Parents and talent development

Spider's Web with CHEELA CHILALA
LAST month I attended the annual Indaba conference that occurs just before the Zimbabwe International Book Fair in Harare.

One of the presentations that captured the attention of the participants, and that fascinated me, was by a Zimbabwean whose son is a music prodigy.
From an early age, the boy has been making waves in the music industry and has won a number of awards.
The father gave this explanation for the rare talent: “When my wife was pregnant with our son, she often asked me to play music to her and the baby in the womb. I therefore used to play my guitar to my wife and the unborn baby on a daily basis.”
He went on to explain that when the baby was born it did not take long to notice that he had a special liking for music and musical instruments.
By age three, the boy was already trying to learn playing the piano! The father theorises that his son learnt to appreciate music while in his mother’s womb.
I am not an expert to proffer a reliable opinion on whether the playing of the guitar to the unborn baby passed on the musical talent.
However, I am at least sure of one thing: the boy’s musical talent was there from a very young age, and that it needed to be developed.
In other words, it was critical for the little boy to work hard and have a passion for music. The point is this: it is not enough to have a talent; you have to identify it, appreciate it, and use it – above all you have to be disciplined and hardworking.
That is where the role of parents comes in handy. Whether or not the theory of the boy’s father is true is not my concern because, whatever the case, it is obvious that the role of the parents in the identification and development of their son’s prodigious talent was critical.
A parent can either develop or even destroy the talent – and by extension future – of their child.
A parent must be on the lookout for the special gifting of their child, or the child’s area of competence.
When he or she discovers that area, it is important to accept it even when it does not tie in with what the parent hoped for, or even if the parent might not like it.
However, in cases where the parent correctly identifies their child’s area of gifting and supports it, great success may be attained.
There are a lot of examples of such cases. Take, for instance, the case of Tiger Woods.
His father, Earl Woods, identified his golfing talent at an early age and worked hard to nurture it. Woods, as we know, became one of the greatest golfers of all time.
Similarly, Serena and Venus Williams, the American tennis stars, might not have become what they are without the efforts of their father, Richard Williams.
It is evident that, if you are a parent, you must be careful not to undermine the talent of your child, but rather to nurture and support it.
Provide the right environment for your child to develop their talent or area of competence. It might not be in the arts or sports but another field.
Parental guidance and support can lead a child into their destiny. It is also evident that parental effort is not enough: the child must also recognise their own talent and work hard at it.
In addition, they must work at it with passion, because no one can succeed in a field they are not passionate about.

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