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Discovering Strengths

As kids grow up, it's natural for them to try to figure out what they're best at doing. It's just one part of discovering their own identity and building their self-esteem. An important thing to keep in mind is that every child grasps the world in a slightly different way. For example, some find it more natural to interact with the world with their hands; they might enjoy activities that involve sculpting or crafting things.

Others might be fascinated by how clocks, toys, and other mechanical gadgets work. Designing contraptions of their own might enthrall them. Or they might like both sculpture and mechanical things, or any other combination of things. The key is to give kids the latitude they need to find their talents — and figure out who they are.

What are some concrete things you can do to help your child discover his talents?

  • Watch your children at work and at play. Afterwards, ask them about whether they enjoyed what they were doing. Follow this up by asking why they feel this way about it. (For example, "Did you like painting as much as skating? Why or why not?") These questions can help you to get a sense of the range of activities that interest them.
  • While your child is involved in an activity, pay attention to how she accomplishes a task. It may provide clues to her learning style. Some researchers now believe that there are as many as eight basic learning styles, and countless additional combinations. (For more information on this theory, known as multiple intelligences, see the links below.) Understanding your child's strengths as a learner can help you to plan activities that will allow her to more easily build on her talents and skills.
  • Figuratively speaking, give kids a broad brush and a big canvas — they should have lots of opportunities for new experiences. Let kids rise to the challenge of a new activity that they have chosen. But at the same time, if your child wants to take horseback riding lessons and you just don't have the money for it, try to find an alternative that offers a similar experience without the financial strain.
  • If you can, find a mentor among family or community members who can provide additional support for your kids' interests.

As your child tries different things, praise and reinforce the strengths you see in her. It'll encourage her to take chances and discover talents that she never knew she had.

For more tips on helping your kids discover their strengths, try one of these links:

  • A brief overview of the eight categories of multiple intelligences, as well as a table of age-appropriate activities within each category, can be found in "Nurturing Children's Talents," an article appearing on the University of Missouri's Extension Web site.
  • For information about the important link between a child's self-esteem and the development of strengths and skills, visit the parents' section of the Riverside (California) Unified School District's Web site.



U.S. Department of Education Star Schools Program