Monday, November 16, 2009

How To Foster Your Child's Talent

(StatePoint) Childhood is a time of dreams and possibilities, so it's important parents encourage their children's innate talents to help them develop and build self esteem, say experts.

Whatever your child is good at -- music, art, writing, sports, science -- fostering that talent can make a big difference. And who knows, you may have the next Mozart, Shakespeare or Picasso on your hands!

"I truly believe everyone has an incredible story to tell," says Taylor Joseph, the 16-year-old author of the new teen mystery, "Allison Investigates," which is her second published novel. "I was eight when I first began writing. When I was 13, my dad encouraged me to pursue an idea I had for a book. I spent the next year researching and writing, and then he helped me send it to an editor and get it published."

Taylor's debut novel last year at age 15, "The Crossing," tackled illegal immigration. Her new novel, "Allison Investigates," is about how four friends, each 15, seek to use their sleuthing skills to investigate a rash of auto thefts that involves the unique skateboarding subculture. The teens learn about teamwork, courage, and pursuing their passion.

Now, thanks to her father's help, Taylor's two novels are available in bookstores like Barnes & Noble and Amazon, she has her own blog at, and has promoted her books with a 15-state tour, doing book signings, speaking at schools, holding library readings and presenting at fairs.

Fostering a child's talent, as did Taylor's father, is about providing the tools to succeed, along with an upbeat, nurturing environment:

* Locate Strengths: Observe your child to locate talent. Being interested in something is not necessarily enough. Let kids sample everything, but it can be cruel to encourage a child to pursue dreams in which only failure lies ahead. Gently persuade your child to build on best abilities.

* Provide The Tools: Make sure your child has what it takes, such as art supplies, an instrument, a computer with proper software, or science or sporting equipment.

* Teach But Back Off: Formal instruction can be great, such as piano or art lessons. But creativity needs space, so know when to back off to let them explore. Don't overdo it on rules. Have enough to be safe and to develop, but not so many the activity no longer is fun.

* Set Realistic Goals: Most kids aren't going to churn out the great American novel on the first try. Set goals they can reach and that keep them advancing.

* Criticize Constructively: Praise them for the things they do well and don't be overly critical. Consult their teachers and coaches on how to offer constructive criticism and in which areas they need improvement.

* Don't Live Vicariously: Know the difference between your dream and that of your child's. Make sure you aren't pushing your own desires.

* Make Sure They Socialize: Don't let kids become social hermits, engrossed only in their burgeoning talent and not in their social scene with friends.

For her part, teen author Taylor believes it's important for young people to follow their dreams and assert themselves early-on. By pursuing her passion, she hopes to promote literacy among her peers and interest a new generation in reading.

"My daughter may have published novels, but we work to ensure she's just a regular kid and doesn't spend all her time writing. She enjoys martial arts, soccer, basketball and time with friends and family," stresses Larry Joseph, proud father of Taylor.

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