Nature vs Nurture: Are gifts and talents down to a child’s natural ability or can they be nurtured?

Nature vs Nurture: Are gifts and talents down to a child’s natural ability or can they be nurtured?

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Young people discover their gifts and passions as they grow. As they discover their abilities, should parents take an active role to nurture these abilities, or should it just be left to nature?

In this context, nature is defined as the innate disposition of someone or the inherent attributes of a person – simply put, it is what makes up the person. Nurture, on the other hand, means to actively care for or develop someone so that they certain skills or abilities.

Each child has natural abilities that may depend on biology, genetics or the environment they grow up in. Abilities that depend on biology and genetics are usually to do with physical attributes – for example, for a child to excel in basketball, it would be easier if they are tall. It is not impossible if they are short, but it is far easier.

Natural abilities are part of what a child is made of and may play a role in their personal identity. They usually manifest themselves in the early stages of a child’s life. However, these natural abilities are usually just seeds waiting to grow, and as with any other seed, they need to be nurtured and nourished to grow and develop into a plant.

Hence, as your child grows, you can play an active role in nurturing their natural abilities to grow into fully-fledged abilities and talents. You can make sure that they are exposed to the right environment and experiences, that they are receiving enough resources and support from someone that can help them such as a teacher or coach, and that they are guided in the right direction.

You can also help your child to explore and discover their natural abilities by being observant of what they excel in, providing opportunities for them to explore various things from creative to academic, and getting them help from a guidance counsellor or insight workshop if need be.

How you can nurture your child’s gifts and talents
Like anything in life, a gift cannot grow on its own, it requires deliberate and intentionally guided steps to develop it to its maximum potential. However, when nurturing a child’s gifts, it’s important to listen to their needs as well. Here a few helpful points when helping them to discover and develop their natural abilities.

  • Give them time to discover their natural abilities by themselves. Generally, children like to explore, and they do this better without a parent’s preconceived ideas of where they would like their children to go in life. Give them time to do what they are interested in without being directly involved but just being there to observe and guide them
  • Provide them with resources and opportunities that will help not only unlock their gift but further develop it. Resources could include a musical instrument of their interest or identifying opportunities where the child can showcase their gift in front of an audience, even if it is just family members or at school. This can also help to build up their confidence. You can also play an active role in helping them practise their talents, for example, if your child’s talents lie in playing chess, you can buy them a chess board to practice with and you can play with them to develop their skills. If you don’t have the skills, you could also get someone else to play with them which will develop a healthy competitive element in them
  • Be their biggest supporter. They may not always feel inspired to do what they love, especially if they fail to perform at their best, so it is up to you to encourage them. They need to be taught that sometimes it’s okay to fail, it doesn’t mean they are bad, it just means that they learn from their mistakes and improve on that. As a parent, it means the world to your child when they know you support them. Whether you know much about their gift or not, let your child know you are there for them
  • Enlist the help of someone with more knowledge regarding their gift to guide them. Professional help goes a long way especially if your child wants to make a living out of their gift. Finding a coach or teacher to provide specialised support/guidance is important as it helps to identify the child’s strengths and areas that still need improvement so they can perform at their optimum.

In conclusion, one would say that, for a child to fully realise their potential in any area of their interest, both natural abilities and the nurturing of these will play an integral part. It’s only when the gift has been identified that one can help further develop the talent by providing the right environment and ensuring the child gets the necessary support. This support can either be in terms of the supply of resources/tools or emotional support.

GT Scholars offers many opportunities for young people to discover and develop their gifts and talents. We run after-school and weekend programmes that help young people achieve their academic and career aspirations. Our programmes include tutoring, mentoring and enrichment sessions for young people aged 11-18. Contact us if you would like to know more about any of our programmes and courses.

How To Support Your Gifted And Talented Child

How To Support Your Gifted And Talented Child

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A gifted child is defined as a child who gives evidence of high-performance capability in intellectual, creative, artistic, or leadership areas, or in specific academic fields. They often require services or activities not ordinarily provided by the school in order to fully develop such capabilities.

These children have characteristics such as unusual alertness even in infancy, are rapid learners, have an excellent memory and have unusually large vocabularies for their age. They also demonstrate longer and more intense concentration spans, ask probing questions, are highly attentive to detail and highly self-disciplined, and they have little tolerance for boredom.

Gifted children will tend to get bored at school if teachers do not stimulate their minds. So, it is recommended that gifted children are brought up differently compared to other children. Here are a few tips for raising gifted children.

Provide an intellectual challenge at school and away from school
Gifted children are extremely fast learners. They can often accomplish things faster than their peers and with little effort. Their perfectionism means that they will always strive to over-achieve and this presents them with a lack of challenge in mainstream schooling. Allow your child opportunities to work on things that will challenge them and require them to take extra time to figure out. Also, attempt to have the school provide them with opportunities to learn things that are outside of their comfort zone and that will stimulate and challenge them mentally.

Set boundaries
All children need to feel that they are protected. It is not correct to assume that a gifted child will be able to make their own decisions about the best activities for themselves. It is important to listen to their concerns and understand their perspective, however ultimate decisions should always be in the hands of the parents to ensure that the gifted child will receive the best for their needs.

Don’t overburden your child
Although it has been demonstrated that your child can mentally cope with things that their peers would need more practice with, you should not set unusually high expectations for them. You can expose them to different skills and activities, which could nurture their hidden talents and passions. However, it is important to also give your child the freedom to make their own choices regarding the types of activities and extracurricular things that they may like to do. You should also not allow or expect your child to take on too much at once. Set aside time for them to have fun or downtime.

Be patient and supportive
You should avoid expecting perfection from your child. Instead, you should allow them to make mistakes without chastising them, and you should allow them to pursue their interests and abilities freely. You can assist your child to recognize which skills and knowledge will be important in their adult lives.

Praise your child for their abilities and efforts
Gifted children also need recognition for their abilities just as much as anyone else.  Try to compliment and congratulate your child when they have put in a great deal of effort or thought into something and when they need encouragement or positive feedback. You should always acknowledge their talents in all areas, whether it’s art, music, sport or gaming.

Don’t use your child as an example for their siblings
It is best to avoid an unhealthy rivalry between siblings, so you should not use your gifted child as an example to their siblings. It is important to acknowledge that each person is unique and has their own unique skills and talents – which are sufficient. A gifted child is no better than a non-gifted child and it is unfair to emphasise this.

Teach your child to prioritize
Gifted children tend to have many interests and can get more done than other people. Sometimes, they may take on too much and not know how to prioritize their tasks. It is important to instil this in your child, and teach them how to manage their time and how to take enough time for them to relax and regroup.

Teach tolerance and humility
Teaching your child about their special abilities is good, and will build their confidence. However, caution your child against developing a know-it-all attitude. Teach them that it is important to accept oneself, but to also accept others as we are all gifted differently and are unique. Instil in them, a sense of humility and that they can always learn something from others. This will develop better social skills that are very important once they are independent.

A gifted child is indeed a blessing, and it is important to do things that will complement their gifts whilst also remembering that they are still young and will need your help. Teach them that they are allowed to make mistakes and that they are also allowed to shine.

GT Scholars is a not-for-profit social enterprise and registered charity. We run after-school and weekend programmes that help young people achieve their academic and career aspirations. Our programmes include tutoring, mentoring and enrichment sessions for young people aged 11-18. Contact us if you would like to know more about any of our programmes and courses.