Are Gifted Children Born or Made? Encouraging a Good Education

How much influence do we have over the development of the abilities of our children? To what extent can we attribute giftedness to natural-born ability, exposure, encouragement, socioeconomic status, or ethnicity? What would have happened to the first violinist if she had never been exposed to an instrument? What would have happened to the professional golfer if he had never been exposed to the game? Would that talent manifest itself in some other form or would it be lost forever?

Because a young person shows a strong ability, does that mean she will always retain that ability? When a young person seems quite average, does that mean that no real strength will ever surface? We say that we want to give students the chance to realize their full potential. What does that mean?

Are very bright students gifted by accident or are they just mentally more efficient? Can the management of mental resources be developed?

It seems that there are more questions than answers.

Parents can at least have an influence over the potential development of talents, interests, and general good education. Here are ten ways to encourage this.

  1. Expose children to a wide variety of experiences in addition to traditional academic subjects such as math, reading, writing, history, and science. Expose them also to art, theater, music, nature, sports, and technology of all types.
  2. Expose children to different types of people—people from different socioeconomic backgrounds, different ethnicities, and different belief systems.
  3. Encourage young people to develop hobbies, join clubs, participate in competitions, attend extra-curricular activities, and take extra-curricular lessons.
  4. Be a parent who is curious and encourage the same in your children.
  5. Support the interests of your child even if they aren’t the same as yours. Ask leading questions to help you understand what has drawn your youngster to a particular topic. Speak and listen to your child with consideration and respect.
  6. Set an example by either maintaining a wide variety of personal interests or one particular interest that has become special, developing into a passion.
  7. Interact with your child by participating in the things that excite him.
  8. Celebrate the interests of different family members and friends—everyone doesn’t have to be alike. Value one another’s differences.
  9. Teach your child how to find information and resources in a variety of ways—books, Internet, other people, etc. There will eventually be times when your child's expertise on a topic will be greater than yours, and you will not be able to provide answers or solutions. Understanding research tools will serve your child well.
  10. Expose your young person to many different experiences, yet allow time for her creative mind to develop and to pursue what she discovers. Don’t overload. This is a fine line to walk.
  11. Let your child lead the way. He will let you know when something piques his interest. Don’t be over-involved. Expose, but don’t push.

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