My kid’s got talent: Nurturing or pushing too far?



Estimated Reading Time 5 Minutes

“Use two hands on the bat!” I call out.

“Keep your eye on the ball!” Shawn shouts.

“Boom!” yells our son. His bat slices through the
air and makes contact with the ball. He drops
the bat and runs in an arc around our backyard.
He slides into home and looks up at us with an
exuberant smile. It was as though he hit the
winning home run in the World Series.

In fact, he hasn’t even won a little league
game. At 18 months, he’s just plain little.
Though barely a toddler, he seems to have
a natural athletic ability and a love for
baseball, in particular. It got us thinking: if
Tiger Woods started training for the PGA
Tour at age three and Beethoven composed
his first symphony at age nine, should we be
coaching Ari with the hope of maximizing
his potential? How do we know how young
is too young to start encouraging our
children to become an athlete, musician,
or mathematician? If we start now, do we
risk discouraging him and becoming pushy
parents? In short, what is the best way
to support our child as he discovers new
interests and talents we could never have
imagined he might possess?

Lorne King doesn’t have all the answers.
What he does know is that his eight-year-old
daughter, Payton, has potential to be a great
soccer player – and he wants her to succeed.

“I took her to a rep soccer tryout thinking
that my daughter was really good,” says
Lorne, a personal trainer and former CFL
running back and owner of Advantage 4
Athletes, a high performance athletic facility
in Markham, Ont. “When I got to the tryout,
I realized that two-thirds of the other girls
were better. Their parents had been sending
them to soccer camps since they were three!
There was a whole world out there that I
didn’t know about, and I was angry that I
had disadvantaged my child by my lack of
knowledge.”

Lorne and his wife, Sarah, began to do
some research and found out about other
soccer seminars, team tryouts and drill
schools. He and Payton also worked really
hard at a local soccer field to improve her
understanding of the game, passing skills,
and cardiovascular ability. A few weeks later,
she earned a spot on a competitive soccer
team.

“I think that when you realize that
your child has talent, you have to be their
advocate,” says Lorne. “You have to do
the legwork and find out what schools or
programs are available for your child that
match his or her interests and talents.”

If, like Lorne, you are late in realizing that
extra supports are available for your child,
don’t give up. “Instead, do the best you can
to help your kid catch up from that point
forward,” he says. “I don’t want to be pushy,
but I do believe that you have to be involved
as a parent and supportive of your children’s
interests. The rest is up to your child.”

Andrea Hecht believes that, sometimes,
it’s her job as a parent to be a little pushy. Her
son Cole, 13, tested in the 98th percentile on
a gifted aptitude test, making him eligible to
enter his pick of gifted programs. Though he
could easily have attended a private academy
for gifted children, Andrea and her husband,
Evan, decided their local public school’s gifted
program was the best option. But Cole didn’t
agree.

“I didn’t want to switch schools,” explains
Cole, who says he was doing division while
his classmates were learning addition. “I
would miss my friends, but my parents made
me go. They said that if I gave it a try and
didn’t like it after a year I could go back to my
old school.”

In a short time, Cole realized that he
belonged in the gifted program after all. “I
hated it at the beginning,” says Cole, who one
day wants to run a Fortune 500 company.
“I made the worst of the situation, but now
I want to stay in the program. I like that it’s
challenging.”

Andrea, an educator herself, is glad she
gave her son a push. “Cole has always been
extremely bright, and I was reluctant to test
him for giftedness because I didn’t want to
risk pigeonholing him in a program that
would only nurture his brain. I wanted him
to be more well-rounded. We wanted him to
have balance in his life.”

Eventually, however, she decided that her
son was mature enough to take the gifted test
and appreciate his need for a new academic
environment. “It got to a point where my fear
was that he would become complacent,” says
Andrea. “It’s easy to not push your children,
but in the end, we made the right decision.”

Lauria Kerr is sure she made the right
decision for her son, 12-year-old musical
prodigy Christian Laurian. He showed a
talent for playing piano at age four, when he
taught himself an entire method book one
morning just six months after beginning
piano lessons.

“I was shocked,” says Lauria. “He learned
all the songs on his own, and by age five he
received the second highest mark in Canada
on his Grade 2 Royal Conservatory of Music
piano examination.”

His abilities progressed quickly under
the tutelage of renowned piano teacher
Peter Turner. Christian gave his first public
performance at age 5, wrote his first concerto
at age 8, and has been playing at packed
concerts and events across Canada ever since,
including making it to the third round of
auditions on Canada’s Got Talent.

“When he started playing piano seriously,
I didn’t know if it was the right choice for
him,” remembers Lauria. “I didn’t want
him to go too fast. I wanted Christian to feel
comfortable, but during every lesson and
every performance he was joyful.”

Suddenly, she wasn’t worried. “I don’t have
to wonder whether all the hours he spends
practising and performing is too much or not
enough because Christian is so happy,” she
says. “If you see your child is content, you
know you’re not pushing; you know it’s right.”

Today, Christian practises for up to four
hours a day. He practises on family vacations,
and he even practises after a performance.

“I’ve asked him if he feels pressure,”
admits Lauria, “but Christian truly enjoys
performing. He plays from his heart and he is
absolutely joyful. It’s magical when he plays.
If you want to be one of the best you have to
be dedicated.”

Her greatest worry is how Christian’s
immense talent will affect his younger sister
Malia, 7. “My biggest dilemma is making sure
that my second child isn’t left behind,” says
Lauria.

So far, she seems to be thriving as well, and
the two kids are the best of friends. “I will
know I did my job as a parent if I can make
sure that Christian’s musical gift is part of
our family and that he knows he is a little boy
who has a sister and two parents who love
him regardless of whether he becomes a great
pianist,” she says.

No matter what your child’s talent may
be, it’s important to ensure that they are
living their dream, not yours. “We’ve already
lived life and had the chance to dream,” says
Andrea Hecht. “As parents, it’s up to us to
help our children pursue the best path for
them without looking at our own needs. It’s
important to nurture their strengths, but
your children have to be a partner in the
journey or it becomes a negative experience.”

As for our son, he still loves baseball but
now enjoys playing with his firetrucks. We’ve
decided to support his latest hobby. He seems
to be just as talented at putting out imaginary
fires as he is at batting a ball.


Erin Dym is the acting associate editor of ParentsCanada
and future Major League Baseball mom.

Originally published in ParentsCanada, July 2012

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