Marshmallow Discipline

  • Author:Angie Arsenault

How to instill talent in your child (and in yourself!)

While many still believe that great talents such as Beethoven or Mozart were born with a gift and simply “woke up” with exceptional abilities, the truth is that these 2 examples, along with most successful individuals, worked very hard at perfecting their craft and developing their talent. It has been said that Beethoven would sometimes run through as many as sixty or seventy different drafts of a phrase before settling on the final one!

The same goes for any other field of study. Ted Williams, for example, did not show any signs of exceptional talent on the field before he decided to make his whole life about baseball.

There is an old saying that still applies: Practice makes perfect.

What do the worlds’ best violinists, composers, writers, surgeons, The Beatles, and Bill Gates have in common (ok, aside from possible fame and fortune)? They have all used the “10,000 hour rule to success.” These are people who have spent hours practicing, starting from a young age, and by the time they hit their early twenties, they have accumulated an incredible amount of practice hours, more than others ever come even close to.

That said, there are different degrees of practice and so essentially, the focus should go towards developing the most productive attitudes and identifying magnificent external resources.

So what steps can we take to instill positive and productive attitudes in our children?

In his book called “The Genius in All of Us”, David Shenk reminds parents that although they do not have complete control and should not blame themselves when things to do not turn out well for their children, parenting does matter.

Shenk goes on to name 4 key guideposts to excellence when it comes to impacting the goals, strategies, and personal philosophies of their children:

1. BELIEVE
“It begins with a simple faith that each child has enormous potential and that it is up to us to muster whatever resources we can to exploit that potential. Rather than wonder if their child is among the “gifted” chosen few, parents should believe deeply in the extraordinary potential of their children.”

2. SUPPORT, DON’T SMOTHER
“Early exposure to resources is wonderful, as is setting high expectations and demonstrating persistence and resilience when it comes to life challenges. But a parent must not use affection as a reward for success or a punishment for failure. The parent must show faith in the child’s ability to seek achievement for his or her own inner satisfaction.”

3. PACE AND PERSIST
“The key is intermittent reinforcement,” says Robert Cloninger, a Washington University Biologist. “A person who grows up getting too frequent rewards will not have persistence, because they’ll quit when the rewards disappear”.

4. EMBRACE FAILURE
“In the sometimes counter-intuitive world of success and achievement, weaknesses are opportunities; failures are wide-open doors. The only true failure is to give up or sell your children short”.

Quite surprising so find out that so many young children have the self-discipline to wait for the larger reward don’t you think? The interesting part is how delayed gratification is a practice that can affect the child later in life and in so many positive ways.

“It’s the kids job to push against the limits, it’s our job as parents to set the limit” says Dr David Walsh, parenting expert and author.

“Parents are not supposed to make things easier for kids. Instead, they are supposed to present, monitor, and modulate challenges. The great success stories in our world come about when parents and their children learn to turn straight into the wind and gain satisfaction from marching against its ever-increasing force. “Set high expectations, but also show compassion, creativity, and patience.”

David Shenk also writes “intelligence is not fixed but waiting to be developed. Our brains and bodies are primed for plasticity; they were built for challenge and adaptation. Musical ability lies dormant in all of us, calling for early and sustained incantation. It is important to engage this process early on.”

So many factors can influence a child and although parenting is far from the only thing, there is no question that the role of the parent is a great one and as a parent, you also act as a role model for your children.

Here are some guiding principles given by Shenks to help you on your journey to your own greatness.

  • FIND YOUR MOTIVATION
  • BE YOUR OWN TOUGHEST CRITIC
  • BEWARE OF THE DARK SIDE (BITTERNESS AND BLAME)
  • IDENTIFY YOUR LIMITATIONS – AND THEN IGNORE THEM
  • DELAY GRATIFICATION AND RESIST CONTENTEDNESS
  • HAVE HEROES
  • FIND A MENTOR

Of course, there is also the 10,000-hour rule to achieve success. Read the article here.

And so, if you were thinking that you had to be born with talent in order to sing well, think again.

It is always optimal to start at a young age, but it is NEVER too late to take on what you owe to yourself.

Now get back to practice songbirds!

“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that
I stay with problems longer.” – Albert Einstein

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