes, nap times, errands, chores, work, and even holiday schedules may all change.
5. Keep your child healthy by protecting the quality of food, sleep, exercise, time outdoors and preserving your child's own down time.
|preserve their time to just relax|
This past week, my son had a few Drum and Science homeschool classes from 10-11am, Theater Summer Camp from 1:30-4:30pm and then rehearsals at night from 7:00-10:00pm for Peter Pan that opens in a week. It has been a very strenuous schedule. Hubby and I were both exhausted, but our son absolutely loved it.
"Mama. I can't wait for tonight's rehearsal!"
"Mama. I can't wait for tomorrow's class!"
He had the energy for it.
6. Take time to advocate for your child so that the child remains challenged, engaged, and encouraged in his/her passion.
Change teachers if needed. When my son was 4, we changed from a "you-need-to-learn-how-to-count-notes" drum teacher to one who played "echo games" with him instead. Now that he is 7, we were able to put him in a Rock Band Class for 10 year olds and up.
Talk to teachers/coaches. This Summer, I asked my son's Drama teacher if he could participate in her Advanced Acting Camp for 10-16 year olds. I was a little worried when he came home with a script of Macbeth in his hands, but after camp was through, his teacher pulled me aside and said, "Your son is only 7, but he was made for this class! He was fabulous!"
7. Stay informed of what your child is learning and doing in class/rehearsal/practice.
Is there homework? If not, what can your child do to prepare for next week's class?
Can your child review what he did in class? Is there anything to practice?
8. Instill in your child a good work ethic by helping him improve further at home. Ask: how can you get better? what else can we do to help you?
Take photos and/or videos of your child "doing" his/her work. Replay and discuss what he/she can do to make it better.
Write notes where appropriate, as reminders of what he needs to do.
|My 7 year old's script with notes for Macbeth's Banquo.|
|My 7 year old's script with notes for Lady Macbeth's Doctor.|
9. Celebrate your child's work - but be careful of too much praise.
Praise is difficult. There is and will always be room for improvement. What we prefer to do is praise his effort and praise how much he has grown in a period of time. That said, he does have a blog, YouTube and Facebook page where he can share his work with and get feedback from other people. He also gets a lot of feedback from his teachers. I have discovered that my job as his mother is to keep him grounded.
Here is my 7 year old at a University Drum Set Master Class:
The work never ends, because my son has a dream.
Let your child keep a goals journal to help them decide who they want to be and how they want to get there. My son writes about his short- and long-term goals in his journal. He also keeps a grateful journal, which provides a balance to his goals journal.
So, when people say my son is "talented", "gifted", or even "a prodigy", I want to tell them that I don't know if it is pure talent or just sheer sweat. What I do know is that we have supported my son's passions and helped him develop in those areas. I am also writing this post as I sit in the audience watching my son fly through the air as Michael Darling in his Peter Pan rehearsal. He has a big smile on his face. I know the sweat and practice are all worth it. He loves what he is doing.