I love to watch people. People of all ages, from all walks of life.
When the boys were little, I remember sitting quietly while they played, watching the children on the playground.
Some ran full force to the swings, while others approached with caution. Some children looked for new friends and others seemed withdrawn and quiet. I often wondered what careers would be in their future.
What gifts had they been given that were waiting to be discovered? Like a diamond in the rough, their raw talents were just waiting for the hand of the Master to polish and shine.
It’s always a guessing game, isn’t it? Even when our children are teens. Maybe we thought we had it figured out and then their interests change. We know that they have unique strengths but it’s painstakingly hard to wait for those to reveal themselves. So how do we determine what those gifts are so we can shape them into usable tools for life?
Physical strengths will shine in activities like competitive sports and physical fitness. Perhaps your child is a star in track and field, or a heavy hitter on the baseball field.
Children with emotional or spiritual strengths are compassionate and wise. They may be the one that friends come to for advice, or a dependable employee who takes customer service to heart. Those blessed with the gift of knowledge will excel in bookwork and make good planners.
Gifts take time to develop. Just because your teen was able to outrun the other kids on the playground, doesn’t mean that talent will be one kept into adulthood. One way we can help our children fine tune their natural gifts is by observing their behavior.
In what activities do they show interest?
Do they excel in any particular areas?
What keeps their attention?
Another way to discover areas in which your child shines is by giving them opportunities to participate in a variety of situations.
Try new things that are just outside his or her comfort zone.
Allow your child to enroll in a new activity or class.
Join a local club that gathers around a common theme like gardening, books, art, or sports.
One thing to remember when helping your children define their gifts is to try not to compare them to other children or siblings. It’s easy for us to take our child’s interest in something and then expect them to have a result similar to that of their older sibling or friend down the street.
Also, try not to encourage your children into a particular area simply because it was your personal strength. It’s easier to mentor them in an area where you have had personal success, but it’s harder to hear your children clearly if they are fearful of disappointing you.
Remember that each child is made to be unique and God’s plan for them has already been written. God knows how they will use their talents for His glory. Isn’t that refreshing! It’s not actually up to us!
Finally, from the time he was little, our middle son was interested in wildlife…animals of every sort. We were certain that his God given gift was in his love for tiny creatures.
At the age of 9 he could tell you more about amphibians than most adults. He fiercely protected the environment. In his teens, he began to see great value in friendships, watching for those who were without. His heart was changing. His gift was becoming more clear.
Now, at the age of 19, it’s very clear. His gift is one of service and compassion. Ministry, family counseling, and problem solving are now where his heart is and where his career will likely land.
If we had decided when he was 9 that he was made to serve in the sciences, we might have missed what God had planned for him. But, in fact, it was his early love and compassion for tiny creatures that has encouraged his true gift 10 years later.
Watch, learn, listen, and wait…prayerfully wait to see what God has already written for your teen. You may be surprised.
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