A recent conversation amongst my girlfriends resulted in a fist-banging declaration that Singapore lacks talent, to a point where we have to tap neighbouring countries to increase our talent pool. (Apparently musical prodigies Abigail Sin and Gabriel Ng rang no bells with these people!) Is it really absent or are we too blind to identify it?
A pressing question begun to loom in this discussion. Is talent genetic or nurtured? ‘Speakers are made, not born’ was a topic given to secondary school children a few years ago at the annual Plain English Speaking Award (PESA) challenge. Kids battled it out on how the talent of speaking certainly is bred in a person.
Names like Lee Kuan Yew and his offspring, Hitler and his father, etc. were thrown across the room as children voiced out their opinions about how under no circumstances would speaking or any other talent have any kind of genetic roots.
We have seen ‘products’ of famous people who turn out to be the complete opposite of them sometimes for the worse and sometimes for the better. – think Scott Newman, son of Paul Newman, Chastity Bono, daughter of singing duo, Sonny and Cher and Romano Mussolini, son of Benito Mussolini.
However to rebuttal that, we also have Singapore’s Fandi Ahmad, whose boys are living up to his name of being a soccer legend, and Enid Blyton’s oldest daughter, Gillian Baverstock who had a hand in the literary world. This, once again brings us to the question – are we born with an aptitude for certain things or do our surroundings actually instil in us such an aptitude?
Perhaps, a foot in each is what we are looking at. Parents should provide an environment that is conducive enough for children to unleash any talent that may be hidden within them. However, talent is also a snake that may be able to creep out even in the most unsuspecting areas. We have seen children, from dirt-poor backgrounds, who are talented enough to make a name for themselves – Sophia Loren and David Brenner. However, whatever the surroundings, how do you detect talent in a child, enough to cultivate it?
The talent of spotting talent
Spotting talent requires talent. How would you know that your five year old playing Beethovan’s Fur Elsie is a talent by itself? For all you know, there could be a three year old in America playing, Chopin’s Fantasia Impromptu. So how do you know if your kid is talented, or even a prodigy at that? Look for the signs.
Perfectionalism – Your child will most likely insist on doing whatever field he is skilled in, perfectly, so much so that you would begin to wonder if your child has OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder)
Dedication – If your child continues churning out good artwork or can pirouette faster than any kid in ballet class, then of course, your kid has something most kids don’t. But, what sets them apart would be dedicating themselves to that particular action.
Higher than average – This has to be the top sign. Your kid draws better or plays better than the average expectation of his age. Bam! That’s your major clue.
Prodigy vs Talent
Just because your child is not a prodigy does not mean he has no talent!
Before we jump there, what exactly is a prodigy?
Masey Tan-Philips remembers her little 6 year old, Eric, tirelessly practicing the piano. Now at 13, Eric has a confirmed seat in one of the top music schools in Britain. Children, who are music prodigies, show excellence in their chosen musical instrument from a young age and are able to read music and memorise any composition expertly before even reaching adolescence. Child music prodigies show mastery of their chosen instrument at young age, can read music and memorize compositions expertly before reaching adolescence. Canadian pianist Glenn Gould first composed a music piece at 5 years old!
Your child may not be able to compose or read notes but if he’s able to show dedicated interest in something and enjoy doing it as well as producing good results, then you know you have a talented kid on your hands. A low IQ does not necessarily mean that your child is talent-less. IQ tests are only there to calculate the level of logic and mathematical your child has. Musical and artistic prodigies have been surpassed due to unimpressive IQ test results.
Prodigy, talent and etc are just fancy words for children who are better at something than others. The importance here is not labelling but instead, surrounding your child in a healthy environment that allows him to grow and cultivate whatever ability he may possess. As Asians we tend to focus more on the academic growth of our children and if little Xavier stars belting out songs in a phenomenal voice, we snap at him to stop singing and carry on with his math homework.
The director of India’s National Bal Bhavan Madhu Panth once said about children, “there is no dearth of creativity in children, but they are not able to identify it”. Therefore, as parents and caregivers, spotting talent in the little ones is something that we should aim to do. Perhaps the next time Carla starts twirling around, take a closer look. You might just be looking at a future ballerina.