How to Raise Gifted Children: Switch-Finding Rules

Smiling lightbulb

There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it
– Edith Wharton

To help your children find their gifts and talents, it is good to find yours first. Children learn best by example and this will make you a role model for being gifted. Here are my simple rules for finding your switch.

Where there is fear, there cannot be light

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that
– Martin Luther King, Jr.

Do not do anything out of fear, guilt or shame, because that will just make your brain a darker place. If you want to help your kids, make sure they do not do things for you. Doing things just to please others is a sign of a dark, dark place and no learning and growth can happen there. So do not make your kids feel guilty for not practicing their musical instrument and do not make them feel bad about not achieving.

Light cannot be forced

Be a light, not a judge. Be a model, not a critic
– Stephen R. Covey

Some people think that if they only push a bit harder, what they want will happen. So they punish themselves for not achieving or not doing something they set themselves to do. But it only makes them feel bad about themselves.

Some think that if they have no way back, this will force them to move forward. So they pay the gym in advance to force themselves to go or they ask me to pay for all of their coaching in advance (which I do not accept). But this just puts extra pressure on them to perform.

If you want to help children, never, never, never punish them for not being able to shine. Never push them to the limit in order to force them to do things. Criticism is a bad force that triggers guilt and shame. Every time you criticize, you are taking your kids away from the light. Force and light do not go together.

Money is not light

Lighbulb with dollar insideMany people think that they could find their switch and turn the lights on when they have enough money. This is the most misguided idea of modern life. In most cases, you do not need much money to pursue a gift or a talent.

I always give Tsoof’s example for this. 5 years ago, he wanted to play the guitar and we did not buy him one, so he bought himself a $30 guitar at the Reject Shop. Within a couple of weeks, part of the guitar broke, so we put a block of foam to keep it from falling apart and Tsoof kept playing it. He still uses this guitar today. Also, for the first year, he learned to play using the Internet until we started paying for guitar lessons when we saw he was serious.

If you want to be a sculptor, you do not need to spend lots of money on wood for carving or on bronze. You can start with clay and papier-mâché. Children learn from the adults in their life that money is the solution to everything and they think that their ultimate goal is to find that money, but money is not a goal. It is a tool to help us reach the light. It is a means, not an end. Whenever you think, “If only I had the money”, it is a sign that you are searching in the wrong place.

The “unlimited life” list

To overcome the money problem when searching for the light switch, ask yourself (and your kids), “If I had all the money in the world, what would I do with my life?” When you do this activity, you might go shopping or take a vacation first (kids do that too). Try to go beyond it in your mind by asking, “Once I’ve bought everything I’ve always wanted, what’s next?” or “After spending 3 months on an island beach and getting up at noon straight for lunch, what’s next?” Go forward in your mind beyond the shopping and the holiday until you get to a time of bliss, when you do something that excites you and fills you with incredible joy – the ultimate thing.

Helping, fixing and serving represent three different ways of seeing life. When you help, you see life as weak. When you fix, you see life as broken. When you serve, you see life as whole. Fixing and helping may be the work of the ego, and service the work of the soul
– Rachel Naomi Remen

Communication style

This may be a good indication of areas of light. There are four communication styles: visual (design, graphics, photography), auditory (sense of rhythm, playing music, singing), kinesthetic (sport, dancing, craft, as well as teaching, social work, volunteering, psychology) and digital (mathematics, data analysis, IT, engineering). Every person, young or old, is very good in one or two of these areas. Find your commendation styles and you may find your gifts.

The “things I am good” at list

Light switchMost people (and children) already have the light shining through them, but they just do not recognize it or appreciate it. Finding the things you are good at is a very good way to narrow down the search for your light switch. If you let go of following the school system, which only focuses on three areas, you will find that there are millions of other places to look and millions of things to look for.

The “things I am good at” list is a very important list for grownups and for kids. Kids are not used to saying things like that about themselves and they grow up to be grownups who do not appreciate themselves. Try making this list on your own, but if you are stuck, ask others to help you by telling you what they think you are good at. Children may need more help to make this list. As I always say, aim to put 100 items on your list.

The happiness list

If you make a list of what makes you extremely happy, you can find your gift areas. Happiness is a very good indication of being “in the zone” or “in flow”. If you discover what makes you happy and you live those moments over and over again, you can find the light. The important thing in making this list is not to come up with a shopping list, because this contradicts rule #3 (money is not light), and not to depend on others to make you happy. Lack of money and being dependent on others bring misery and darkness into our life.

To help kids find their light, ask them, “What do you do that makes you extremely happy?” or ask yourself, “What does he/she do that they love doing, that they never complain about and that they are willing to make an effort to do?” When you find something, keep going until you see the light. Sometimes, our light is found in serving something bigger than us or in serving others.

Parents have lots of power in finding their kids’ talents and gifts and even in switching them on. The best way to do it is to find your own gifts and be a source of inspiration.

May the light shine on you!