If you had asked me the talents I was trying to nurture in my then toddler, the answer would probably have been “walking, talking and potty training”. You probably have similar aspirations for your children. Sometimes when our children are young, we get so caught up in meeting their basic needs of diapers, feeding and napping, we forget these are growing people with special gifts already given to them by God.
Often instead of helping our kids find the natural talents God may have blessed them with, we fall into peer pressure parenting. Peer pressure parenting will tell you every preschooler needs to play soccer or T-ball or learn to swim. Peer pressure parenting insists you enroll your tots in all day preschool five days a week so they can be “socialized” and taught important skills to prepare them for kindergarten. Peer pressure parenting, although well-intentioned, may not be in the best interest of your child.
Instead, try a little more free spirited parenting. I’m not talking about a lack of boundaries and discipline, but rather giving your children the freedom to discover who God created them to be as individuals. Help them discover their passions and interests. Allow them to find out the talents and gifts God gave them personally to use in His kingdom. The best part is that it is a lot of fun.
When our daughter was a toddler and in her preschool years, she took the lead most of the time in our activities. I don’t mean she was allowed to dictate we ate at Chick Fil A nightly. Instead for example, if we made a trip to the library, we would take a visit to the non-fiction juvenile section. As we read the titles of books or looked at the covers, I allowed her to choose the books that interested her. We would take those home and explore a new subject or idea or place.
Often our library discoveries would lead to more questions. She would want to experiment with something or try something in the book for herself. Usually children’s books work with things readily found in most homes, so it took little effort or extra money to pull out a lemon and paper to try invisible writing or some other interesting thing.
We kept our eyes open for free and low cost workshops at places like Home Depot and Michaels. Sometimes she would take a few low key lessons like gymnastics at the Y or Spanish for kids. If she developed a sudden interest in butterflies or weaving, we might even purchase a kit or give her the supplies for her birthday or another holiday.
My goal was to allow her to try as many things as possible. I also wanted her to take the lead so she would follow her natural passions instead of being forced to follow mine. Along the way, we could see potential sparks occasionally, which when she entered school sometimes led to more involved lessons or supplies.
Remember, the odds of you having a child who is a born gymnastic superstar are slim. Be wary of teachers who attempt to convince you your child has special talents – if only you would enroll them in more lessons. The desire for stardom has many artists and athletes pushing all children to become professionals in anything that interests them. My experience has been this is rarely in the best interest of the child when they are very young. Hold firm that your child is still in an experimental stage and if the teacher continues to push too hard, consider finding someone who will allow your child to experiment and have fun.
God may not reveal to your child for many years all of the talents He gave your child to use in the kingdom. In fact, I encourage you to continue exploring and experimenting with new things until your child leaves home. The more opportunities your child has to explore and experiment to find his passions and talents though, the more ready he will be to actual study and pursue the natural talents and gifts God gave him. In the meantime, you and your child can have lots of fun exploring and learning new things. If you are like I was, you will often learn as many new things as your child does and possibly discover a few new gifts of your own. And that my friends, is the type of mothering that helps you stay young!