How to Build your Child’s Talents into Strengths

what motivates your child

What motivates your child? Here’s how I figured out the answer to that question with my own children so that I could help them turn their talents into strengths. I love to observe people and I love to ponder, especially when it comes to my children. When they were little I pondered how they were growing physically, spiritually, relationally, emotionally and in wisdom—I pondered a lot! As they grew, I realized that each of them had a natural bent, areas in which they grew naturally.

My oldest daughter Megan’s strongest area was relational; she had lots of close friends, she was a great babysitter, and she just knew how to read people. Flash forward 15 years and Megan now has a career in Human Resources. My daughter Emily’s strongest tendencies were in the emotional area; she was very creative, expressive, and passionate. Today she is a designer and curator in the visual arts living in New York City. It makes me thankful to see my girls in careers that are well-suited to them, and I am glad that, along the way, Mark and I did our best to foster their natural strengths into talents using the following steps.

Study your children.

In my book, The Passionate Mom, I actually included, what I called floor plans, of my girls. Each room represented one of the areas I mentioned above. The bigger the room, the greater their natural strength or tendency. (Megan’s biggest room was Relational, Emily’s was Emotional.)

What are your child’s natural talents and abilities? Try to objectively study your child. The better you understand her, the better equipped you’ll be to guide her. And, if your child is different than you, and you have a hard time relating to her, here are some ways to connect. 

Notice what motivates them.

Emily is motivated by passion. It is very important for her to be emotionally involved with what she is doing; she needs to be inspired to be content. Knowing this helped me get Emily to things she didn’t like to do—like exercise. I learned to entice her to move with music, dancing, or the drama of the wind blowing through her hair on a bike ride!

Notice what brings them joy.

Strengths usually flow out of things that bring our children joy and that they’re naturally talented in, not always, but most of the time. Megan swam competitively for 18 years. She enjoyed swimming but really excelled when she began coaching other kids on her swim team. She did it well and it brought her joy.

Look for what your kids enjoy and find opportunities to grow the joys that are also talents, into strengths.

Invest in their talents.

This doesn’t mean you have to pay thousands of dollars for travel ball or music lessons, but you do want to find ways to help your kids grow their talents. You’ll also want to teach them the importance of investing in their own talents. Like Tim Tebow says, “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”

Here’s a formula to turn talents into strengths: Talent x Investment = Strength. Let me know if you use it!

What are some things that bring your child joy?