#7 Discover the gift in your child. One of the most affirming things we can do for our children is to help them discover their gifts. Again, as with almost every one of these suggestions, we would all nod in agreement that this is a good idea. But will we also agree to take the time and effort to make it happen?
Discovering your child’s gifts takes the time and desire to know and study your child. This may take getting “outside” our own personality. We often view our children and our expectations for them through the grid of our own gifts, talents, and bent. In short, through the lens of how our personality sees the world. Discovery may take some flexibility on our part.
For example, if the number one rule at your house is, “Don’t make a mess”, you may miss the artist in your family. If you grow weary of your child’s “why” questions, you may miss the scientist or explorer in your family. You may be shutting down an inquisitive mind. If you are too busy to play catch with your son, you may be missing the athlete in your home. Yes, if we limit our children’s rabbit trails and ideas we may create a more orderly home, but take heed to the proverb, “Where no oxen are, the manger is clean; but much increase comes by the strength of the ox” (Prov 14:4).
We found that extra-curricular activities were a good avenue to discover our children’s gifts and talents. Choir, piano lessons, baseball, drama camp, band, gymnastics, figure skating, drum lessons, tennis, and a garage band or two uncovered a variety of interests and skills in our kids. I’m not suggesting that all of these should be pursued at once or for every child. Be discerning. Take it slowly enough to hear and observe how your child responds to these things. But overall, a variety of opportunities is a plus.
Jobs are also a good way to discover interests and skills in our kids. Our son, Joe, took over the yard duties at our house in his teenage years. Over time, he developed a pride of ownership in doing a good job. He now wields a weed-eater like a sculptor with a chisel and the finished product is a combination of his artistry and his precision engineering bent.
Charles Swindoll, in his book, Growing Wise in Family Life shares this story about the impact of an affirming mother. “Benjamin West, a British artist, tells how he first became aware of his artistic skills. One day his mother went out, leaving him in charge of his little sister Sally. In his mother’s absence, he discovered some bottles of colored ink and to amuse her, he began to paint Sally’s portrait. In doing so, he made quite a mess of things…spilled numerous ink splotches here and there. When his mother returned, she saw the mess, but said nothing about it. She deliberately looked beyond all that as she picked up the piece of paper. Smiling, she exclaimed, ‘Why, it’s Sally!’ She then stooped and kissed her son. From that time on, Benjamin West would say, ‘My mother’s kiss made me a painter.’ ”
Dr. Swindoll concludes, “God gave the talent, but a very secure and wise mother gave the gift wings.”