Friday, October 24, 2014

Help your child unfold, not discover, his talent

Many parents believe that potential talent can be 'detected' at an early age. This assumption is simply untrue. Benjamin Bloom's study of 120 high performers proved that even 'potential' of high performers could not be detected at early age. Child prodigies make us believe that 'talent' can be seen at younger age. But the conversion of child prodigies to adult performers is so 'rare' that one cannot rely on potential talent at lower age. 

I have researched the process of unfolding of talent over 10 years. I have found large differences in how people discover their talent. Some like Boman Irani discover their talent at a later age. He discovered his talent of acting at the age of 35. And that too by chance. Last year, i met a corporate professional who discovered his talent of writing at the age of 40. Some discover it by chance and at early age. For instance, Jaya discovered her talent of drawing when she met a drawing teacher in her 8th Grade.

I have seen bigger surprises in the process of talent unfolding. Some discover their talent at an early age, but once they start their work-life, they find that it does not suit them. For instance, Jessica spend 28 years of life pursuing medicine, but once she started working she found that she is not ready for using her talent. Every year i meet countless students who pursue IIT courses after grueling preparation, get into IIT, and then find that IIT does not suit them. Abhay is one such student i met.

In other words, the process of finding talent is not a straightforward path of sequentially taken actions. It is path of tangled threads. Some deliberate , some unconscious. Even when the path is understood, one can 'influence' it, one cannot control the process of unfolding of talent. I therefore call the process as Unfolding of talent.

So how can you help your child to unfold his talent? 

Here are five basic rules that are practical and useful:

1. Accept broader view of talent: Talent was earlier seen as a narrow acquisition of cognitive ability like mathematics or programming. Lewis Terman's study of 1500+ high IQ students has proved that IQ alone is not the prime cause of any success. Meaning of talent, as we have discovered now, is much more wider and holistic. It is definitely not just one single skill. It consists of cognitive abilities, character traits and conative traits. For some more light on the subject, see this view of talent.

2. Making the right choice of education path at 10th grade is less important than making the most of a given choice: Our path of unfolding of talent goes through three stages. Stage I is choosing an education path after 10th grade. Stage II is choosing the work path after graduation. And stage III is choosing the career path after exploring various work-paths. If stage I directly leads to Stage III, your child is lucky. But if you do not want to depend on luck, you must take right actions during graduation instead of spending time on finding the right education path of graduation.

3. Maximise your child's learning outputs in school: There is a huge gap between teaching and learning. See this difference and help your child in learning. Help him contextualise his understanding of a subject be it Mathematics, English or History. Help him use his knowledge of subject to manipulate real life objects like radio and bicycle.

4. Tackle the bottleneck of emotional distraction in child's learning in advance: Bigger bottleneck of learning at school is not inadequate efforts or insufficient willpower. The bottleneck is the distraction that is caused by emotional upheavals that are part of growing with other friends. The transition of a student to adolescence during 7/8th grade causes huge hormonal changes that distracts a student the most. I meet many such students who have got distracted from learning because of their misdirected interest in sex-related articles. Help your child tackle emotional distraction by practicing empathy.

5.Actively manage the child's 'motivational engine' to guide learning: A child's motivation is very important for his learning.  But we cannot use his motivation to guide him because we do not know how to use the fire of motivation. For instance, the child's love of bicycle at the 4th grade can be used to motivate him to learn some of the basic principles of physics. Here are some ideas

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