It’s so interesting to watch two children, specifically two boys who are close in age, grow up in the same house, with the same parents and virtually the same experiences…and turn out so vastly different! It is also interesting learning how to parent those boys differently as their individual personalities and needs change. Developing my kids’ talents has been a journey, as I’m sure it is for most parents. I have one son whose gift, which may or may not follow him in life, seems to be blatantly apparent. Meanwhile, I’m still discovering and looking/listening for the other son’s interests and talents. Here’s how I’m finding my way, and theirs.

Talent discovery

I knew from the day he was born that my youngest son, Kensi, would be extremely physical. Don’t get me wrong: Kingsley, my oldest, is also athletic. But his brother had a next-level je ne sais quoi that was very evident. Family and friends noticed, also! One friend used to joke about how Kensi seemed to be the “baby Shaq” we hear about. Kensi has this fearless determination that helps him keep up with his brother despite their two-year age difference. Seeing this over the years makes me think he will put most of his energy into athletics throughout his life. It’s his natural gift.

Assessing Kinsgley seems to be more challenging for me, simply because his biggest asset, I’ve noticed, is kindness. He is and has always been a really kind and very sweet kid. That’s such an important personality trait nowadays. We live in an age of demonstrating emotional intelligence, both within and outside of the workspace. I know it will serve him well in his personal and professional lives. But that’s the challenge:  there isn’t a direct professional focus I can tie to being sweet or kind. However, it makes me initially think he may go into the creative fields. He likes drawing and music, and he even enjoyed being in a play last summer. That’s where I am currently with Kingsley.

I’ve learned that developing my kids’ talents requires a great deal of observing, encouraging and asking questions. My job is to be open to however they respond, verbally or physically.

Equal exposure

When it comes to supporting my kids, I do something that may not resonate with all parents. I choose to make both of my boys participate in the same sports, together. Eventually, I may individualize activities. Right now, though, I want them both to try activities and be challenged by things they aren’t naturally gifted at.

For example, they are both learning Muay Thai. Kensi, again, is naturally gifted at it. Kingsley shows in subtle ways he’s not quite as interested; he gets distracted or bored very easily with it. Conversely, they both also attend weekly piano lessons. Although both boys are still very new at it, Kingsley always enjoys sitting down at the piano more than Kensi. Kensi isn’t disinterested, but he’s not taking to it like his brother.

It’s important to me that they both participate in things that don’t cater to their natural talents. I believe they need to be challenged to work at something that doesn’t always feel fun or easy. My hope is they will learn that they can get better at something by trying hard and working diligently. I recently watched a clip of Jerry Seinfeld discussing something similar with respect to skateboarding. His message is the lesson I ultimately want to instill as I continue developing my kids’ talents. Practice makes perfect, it builds character and it strengthens determination.

Assessing experiences and responses

Not only am I interested in helping my boys discover their talents, but I’m also very interested in how they respond to various parts of the journey. And boy, do they ever respond to being challenged!

As I mentioned, Kensi has such a strong determination to excel. When he doesn’t excel or master something quickly, his response is sometimes frustration and anger. Such was the case with one of his first rollerskating experiences. I guess he expected to put skates on and instantly be able to skate.

That didn’t happen. He fell. A lot!

Kensi had a hard time understanding the concept of balancing and moving on wheels. He couldn’t twirl. Standing was difficult, much less doing any tricks that he wanted to do. I think the worst part was he didn’t understand why he couldn’t just…do it! The result? An all-out, four-year-old tantrum.

The only thing that seemed to soothe Kensi on the way home was his brother’s kindness. Kingsley demonstrates frustration differently. He simply responds with an air of, “it doesn’t matter.” I’m not suggesting either response is better or worse. What’s important is what each child does with their frustration. Though my youngest allowed his anger to take over initially, he put those skates on every chance he could for a week, determined to learn how to skate.

Now that Kensi’s athleticism is standing out to everyone, I want to make sure that it’s not adding to his desire to give up on certain activities. As I continue developing my kids’ talents, it’s important for me to find balance in praising both boy’s efforts. That includes Kensi’s physical prowess and Kingsley’s drawing, supporting his friends, and being a sweet kid.

The journey continues

I’m learning so much about my boys, and I’m also learning a great deal about myself as a parent. I see so much of myself in both of them. I only hope that I help them find happiness in whatever excites them and helps them grow as young men.

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