Discovering your child's talents

Jun 24, 2011 at 12:26 p.m. ET

Moms and dads around the country know that a child's schedule can quickly fill up when it comes to extra-curricular activities. Between kids' sports practices, music lessons and other social and athletic commitments, it can sometimes be tough for a kid to just be a kid.

Little girl riding horse

If you are enrolling your kids in every activity imaginable, you may want to identify their talents and design a schedule to fit. Robyn McKay, PhD, a positive psychologist and creativity coach, provides some valuable tips on how to make a tailored schedule.

1Resist the pressure

These days, it seems one of the main topics of conversation among mothers is the latest addition to their child's schedule. Resist the urge to compete. "Just because everyone else is doing it doesn't mean that it's right for your child," says Dr. McKay. "Be mindful that even at a very young age, children are able to express their preferences." Try working with your child to make a joint, educated decision regarding activities. You don't want your child to burnout, so don't over do it!

2Trust the evidence

Chances are, you aren't an expert on every activity that your child enjoys. Still, the best way to determine whether your little one will excel in a certain activity is to pay attention to her interests in everyday life. Dr. McKay asks, "Is she getting As in her science classes? Does she get awards for her essays? Is she in the top tier in her horseback riding lessons?" These little victories can give you an idea of activities in which she will excel.

3What about hard work?

As a parent, you may really want your kids to shine in one activity or another. If they don't seem to take to it, you may encourage them to work harder..and harder...and harder. This could be a mistake. "Hard work is valued in our culture," says Dr. McKay. "But hard work without natural ability, knowledge, practice is just that…hard work." Carefully choosing activities in light of ability and interest will help eliminate futile efforts.

4Use your intuition

If your child is interested in a particular sport but is having limited success, she may not be ready developmentally, but that doesn't mean she won't excel...eventually. In this case, it's best to use your intuition when deciding whether to continue. "You know your child best," says Dr. McKay. Maybe you feel that giving her development a chance to catch up with her interests will enable her to blossom. Or, you may feel that moving on is the best course of action. Either way, a mother's intuition is rarely wrong.

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