Reach for the Stars

Teenage schoolboys in safety goggles leaning closely to the table and watching chemical reaction going on in the flask

Why natural talent isn’t necessarily a sign of your child’s potential.

Looking back at the annals of history, the greats – Mozart, Picasso, Marie Curie – were great right from the start.

Yet what if your son or daughter just isn’t showing signs of extraordinariness… or anything at all? According to psychologist, professor and author, Adam Grant, you need not despair.

In his latest book, Hidden Potential: The Science of Achieving Greater Things, Grant uses a 1980s study of 120 Olympic swimmers, neurologists, concert pianists and other highachieving individuals – none of whom were identified as having extraordinary potential. When they did later flourish, it was because they were willing to put in the work. With this in mind, it is important to nurture a solid work ethic in your child and guide them towards their passions. Grant swears by the following five tips for greatness…

Teach children to think like scientists

Teaching a child to think like a scientist means not letting their ideas become their sole identity. Help them consider that their opinions are hypotheses – this means they broach their decisions as experiments. And when they do that, they’re much quicker to recognise when they might be wrong, and that means they can be faster to get it right.

Suggest they become a (sea) sponge We often think that being a sponge means soaking up information and absorbing all the knowledge you can to get better. But being a sea sponge — whose key property is to absorb nutrients and expel harmful particles — is far more effective.

We should suggest that same logic to our children when it comes to receiving feedback. Our youngsters are made to feel that every response is a gift, yet not all critics in life are being constructive.

Encourage giving

Receiving is passive – if you’re always the one being coached, it puts you in the position of depending on others for guidance. Instead, encourage children to give advice as well as receive it.

Allow children to pursue imposter syndrome

Mother and child reading together - Teaching - AdobeStock_404885917This is counter-intuitive to a lot of people because we normally think about imposter syndrome as debilitating. Yet research shows so-called imposters end up working harder than their peers to close the gap between what other people think they’re capable of and their own beliefs in their capabilities, so give children a target, or someone/something to emulate.

Tell them to seek excellence, not perfection

Finally, make sure your young ones realise that progress comes from maintaining high standards, not eliminating every flaw. Taking the pressure off, like this, ultimately leans towards better learning.