10 Strategies for Discovering and Developing Each Child's Unique Genius
By Michael Strong
As parents, our job is to nurture our children's unique gifts so they can develop most fully into themselves, into people who live a productive, fulfilled life. But genius comes in many forms, and it's important to look beyond what we as a culture see as "traditional" genius as we seek to discover what makes each child special. Your child's particular strengh might be humor, for example, or empathy, creativity, entrepreneurship, sales, negotiation, teambuilding, design, caring, the ability to inspire others, or many other dimensions that are crucial to human flourishing but which aren't necessarily recognized by their current teachers.
Think about the schoolmates from your own past: Did students who were most successful at "doing school" actually become the most successful in life? Maybe, but usually not. And yet it's still easy to buy into the idea for our own kids that academic success will determine life success. In fact, though, it's the matching of a person's own particular brand of genius and joy with a productive purpose that leads to happiness. No matter whether your child attends traditional school, is homeschooled, or something in between, parents can help recognize and nurture those qualities that are crucial for future fulfillment.
Here are 10 strategies parents can use immediately, with children of any age or stage.
Ten ways to discover your child’s unique genius:
1. Observe the role your child plays with their friends.
Are they a leader? Negotiator? Teammember?
2. Observe what they are spontaneously drawn to do in their free time.
Are they a builder? Do they love being with people? Do they create?
3. Take them new places, near or far.
What excites them? What do they notice? What do they talk about? Ask them, what interests them here?
4. Observe how they change over the years, and what stays the same.
How are they developing? What strand of their being is growing over time? What are the constants of who they are?
5. Envision them as a happy, fulfilled adult.
Are they working with people? Are they working with things? Are they entrepreneurial? Part of a large organization?
6. At my virtual school, The Socratic Experience, we use the four questions: What do you love? What are you good at? What will the world pay for? What does the world need?
Ask your child these from time to time; they answers will change as they mature.
7. Expose them to models of excellence.
If they are entrepreneurial, expose them to biographies of great entrepreneurs. If they are a builder, expose them to the work of those who have built amazing things. If they are a designer, show them the work of amazing designers.
8. Talk to them about the most impressive people you’ve met in your life, emphasizing all of the different ways to be impressive.
Who are the most interesting people you’ve met? Why did they impress you?
9. Practice family gratitudes.
What do you appreciate about each other? See who can come up with the longest list of things to appreciate. We all love, and need, more appreciation.
10. Ask them to describe what friends and family members do well.
You want to help them develop their ability to perceive different kinds of skills and character traits so that they develop an awareness of all of the different ways that make people valuable to each other.
In short: Attention is love. Give your child attention for ways in which they stand out, and they will feel seen, more uniquely themselves, and develop the convictions that they can use their gifts to make a positive difference in the world around them.
The above ideas are condensed from my book The Habit of Thought, which I wrote 25 years ago to teach students how (not what) to think, to help each student develop the habits that will lead to true success in life. You can purchase the book on Amazon and from other suppliers, but I'm making it available to KidsOutAndAbout.com readers for free.
What if a school could do BOTH?
What if a school could both prepare a child academically to succeed in college and beyond, and focus on helping them nurture their own gifts? That's our goal at The Socratic Experience, a virtual school for kids age 8 to 18, providing a personalized experience tailored to the needs of each child. Learn more by watching the video below and visiting our website to learn more.
Michael Strong is the founder of The Socratic Experience, which is a virtual school serving ages 8 through 18. Learn more here. You can also visit their Youtube channel to check out videos about Michael Strong and his remarkable school.