2011-01-20 / General Stories

Focus on the Family

Assessing Talent Doesn’t Have To Be Cruel Exercise

Jim Daly Jim Daly Q: I have a 17- year- old daughter who dreams of a career as a singer, but she isn’t very good. I know that sounds bad coming from her mom, but it’s true. What do you recommend we do?

Juli: Let’s face it. Very few kids have the talent to be the next “American Idol” or Heisman Trophy winner. But we live in a society that consistently spotlights performance and celebrity.

Too many young adults dream of stardom and fame that are out of their reach. Yet, as a parent, it’s tough to tell the truth to our kids without feeling like we’re killing their dream.

My advice to you is to speak truth, lovingly. You don’t have to come out and say, “You can’t sing.” At 17, she’s going to be running into natural roadblocks that will help her gauge her ability compared to others. Your job is to cast a picture for her of a different dream: “You have a love for singing and music. I’ll bet you use that in your life, even if you don’t become a performing artist. Maybe you’ll teach music or lead a church choir.”

Juli Slattery Juli Slattery One of the great gifts my parents gave me my senior year of high school was career testing. Local universities often have counseling or career development departments that offer tests measuring ability, aptitude, interests and personality. When you put the results together, a young adult can get some solid, objective feedback about which career paths may be the best fit. Although it may cost several hundred dollars up front, it can save thousands of dollars and years of wasted college classes.

What your daughter most needs to know is that she doesn’t have to be a star to earn your love and support.

Q: I played the trumpet in high school, and it helped give me a life-long appreciation for music. I want my son to experience the same thing, but he refuses to pick up an instrument. What should this frustrated dad do?

Jim: I can certainly understand your desire. What dad doesn’t want his son to be a “chip off the old block”? I definitely enjoy watching my own two boys developing an interest in some of the same things that interest me.

A recent study from Canada, though, reveals that parents who want their children to discover a passion for music or sports need to take a hands-off approach. There’s nothing wrong with encouraging your son to take up the trumpet, but don’t push him into it. If he does end up deciding to play an instrument, it might not be for the joy of music. He might just be doing it out of a sense of obligation, or the fear of disappointing you.

The Canadian study revealed another danger with parents forcing their kids to pursue only the hobbies that mom and dad think they should. Some kids with high-pressure parents will embrace the hobbies their folks pick out for them, but they’ll become obsessed with those pursuits later on. Their hobby will consume them. Their entire identity can become wrapped up in being a quarterback or a clarinet player. But when they throw an interception or make a mistake in the orchestra, their self-esteem plummets.

Certainly, parents need to be persistent about impressing morals and values on their kids. We don’t want them to draw their own conclusions about what is right and wrong. But research suggests that when it comes to hobbies, sports and other pastimes, we need to grant them some autonomy, and allow them to develop the unique gifts and talents God gave them.

Jim Daly is president of Focus on the Family, host of the Focus on the Family radio program, and a husband and father of two. Dr. Juli Slattery is a licensed psychologist, co-host of Focus on the Family, author of several books, and a wife and mother of three.

Submit your questions to: ask@FocusOnTheFamily.com

Copyright 2011 Focus on the Family, Colorado Springs, CO 80995

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