Tuesday 16 February 2016

Play to Their Strengths

Last Thursday morning I was watching a parenting DVD with a group of friends and I was really struck by some of the content. The focus of the mornings session was on teens and identity, looking at how important it is for your child to work out who they are and what is important to them.

There was various snippets of interviews with both parents and teens and the example that really struck me was a father telling a new friend that he had three sons. He talked of his oldest boys being 18 and 16 and both very academic. Then when he came to talk about his 13-year-old son he said he was very worried for his GCSEs as he wasn’t academic at all and he’d just taken a maths tutor for his boy to help him ‘come on’ but actually he wasn’t too enthusiastic about it.

The friend then asked a very pertinent question ‘what is it that lights him up? What does he enjoy doing?’ and he was told that the 13-year-old loves to cook. To which the friend then joked ‘well maybe get him a cooking tutor and help him excel in something he loves, rather than something he dislikes and has no talent for’ and when you think about it, how true is that? I suspect most of us have built our careers or achievements on the things that we enjoy or are naturally good at. God gives us all-natural giftings for a reason, so we may use them, it’s an unusual person that pursues a career which includes skills they struggle with or dislike.

These thoughts of encouraging your child within their natural strengths stayed with me throughout the day and kept coming back to the forefront of my mind. It was easy with two of my children to be able to say where their natural strength or preference lay and I could easily think of examples of how I might encourage them.

I had to think for some time though before I could come up with a natural strength for one of children though. She is a good all-rounder and as yet I couldn’t decipher what it might be that she is shining in but when I really spent time thinking about her it was clear to me that her natural gifting must be in hospitality. Even though she is only 8 she loves to welcome guests to our home and my husband's work. When people leave here they often comment about how she was the first smiling face they saw and she made them really welcome.

It would be all too easy to think that her skills of hospitality are less important or tangible than her brother or sister's giftings in maths and art but actually, I think they are perfect and we really ought to be encouraging each of our children where they naturally excel. It never works when you try to stifle a natural talent, all we want to do is build each one of our kids up and raise them to believe they can do anything they want. That sense of ambition and perseverance will serve them well.

Our world has become too focused on academia and the pursuit of A grades. I want my children to be well-rounded, there is so much more to life than the grades they come out of school with and I refuse to put immense pressure on them at this young age. When they all received their reports last week I reiterated again that the most important thing to my husband and I is that they are making progressing and trying hard.

My son's report was full of A grades but there was the odd ‘could do better’ or some such wording for his homework and we told him this isn’t acceptable. Not because he has to improve his grades but because he needs to apply himself to his school work in the same way he does to Minecraft. He is fortunate enough to find study and academia easy and thus must not rest on his laurels and coast along.

The reports for the girls were not so high achieving and that is fine, with them we had discussions about good attitudes, doing our best, and looking for progression. Each of us is created unique and we do not have to be judged against a standard that the government say they must meet, all they have to do is try hard, be kind and follow their natural calling. The rest will take care of itself by the grace of God.

The Spirit of God has made me;
the breath of the Almighty gives me life.~ Job 33:4

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