One of the greatest things that a parent can do for their child is to help them identify and pursue their gifts. Nothing can be more frustrating than doing a job that doesn’t fit your skills, abilities, visions, passions, dreams, and personality traits and tendencies. Many of us in adulthood are in just such a job. We get a job that seems like a fit for our education, get comfortable that the income and benefits can support our family, and before we know it we’re shackled to the Golden Handcuffs – too many responsibilities to change jobs, too much income to give up. The precursor to that decision, quite often, is our education. How many of us chose an education or major because it’s what someone else (parents, teachers, etc) thought we should do? Worse, how many of us landed in a major by default, as in I couldn’t pass all of the courses for my major so I changed majors to something that maximizes the classes I’ve already taken? Did you have to jump into a job right after high school because it was the thing to do, or after dropping out of college because you had to start repaying those student loans? The core question is, are you in a job that you didn’t plan to be in or never gave much thought to?
How sad it would be for your child to land in the same position. The best news is that it is never too late as long as they are still in your home. This list isn’t complete, but here are my thoughts on some things you can do to help them find their niche or their sweet spot.
- Pay attention to the things that they like to do.
- Also pay attention to the things that they don’t like to do.
- Expose them to different activities and see how they respond.
- Do their homework with them – this helps you see their academic giftedness.
- Minimize criticism in order to help keep their self-esteem high.
- Gently guide them if you determine that something simply isn’t a fit.
- Don’t over-commit your children; more than two extracurricular activities at a time is too much.
- Allow them time for unstructured play and see what they gravitate to.
- Watch how they interact with others, both in one-on-one and group settings.
- Don’t live vicariously through your children, give them opportunities and see if they gravitate to them.
- Let them take tests and assessments that may be offered in school but take the results for what they are.
- Don’t compare your children to their siblings, to your own childhood, or to others in their life.
Make notes on your observations for them to look back on in their teenage years. Then, as they begin to consider college or career, you’ll be well-equipped to have meaningful discussions with them as to what their purpose might be in this world. It could be perhaps the greatest gift that you ever give your child. Proverbs 22:6 says “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”